I recently wrote this sentence on the 6 Schools, 5 Decades and 1 Dedicated Teacher post: Leading and learning with the adults that surround your kids is just as important as leading and learning daily with your students. Teaching in a silo-especially when you are good at it–is like living in a well, deep and cold.
I am revisiting it today because of a course I’m taking and we have been asked to reflect on a piece of that previous assignment. In that online course, we respond to readings and prompts from our instructor. In one forum on keeping up with technology, one of my classmates wrote: “Your last paragraph makes me remember some teachers that have an overhead projector and Smartboard in their classroom but never use it. There is another one that still uses the big old projector to show film on reels. Sometimes, I just shake my head and walk past their classroom.”
and my response to him was:
I struggle with this statement, “Sometimes, I just shake my head and walk past their classroom.” as I sometimes do the same thing. Then I feel guilt at doing so.
As a professional, what do you think is our responsibility to have conversations with folks like that about moving along the skills continuum?
Is it our job? Is it our moral responsibility?
Well, reread my first paragraph. Obviously I think it is. I don’t want to be in a well. I don’t want to be deep and cold–and alone.
Then, in another forum, a friend responding to me about reflection said, “when we have to articulate our thoughts so that someone other than ourselves can make sense of them we refine the reflection and our teaching. Maybe each of us needs at least one person in our buildings we could share reflections on teaching with.”
With comments like these from my peers, I cannot help but wonder when the teaching profession became so isolated and lonely–when we decided that what happened in another classroom was not our business–when we first felt we had to do this job alone–when we thought that we had to know it all, understand it all, be it all.
Socrates, Aristotle, Thomas Jefferson and countless others throughout history understood teaching is interactive, with learning, thinking and questioning happening on both ends. When did we lose that understanding?
Teaching–and learning–are collaborative. When I work with my kids, I gain insight into their thinking, and I learn from them as they explain their thoughts. When I share an anecdote with a peer, I learn from their reaction how much they understand, and I gain insight into myself as they ask questions and I explain MY thinking. I also gain new ideas as they react and interact with my lesson descriptions and we brainstorm together.
The people I learn most from are often those who think most differently from me–but who think deeply and with a high level of introspection and reflection. The key for me to that sharing and thinking together is the willingness to ask hard questions, to think openly and to answer honestly. That connection, that marriage, if you will, of unconditional support and unconditional critique is rare, and when it is present, I would hope everyone would do everything in their power to sustain and support that.
Talking, thinking and learning together is how we’ll understand teaching. Could we, all educators, I mean, please start showing each other unconditional support and unconditional critique so we can learn deeply and embrace effective change?