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Online learningIt is very difficult to give weight to anything these days except for the conditions that we are now living and dying under, especially as a New Yorker. Time does not stand still however, so we need to assess where we are in order to adjust and move forward. If this pandemic has taught me anything, this would be my lesson learned.

When it comes to the American education system, I have experienced it in many ways and on many levels. I have been a student, a teacher, professor, a supporter, a critic, a follower and a leader. Now I deal with education as a speaker, writer, blogger, and podcaster. My focus in life has always been in education. As a critic I often engaged in theoretical discussions of how we could improve the system if we blew it all up and started anew. These were obviously theoretical discussions since a national education system cannot be physically blown up.

March of 2020 changed all that. March 2020 is when the American education system was blown up. There is no mistake about that. Schools were shut down. Testing was cancelled. Teachers were told not to concern themselves with grades, and even sports were stopped. All school related events were halted. The system, as we have come to know it after 200+ years, was shut down. It was blown up by the Covid-19 virus pandemic.

There was only one possibility available to educators. They immediately ran to the alternative that was discussed for the last decade. We have the technology! Why not transition the entire system to remote learning? Let’s mandate remote learning. Administrators will lead remotely, teachers will teach remotely, students will learn remotely. We have talked about it for years, so why not? That seemed like a sound fix for the problem, especially if it was to be a short-term need.

Well, the fix was not so simple. Although we have talked a great deal about remote learning over the last decade, we haven’t really taught teachers to do it. Since the actual practice of remote learning has been limited, few students are proficient, or even experienced in it. Many teachers and students are not even comfortable with it.

As educators we have also learned that Maslow truly comes before Bloom in learning. We need to address the emotional and physical needs of students before any learning can take place. Unfortunately, in a highly stressed environment, we have added more stress on teachers and students. We have not created stability, but rather added to the chaos in a very chaotic environment. It is amazing that many, if not most, educators have risen above all of this to make the best of a very bad situation.

Educators at every level have strived to use the technology to collaborate in finding solutions and methods to help themselves and their students through this mess. They strive to collaborate through catastrophe. By experiencing the use of technology in learning, the teachers are as much students as the younger people they are charged to teach. This may go a long way in accomplishing what countless sessions of professional development could not deliver. Experience is always the best teacher.

We have very quickly identified many problems with remote teaching. The greatest problem exposed is the digital divide caused by the economic divide. Zip codes still determine quality of education even more in a digital system. There are many drawbacks in digital systems that were less of an obstacle in face-to-face environments. Absenteeism is a big problem in remote learning. Getting to kids of large families with only one digital device in the family is a big issue. Having kids supervised at home can be a problem for many as well. Giving individual time to each student digitally is another problem that needs to be addressed.

Teachers need to shift their focus from summative assessment for grading purposes to formative assessment for actionable feedback. Teachers need to understand that piling up more work does not translate to more learning. Administrators need to learn that leading is much better that mandating. Collaboration is key to learning. If you have a thought share it. An idea not shared is just a passing thought. Sharing and modeling best practices is not bragging. Yes, these are phrases used all the time, but that doesn’t make them less important or less truthful. They were true in a classroom setting and they are true online as well.

My fear is that, when we come to an end of this catastrophe, which we now find ourselves in, we will look to assessing remote learning with a skewed perspective. We have come to grips with the priorities of the brick and mortar environment of our education system and found them in need of realignment. Teachers are trained for the classroom. Teachers have been programed for an environment of control and compliance. Their experience and training have little to do with student voice and choice in learning. Collaborative learning too often takes a back seat to lecture and direct instruction. These are tailored to classroom learning and far less effective in remote learning.

We need an honest look at both the classroom model and the remote model for learning and adjust accordingly. Face–to-face relationships between teachers and students are the best conduits for learning. Developing skills in students to be self-motivated and tech savvy to research, curate, communicate and create, as lifelong learners should be the goal of every educator. In our computer-driven world this will happen online.

