Are You A Hungry Chicken?

I Don’t Know Where I’m Goin’

You read that correctly. Hungry chicken. Obviously you aren’t literally a chicken, hungry or otherwise, so I have a professional development metaphor for you based on a summer full of conferences, vacations, ballgames, unplugged vs plugged in (is that the opposite of unplugged?) debate, family time, rest, growth, more, less, etc. You get the picture.  Everyone does it differently, and there’s always more than one way to do things. One size does not fit all, certainly, and there is no judgement here. During my church service this morning, I listened to the communion meditation by my friend and drummer, Cody Mitchell, about three types of chickens. That analogy resonated strongly with me, but I also saw educational applications. This post will explore the three types of chickens analogy as applied to educators. As the school year draws closer, I will shift gears and analyze the three types of chickens as applied to students.

But I Sure Know Where I’ve Been

The Three Types Chickens

My friend Cody raises chickens. In rural Missouri, this is very common, though he and his wife perhaps do it very differently than most farmers. They have raised all of their chickens from basically the beginning, and instead of treating them like livestock, they have invested their time and love in raising them. The chickens know them and all gather around when Cody and Clara visit their coop. My friends have even gone so far as to put chairs inside the coop so that they can sit and visit for longer periods. Crazy as it sounds, this allowed three types of chickens to emerge under his observations and interactions. As I listened to him talk about the three types, an educational analogy emerged.

Hanging On the Promises in Songs of Yesterday

The Relational Chicken

The first type of chicken loves to interact with Cody and Clara. They not only gather around them, but want to be held, scratched, and loved on for the duration of the visit to the coop. These chickens love the attention and want to give them attention as well. I see this as the Relational Educator. This type of educator has discovered that the power of the PLN is truly in the people. While the biggest platform for connecting these days is Twitter, the Relational Educator has tapped into the power of their chosen platform (whatever one it is) and truly gotten to the relationship level with the educators they connect with there.  As author and educator, Aaron Hogan states frequently, the people we connect with are what change us, elevate us, inspire us, and empower us. It isn’t the platform. It’s the people. Once we educators realize this, conferences are forever changed. Suddenly it isn’t just about presenting, attending, and learning. It has suddenly become about connecting. That, my friends, is where the true power is. I didn’t understand this, not fully, until this summer. I get it now. I’m a believer.

An’ I’ve Made Up My Mind

The Orbital Chicken

My friend Cody described this type of chicken as one that likes to be around you, but it still wants to keep its distance. So although an Orbital Chicken will cluck around your feet and eat food out of your hands, it does not like to be held like the Relational Chicken does. Nope. This is a hands off chicken, though it still likes a bit of company. I consider this to be the type of educator who likes to go to a workshop or conference, but wants to go with colleagues from the same district, go to a few sessions, and then leave. I used to be this type of educator. We don’t seek out connections with others outside our group, we aren’t connected online via any social media platform, and we don’t always share what we learned or what we know once we go back to our districts. We like the conferences, but one or two a year is all we need., and we don’t want it to push our thinking much. We’re in our comfort zones. We’re Orbital Chickens.

I Ain’t Wasting No More Time

The Hungry Chicken

The third and final type of chicken was dubbed the Hungry Chicken by Cody. This type of chicken will come out and gather around when you visit the coop, but if you aren’t feeding them, then they cease to have interest and move away. They won’t eat out of your hand, won’t let you touch them, and if you try to move closer to them, they prove time and again that chickens are faster than humans. These are elusive. Hungry. Satisfy their basic needs then leave them alone. I equate this chicken with the type of educator I have also been in the past. My district provided enough professional development to satisfy the state requirements, so I didn’t have to leave the district. My reasoning at the time was quite arrogant when I think of it now. I thought of it as selfless, but it was selfish. My students deserved better. I assumed I didn’t need the professional development as much as some other teachers, so I “saved” the money for them by not going anywhere. Not learning anything new other than what I did on my own or the district brought in for us. I am saddened at the years I wasted at this level. There are times we must be the Hungry Chicken possibly, but we should not stay as this type of Chicken. No, we must take charge of our own learning and feed ourselves outside of what our District can bring to our coop.

Here I Go Again, Here I Go Again

What Type of Chicken Are You?

At this place and time on your journey as an educator, decide where you fit in this chicken analogy, the Chicken Educator Spectrum. Circumstances may dictate that you be one type or another, but barring that, take charge. Move up to the level of chicken above where you are currently, unless you are a professional development junkie like me, and are sitting in the lap of current research and educational best practices already. Maybe you haven’t tried connecting with educators yet, but by taking this one simple step you can now be in moving out of your orbiting mode and closer to the lap where connected educators sit. It is summer for most around the nation. If you haven’t had your last day of school, you will soon. Evaluate your current Chicken status and look at your summer schedule or conferences in early fall. See if you can look around for a bit more. When you are at a conference or workshop, do more than just scratch the surface. Peck and scratch until you have connections with those outside your district that you meet or hear present something that strikes a chord. Don’t just copy their presentation. Copy their contact information. Then connect. Find a platform. Use it. Grow. Learn. Do. Strive to be a Relational Chicken. There’s room in this lap for everyone.

Partial lyrics from Here I Go Again by Whitesnake.

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