A debate recently cropped up on Twitter (shocking) about whether or not "good" teachers spend time thinking about the next school year while on summer break. The debate really centered around the concept of a "good" teacher. One side mentioned that a good teacher might spend some time thinking about next fall. Others declared that good teachers need the time off to rejuvenate and regenerate their passion for education by resting, relaxing, traveling, and spending time with family. I'm not actually going to try to settle this debate, but I am going to challenge both groups. My last post, The Danger of Getting Comfy in Our EDU Skins, I explored ways to grow yourself and get out of that place where we are, well, comfortable.
This post was inspired by the sermon my preacher, Jeff Wofford, gave this morning, which had me thinking of it's applications beyond the church. Jeff's point was that we tend to want our church to be filled with members who are like ourselves, and that should not be the goal. Diversity reaches more people. When I refer to diversity in this post, I am not limiting it to mean racial or cultural diversity. Nope. I'm also referring to personalities, interests, and abilities of my students within my classes and within our schools. Our members are those who enroll in our schools and take our classes. Are we celebrating their differences in order to cultivate unity? Uniformity is not unity. We have to do better for teachers and students.
Though #IMMOOC season 4, sadly, is coming to an end, the challenge thrown out by this year's authors, George Couros, Katie Martin, AJ Juliani, and John Spencer remain. We've delved into the books, discussed ideas through blogs and chats, and we've listened to the guests on the live events. The ball has been tossed into our courts, so what now?
During one of the first professional development (PD) days for my district at the beginning of the school year, I worked with several teachers and had several conversations. Some were just typical teacher banter expected at the first full PD day of the new school year, but one particular comment stood out the moment it was uttered. It continues to crop up in my mind at random moments. It stirs my oppositional defiant mojo each and every time. I don't recall the specific wording, but while discussing the "new" collaboration methods our principal used on us as a demonstration, this particular teacher, an experienced teacher near retirement, said something like: I'm there to teach. Students are there to learn.
The constant struggle faced by many school districts regarding professional development generally leads to a discussion of how to bring teachers the professional development they need, tailored specifically for each of them. It's quite the tug-o-war. All District PD days generally lead to frustration by staff because their individual needs are not met, they are not given time for processing and reflecting on what was presented, and there's certainly no time for applying what was learned if by the smallest chance it did actually fill a need for some teachers.
Oprah Winfrey talked about the ultimate bite on her show a long time ago, and a friend of mine recently introduced the quote to me at a conference while we were eating lunch. According to Oprah, the ultimate bite can be achieved when you make sure to include a bit of everything from your plate that goes together in one bite. One ultimate bite.
I've been teaching for over 20 years, so there are a lot of things I used to do that I no longer do for various reasons. Most of these are systems or procedures that I put in place to help me cope during the first few years of teaching. My father was an outstanding educator, and when I started teaching, he was an elementary principal, though the majority of his teaching had been at the high school level. This did mean that I had the very best resource a beginning teacher could possibly have at my fingertips.