We cannot look at the remote teaching and learning that is going on during this crisis as the model for online learning. Most of the teachers and students thrown into this were not prepared for, or equipped for any of this to happen, much like our medical community in handling this virus. We need to return to a system that will now and forever support a professional development system that is continual, supportive, relevant and adaptive. We cannot expect our students to strive for the best, ongoing, life-long education possible, if their teachers, mentors, and role models are not striving for that as well. We cannot waste one of the rare opportunities that this horrible disaster may have afforded us. Let us consider blending the best of both systems to reprioritize our goals for education, as well as the methods that we may use to get to those goals. We must be proactive in improving our teachers, which will in turn improve our students. It is not a passive exercise. It will not happen on its own. It will take a new mindset and of course money. Education is the best defense our country can have. Its value is worth the cost.

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With the rapid spread of the Corona Virus, there has been a clarion call for schools to close and immediately shift to online learning in the interest of health and safety. With all that has been written and talked about in regard to “online learning” over the last decade, the perception is that now is a great time to put tech to work and implement this modern methodology to address our current situation and limit face-to-face exposure in order to self-quarantine a huge portion of our population. Online learning will do all of this, and kids won’t miss a beat in their education. That is a great picture of progressive ideas in education coupling with the advancing strides of evolving technologies to carry us to the next level in the evolution of education. That may get us a short way away from the flying cars that we have always been promised for generations. Of course before any of this can happen we need to address several questions to determine the viability of this wondrous solution.

Is the infrastructure in place for online learning? In order for this to work, we need the teacher to be able to connect with the student. That takes computer equipment for both, as well as some capacity for connecting them. Of course that connection would need to be made for each and every student for which each teacher is responsible. Assuming that the schools are closed to teachers, as well as students, the school will have very little to do with what devices teachers or students have, as well as what internet accessibility is available. Schools having issued each student a computer would have more control.

Do the teachers have lessons prepared specifically for “Online Learning”? Teaching online is not the same as teaching face to face in the classroom. The class is far less captive with many more distractions in each student’s personal environment. The lessons need to be far more engaging. Feedback from every participant is more important with online learning. Summative assessment is essential and must be ongoing. Learning is not a passive exercise online. Interaction is the key. Teachers need to be more aware and more demanding of student participation. These are only a few of the needs that teachers must address in “online teaching”

Does each teacher have the mindset to be an online teacher? Being forced into a situation that effects one’s livelihood and challenges lifelong beliefs is not a good way to introduce a person to a new way to perform his or her job. A longstanding fear of educators is that some day they will be replaced by computers. Personally, I don’t believe that will ever happen, because education is best served through strong relationships of students and teachers. Technology however, will change the way those relationships take place. Forcing people into performing a job they don’t believe in cannot have a positive outcome for anyone. A majority of teachers have never been trained to teach online. They have been taught how to teach in a classroom. Kids sitting in rows where a teacher can see them is not the same as connecting with students online.

Will a knee-jerk decision for a quick fix to a problem with the Corona Virus have a lasting effect on education? My overriding fear about this situation that we find ourselves in, is the long-term effect it will have on education. If schools close and mandate online learning to carry them through the period of time such as this crisis requires, will the resulting failure of education be blamed on the teachers, the technology, or the folks who pushed for an ill-considered idea? I fear the teachers and technology will unfairly bear the brunt of the blame. Of course the folks who pushed the ill-considered idea are also the judges.

When will online learning be a reality? I truly believe we will move to a methodology that uses both face-to-face and online learning. This will only happen as teachers are taught what online learning is and how it works best. This is still a new and developing methodology. We also need to teach students how to use it before they are thrown into it. Most importantly we need to instruct parents on the benefits of it as well. They did not grow up with online learning, so they will need to be sold on its value. Before we can change the system, we need to change the culture. Mandating online learning before the infrastructure, methodology and mindset of educators and students are all in the proper place, the endeavor will ultimately fail. That would be a setback for an evolving education system.

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The discussion around technology in education often revolves around what technology can or can’t do in regard to affecting kids’ learning. The fact of the matter is that technology in education only works for kids, if it works for their teacher.The best technology in the world will not be effective if the teacher is not a committed advocate for it. That commitment requires an understanding of how the tech fits into what it is the teacher is trying to accomplish. The marriage of those two requires an understanding of not just subject content, but an understanding of the technology and the students as well. It is far more complicated than throwing the tech at the kids and sitting back to record the miraculous results in a grade book.

Technology’s effect on education is difficult to assess, because it is not just the technology that affects the learning. If there are three teachers teaching the same subjects in a school and are given equal access to technology, how can the technology impact on learning be fairly assessed? If one teacher welcomes the tech and works to use it to its best advantage, while the other two teachers are less comfortable and less willing to fully commit, is the technology that is failing to help students learn? Two thirds of the students would be limited with their technology in this example. Even if there was a massive improvement in the third of the students who succeeded with tech, two thirds would fail to show improvement, yet all had equal access to the tech. Blaming the failure on the tech is much easier than saying teachers are not living up to their professional obligation. Maybe we need to use the technology to address the adult learning of educators before we can expect to fairly assess the effect of technology on student learning. That would be using Andragogy to promote Pedagogy. For a better understanding of Andragogy read this: https://tomwhitby.com/2015/04/13/the-importance-of-andragogy-in-education/ or https://tomwhitby.com/2013/05/03/pedagogy-vs-andragog/

Technology can be most effectively used for collaboration. Some of the most popular sites on the Internet are social media sites. These sites are designed for collaboration and collaboration is a key component in adult learning. Frankly, it is key to all learning, but adults seem to get it better.

My driving force, in all that I now do in education, hinges on one belief: If we are to better educate our kids, we need first to better educate their educators. Collaboration through technology seems to have been designed for educators to inform, if not educate themselves about their own profession. This includes how to use technology to learn more technology. How to develop a personal learning network through technology should be a course offered in every teacher preparation program.

Time and money have been reasons that prevented collaboration in past decades. Today, access to information on the Internet is anytime, anywhere. Cellphones are not phones, but rather small high-powered computers with phone capabilities. Access devices are now plentiful, and Internet access has expanded and become cheaper. Free access is offered in more locations than ever before.

The ability to collaborate and the time to access collaboration has become far less a roadblock than a few years ago. The next two questions might be: “How?” and “Who?”.

PLN4 PicTwitter is the backbone of my PLN. I developed it by considering my “Followings” as professional sources. I follow educators who inform, engage, inspire, or challenge me. I find them on Twitter as they contact me. I find them in education Chats. I find them from hashtags that I follow. I follow Bloggers, Podcasters, Thought Leaders, and Authors. I also check out Twitter Profiles to see whom those people follow. Easy Pickens! Checking Twitter profiles is helpful in focusing on the right educators as a source to address my interests and needs. That’s another aspect of adult learning. Twitter on the phone enables me to tweet anytime I find the time. Standing on the grocery line has now become more productive.

Twitter, although not designed specifically for educator collaboration, is actually the easiest way to communicate the very information educators need to share. Educators discovered Twitter and molded it for their own needs. Documents, audio files, videos, blog posts, webinars, podcasts, and pictures can all be reduced to links and communicated. The best however, is the sharing of original ideas. An idea, that is not shared, is just a passing thought. Twitter enables ideas to flourish, or, after undergoing some scrutiny by other educators, die. All of this is limited to tweets of 280 characters. The number of tweets is not limited, so stringing many tweets together enables discussion. This has developed into Education Chats on twitter. There are chats for almost any educator’s interest. Chats are also a great source for finding more educators to follow. Of course my favorite chat is #Edchat which I founded along with Shelly Terrell and Steven Anderson. It has run continually since 2009.

The design of this model of personalized learning does require that an educator must believe that learning does not stop after a degree is earned, a license is issued, and a job is secured. The profession requires relevance, but with changes happening faster than any time in history, maintaining relevance requires continuous ongoing action. This is not comfortable for everyone, but it has become a requirement of the profession. As adult learners we may be more comfortable with digital, collaborative if we are familiar with how adults learn. Educators are experts in how kids learn through pedagogy. How people learn as adults, andragogy, is a mystery to most educators.

Malcolm Knowles identified the six principles of adult learning as:

  • Adults are internally motivated and self-directed
  • Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
  • Adults are goal oriented
  • Adults are relevancy oriented
  • Adults are practical
  • Adult learners like to be respected

 

Twitter is more than just a collaborative platform for educators. It has added an element of transparency to a profession that was closed and controlling for centuries. We can now see how other educators teach and what they do differently. Educators can feel free to talk about those things that had been in silos for generations. It allows ideas to be considered on their merits, as opposed to those that had been mandated from above. To state the obvious, if we are to evolve into the future, we must be willing to leave the past behind

One can create a personal learning network by using many tools. Technology has afforded us many choices of those tools. The problem is not the scarcity of sources, but rather the scarcity of educators availing themselves of those technology sources that we have. If collaboration and sharing is the key to relevance for educators than share these ideas with a colleague.

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leadership-crisisAnyone who thinks that there is one answer to all that is wrong in education is at the very least ill informed. Public education has had hundreds of years to establish practices and procedures that would ultimately slow down any progressive ideas for change. This is the Kevlar vest against any silver bullet that an insightful, forward-thinking change agent might shoot. That seems to be the strategy to protect most bureaucracies, but that being said, there are still many good things happening within the education system.

Most change in education comes about through the leadership and passion of individuals within the system. More often than not, change is localized rather than a national movement. Too often, if the person driving that change is removed from the movement, then the movement itself is soon diminished and eventually forgotten. That might be the key for promoting lasting change. Do not put the responsibility for continuing change on the backs of one or two lead teachers. If change is to last, it requires support from the top leadership. Bottom-up change is great when successful, but how often does that happen without top-down support?

The best example I can think of is the Edcamp movement. It is a different approach to professional development. It is a model based on educators discussing specific topics that they are interested in learning more about, or topics that specific educators know quite a bit about and want to share that knowledge with other educators through discussion. Using discussion to collaborate is more in line with adult learning. It is also a model that is based on respect for what every participant brings to the table on the subject.

This model has been successful because administrators, as well as teachers, have supported it. The driving force behind the Edcamp model is the need that educators have to learn more about their profession in a world that is changing more rapidly than the education system can deal with. The goal of education is to educate kids to: live, learn, survive, and thrive in that ever-changing world. All of that considered, one would think, that this model of professional development would have been adopted nationally over this last decade of its existence. It hasn’t, and teacher dissatisfaction with conventional professional development continues to be a point of contention.

We acknowledge that professional development is much needed for teachers to keep up with the latest methodologies in education. Most districts require teachers to be involved with some minimum requirement of time for PD. That PD can be general to education or specific to a subject area, or a technology. Most districts provide PD for a day or maybe two to check off the “PD provided” box on their “to be done” list. The question I have is: do districts have the same PD expectations of their lead administrators?

Being an education administrator is a hard job. Most administrators come from the ranks of teachers and enter a whole new world of: business, public relations, labor management, budget control, public speaking, and leadership. Beyond all of that, they are considered to be the lead learners of the school district. It is a tough job balancing all of that and trying to keep up with what teachers are doing in their classrooms. It stands to reason that districts might not want to put another thing on their administrators’ plates, like a minimum PD requirement. Yet, when we consider what administrators do, why shouldn’t they be as relevant as the teachers that they lead?

I engage and collaborate with many administrators around the country and outside the USA as well. The administrators I have worked with have all been progressive, supportive, and open to change wherever they found it possible to be so. The question arises that if all administrators are like the ones I have worked with, why hasn’t the education system made positive changes by leaps and bounds? Maybe there are a greater number of administrators who are less educated about what should be relevant in education today. All of the bottom-up change from teachers will never stick without support by informed and relevant administrators.

We know we need to reform professional development in order to meet the need for educators to maintain relevance in a culture that is changing with the advance of technology at a pace never before experienced. We need to include the leaders of our educators in this ongoing need to keep up.

For decades I have said, “If we are to better educate our kids, we need first to better educate their educators.” I now believe that if we are to better educate our kids’ educators, we need to first better educate their leaders.

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Book:kindleI recently read a blog post about how teachers will never be replaced by technology. The author stated that technology was just a “tool for learning”. This had to be among literally hundreds, if not thousands, of similar posts and comments that I have read over the years. Since I was teaching from the early 70’s, I tended to agree with that way back then. Today, however, I am not so sure that technology in education hasn’t grown into something beyond a “tool for learning”. I often thought that the support garnered for this idea about a “tool for learning”, from educators was based in their fear from an unfounded belief by Sci-Fi authors who often suggested the replacement of teachers by technology in the future. Sci-Fi doesn’t always get it right. Where are the flying cars?

Tech has always been a factor if not the driving force in the advancement of culture. One of the greatest tech influences in education was Gutenberg’s printing press, followed by the chalkboard, audio tape, film, television and the personal calculator which all preceded personal computers in their various portable forms today. The implementation of the most recent devices however is where I believe many educators have tunnel vision on the influence of tech in education.

All tech has a limited shelf life. It is constantly evolving. Both its users and its developers influence this evolution. Society itself is the loudest voice demanding speed and efficiency in the way it communicates, collaborates, and creates. The tools for each of these components are constantly evolving at a pace we have never before experienced in history. This technological paradigm shift has created its own literacy. Literacy has always been a goal of education. It was necessary in order to communicate, collaborate, and create in order to further educate. The literacy required in any century was limited to the technology that enabled it, but that technology was often separate from the literacy. You didn’t need to know about how to print on a printing press in order to read a printed book. Writing implements were readily available in various forms in order to record thoughts, as well as communicate with them. The use was simple requiring nothing more than penmanship.

The rapid advancement of technology has changed this. Tech has evolved so quickly and so universally in our culture that there is now literacy required in order for people to effectively and efficiently use it. That rapid tech evolution however leaves many people whose age was not synched with that tech advancement in a learning gap. Kids growing up with the tech are immersed in it from birth and evolve their tech literacy with age. We have all seen the video of the baby trying to page swipe a printed magazine 

Unfortunately, lifelong learning is a goal that is often discarded because life itself gets in the way of continual learning. Consequently, most adults will always be playing catch-up with kids in order to stay relevant in a modern society. The gap is the problem for our education system since our educators are adults and our students are kids.

If we buy into the idea that technology requires tech literacy, then we must also accept that evolving tech requires an evolving literacy. This requires adjusting that which we have already learned, and change is difficult. It requires an ongoing development for professionals to maintain the smallest gap between what they know to what they need to know in order to maintain relevance in a rapidly changing environment.

  • Professional development can no longer be a haphazard choice by folks who don’t like making uncomfortable choices. Comfort levels are the greatest obstacles to change.
  • Professional development can no longer be just a check box on a list of things educators should do. It must be prioritized, supported and, most importantly, implemented.
  • Professional development can no longer be a “one and done” concept delivered once at the beginning of the school year. It must be an ongoing part of an educator’s job description.
  • Professional development must be supported with follow-through and follow-up. Supporting educators with both time and coaching to apply their professional development is essential for success.

Our society today does not collaborate, communicate, or create the way it did as far back as the 20th Century, so why would we teach using concepts and methodologies of the 20th and in some cases the 19th century? To succeed in our education system in the past, our students needed to be literate in reading and writing. Today, in order to use the tools needed to accomplish almost any task a society demands, the users must be technology literate. It is no longer a choice made by any educators whether to teach students to be technology literate or not. Educators have a moral obligation to educate kids in order for them to survive and thrive in a technology-driven society. School districts have a moral obligation to give their educators effective and efficient professional development to enable them to accomplish this.

Yes, technology provides “tools for learning” and teaching, which cannot replace a relevant teacher. The teacher/student relationship is credited for great strides in learning. That however may not always hold true for an educator who is no longer relevant because his or her district did not support its educators with ongoing and effective PD. Students properly motivated may circumvent teachers and self teach with the “tools of learning”. Irrelevant educators and a thirst for authentic learning may be that very motivation needed for some students.

We have the tools for all the professional development we need to provide. We can provide worldwide collaboration. We can provide individualized support. We can provide the ability to time shift things to accommodate personal scheduling.

We can’t provide progressive innovative thinking on the part of school districts. We can’t provide the supportive culture to promote educators seeking life long professional learning. We can’t provide educators with an open mindset opening them to the possibility of change. We can’t provide a promise that a commitment to change will be comfortable.

Professional development will not just happen on its own. The concept of personalized learning through collaboration in social media is wonderful, but it may never take off with a majority of educators. I haven’t seen great involvement in the last 12 years or so. The whole idea of learning is not a passive exercise. It requires work on the part of those providing the teaching as well as those benefitting from the learning. Reading and writing as a literacy was hard enough for many of us, and now we are seeing that there is a whole new literacy that needs to be not only learned, but taught by us as well. It is overwhelming. It is however an important and often unsupported part of the profession that we chose to enter. In order to better educate our kids, we must first better educate their educators.

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Philosopher 2Often in teacher preparation classes students are asked to develop an education philosophy based on their course studies and observations, or student teaching experiences. For many of these students who go on the pursue careers in education, that might be the only time anyone asked for that philosophy. Of course the best time to develop any philosophy on one’s overall impact of a career may not be to do it before one enters and experiences the full force of that career over a period of time. This is a discussion I often had with my student teachers. They should develop an education philosophy, but it should never be etched in granite, especially with their limited teaching experiences. By the nature of the job, changes are to be inevitable, so self-reflection and flexibility are important elements that must be requirements of the profession at any level.

The reality however, is that aside from possibly in a job interview; few educators are ever asked about their personal education philosophy. This might be because it must require more than just a “Feel Good” one-sentence cliché. Education, which involves teaching and learning, is far more complicated than one sentence can explain.

I always felt that there were at least three factors affecting my education philosophy: my personal experiences, the culture of the school in which I taught, and prevailing education thought leadership. My ability to affect any of these three factors was limited but possible with some effort and more often work. The biggest deterrent is the time need to do this.

However, if I viewed my career as a passive experience, my education philosophy would be “catch as catch can”. I could go along with the status quo, making few waves and little innovation. I could simply follow directives, “go along to get along”, and limit my professional development to whatever my school prescribed.

The alternative however would take more effort and consequently it would be more work and time. I could reflect on my students’ summative assessments to adjust my methodology and seek to improve it, or abandon parts of it altogether. This would establish my choices for effective methodology.

I could examine and reflect on my school’s culture to determine if it is advancing, or stifling my efforts as an educator. To change a system, we need to first change the culture. My philosophy may include taking an active role in affecting change in my school’s culture in order for me to be a better educator.

As for following the lead of educators and sharing the latest education initiatives, I would need to work at connecting and collaborating with education thought leaders. In years gone by this was done through universities and journals, but real connections were limited. Today, technology provides, for those willing to work for it and use it, the ability to communicate, connect and collaborate with thought leaders for the purpose of creating a means to better educate our students.

As educators we have to decide on dozens of ways to effectively interact with kids including but not limited to:

  • Teaching methodology
  • Lesson plans
  • Homework policy
  • Attendance
  • Appropriate lessons
  • Interpersonal student relationships
  • Extra credit
  • Grading
  • Formative assessments
  • Summative assessments
  • Test preparation
  • Teachable moments
  • Classroom behavior
  • Bathroom breaks
  • Parent communication
  • Technology

How does one handle any of these without some thoughtful reflection on what each is and how does it fit in with what needs to be accomplished for kids to learn effectively and efficiently. Every educator should give thought to each and all of the elements that he/she is responsible for in order to do the best that they can. It is also NOT a “do it once and done” project. It is an ever-changing dynamic that will need to be revisited and reflected upon on an ongoing basis. Principals should know the education philosophies of their teachers. Principals need to support the school culture that challenges and supports their educators. They need to promote reflection and provide time in support of that endeavor. Maybe try having a faculty meeting with personal education philosophies as the main topic of discussion. There may be surprises both good and not so good as an outcome, but it will give a clearer picture of where the staff is as educators. At the very least it will enable people to better understand their own school culture. All of this should be included in a Principal’s leadership philosophy, but that’s for another post.

 

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Honing the Craft

Knife sharpeningAs an educator and speaker I have often used pictures and images to underscore comparisons of education to other professions as a very effective tool to demonstrate the great need education has as a system to change. The most effective comparison was to show pictures of an operating room in the 19th century followed by a picture of a 21st century operating room. Step two is simple: Make the same visual comparison using pictures of a classroom. The difference in evolution of each set of pictures is a dramatic comparison. The early operating room was sparse, dark, and obviously not so sterile. The modern OR is packed with medical technology, brightly lighted, and an obvious sterile environment. The classroom pictures from early on had a teacher standing at the front of the room with a chalkboard behind and facing rows of students. The modern pic had a teacher standing at the front of the room with a whiteboard behind and facing rows of students.

Of course not every classroom in America is that stark, but I would venture to guess that description is probably closer to an accurate portrayal of a majority of classrooms. What should concern us even more than the environment of the classroom is the preparation, the mindset and the relevance of that educator standing in the room.

Of course we must assume that hospitals would not invest in medical technology if it were not being successfully applied to what doctors are supposed to be doing with it. Doctors are constantly being trained on the latest tech, and the newest drugs, and the latest methodology in their areas of expertise in their profession. Relevant knowledge to apply the proper methods and strategies for healthcare is essential. As a society we would not expect less of our medical profession. After all we depend on those doctors to do their jobs to the best of their ability to provide us with the best care possible and we won’t settle for less.

As an observer of student teachers, I visited many classrooms in many different schools giving me a unique perspective. In addition to observing my student teachers, I also made observations on the system of education. I was always astounded to see four computers collecting dust in the back or on the side of the room. It was however, a great opportunity to discuss education with many practicing educators. I found most of these educators wanting to be effective influencers on their students. They wanted to make a difference in the lives of their kids. They showed willingness and an openness to learn in order to evolve as educators. How are the motivations and concerns of these teachers different from those of our doctors? What are the differences in how doctors and teachers hone their craft?

The two greatest concerns we have in life are our kids and our health. We put our health in the hands of doctors and expect and pay for them to be not only educated enough to obtain a license in order to practice, but to pursue a continual path to maintain relevance in order to provide the best and latest procedures and methodologies to protect us. We show respect and teach them as adult professionals. They are provided assistants, technicians, mentors and mentees to feed into and perpetuate their support system. They develop as professionals on a continual basis.

We put our kids in the hands of educators and expect that they are educated enough to meet state standards while paying the most local taxes will afford. We support their relevance by providing sporadic training days once or twice a year. We have few standards to guide the education of educators and they vary state-by-state and district-by-district. We depend on pedagogy, the methods in teaching children, to teach adult learners about their profession. We require seat time in classes as the quality check on PD. The list goes on. There are many aspects of professional development that create a culture that does not support best practices for professional development.

Our kids are our most important asset and most valuable treasure. Why would we settle to place them in the hands of educators who could be better educated and more relevant on a continual basis if we were to prioritize the education of our educators. Most teachers are ready and willing to work on their craft, but they lack the thoughtful sources to do so.

There is no single solution that will fix our education system, because there is no single problem that is holding it back. It is a complex problem. There is however one thing that will most effectively and efficiently address most of the necessary changes we need. If we prioritize and rethink the way we allow and provide professional development for educators, we can enable them to continually hone their practice in their profession.

If we are to better educate our kids, we need first to better educate their educators.

 

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