Category: Uncategorized

I’ll Take the Sticks and Stones

We’ve all heard the rhyme “sticks & stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Why is it that we are fully aware this is not true, yet we continue to teach children the rhyme. Words are powerful. Words can encourage, celebrate, humor and… words can hurt.

Words can tear down, discourage, anger and destroy a career before it even begins. I had the fortune of sharing a meal last week with a young girl from my town. In May, she will graduate with a degree in elementary education. She is an amazing young woman who loves children and always has a smile on her face. When I asked her about her plans after graduation, she shared that she was thinking of going ahead and getting her Masters degree…in business! I thought I heard wrong. When I questioned her further I found that even though she loves children and has thoroughly enjoyed her classroom experiences thus far, she has become disenchanted with the profession before she’s even started. How has this happened? It’s because of words. The complaining, critical, negative words about the state of education from the teachers she is currently working with and others she has come in contact with have caused this potentially great teacher to give up before she’s even begun.

What are we doing?! Sure, there are hot topics and controversial issues in education including the way teachers are regarded. No, I don’t think we need to pretend these things don’t exist. However, the way we talk about questions and concerns is impacting those around us, especially our young teachers. Have we forgotten that regardless of how we feel about homework or grading or merit pay or pay in general or the lack of respect for teachers, the bigger issue is children. As I told this young woman, all children still deserve a good teacher.  I am not saying abandon the fight. All I am saying is remember who we are fighting against and who we are fighting for. Also, be aware of who is listening. It is our responsibility as educational leaders to change the conversation. We have to be the professionals we demand others see us as.

So, give me the sticks and stones. Bruises and broken bones will heal. Sometimes the damage done with words can’t be undone.


Linear vs. Exponential

Last week a friend, who is also an educator, and I were discussing the fact that it had been a little over a year since we discovered the world of twitter. We had heard about it, but didn’t really understand what all the hype was about. We decided to give it a try and before we knew it we were sucked into the vortex. I began to have to force myself to close out twitter so I could actually get some work done. Discovering TweetDeck took my addiction to a whole new level.

I’ve spent a few days reflecting on that conversation and how my learning has changed since that first day on twitter. When I was in high school & college my learning was linear. The goal was, learn all I could so that I could get a good job, make a decent salary and move out of my parents’ house. It was all about me. I learned from one teacher, in one classroom at a time.

Though I can’t measure it and I don’t have the data to support it, I would have to say I have learned more in the past year than in my entire adult life. While that’s a great thing, even more important is that now my learning is exponential. What I learn from the people in my PLN not only affects me, but also my students, my colleagues and even other people in my PLN. Think about it… You find a good article or a useful resource and think, “I’ll tweet this.” Someone sees it and retweets it. The process continues until, here in this small town in central North Carolina, a math teacher reads your tweet, clicks on the link and learns something. She shares what she’s learned with her students and colleagues and all of a sudden your seemingly insignificant tweet has affected multiple other people.

Imagine the difference in our world if we begin to teach our children how to share what they know with others and how to learn from others. When they think I am the holder of all knowledge and the only one they can learn from, that’s linear. When I open up the world to them learning becomes exponential. Here’s to exponential learning!

Time To Stop Being a User

I love blogs! I really love reading blog posts written by people from all over the world. I learn so much from the writings of others. It has been suggested to me a few times that I start blogging. I’ve read posts from people I follow on twitter about the importance of blogging. Yet, I haven’t been able to get myself to take the leap. You see, I’m perfectly happy learning from others! I’ve questioned whether or not I even have anything worth writing. I’ve finally started to re-think the need to become a blogger.

I follow the blogs of some great teachers like  Pernille Ripp, Mimi Yang & Josh Stumpenhorst. These folks are classroom teachers who are willing to take a few minutes out of their day to share their thoughts about teaching and learning. I learn from their experiences and I even share what I learn with others. This week I had to create a Professional Development Plan. As I wrote my professional learning goals for this year, I included my twitter PLN as one of the resources necessary to accomplish my goals. When a colleague asked me about including that, my response was, “Of course I’ll use my twitter PLN!” Then it hit me…I’m a user! That’s what I do. I use the people I follow on twitter. I soak up every bit of insight and information I can. I am a master retweeter. Yet, I never add to the conversation. One would think I don’t have any positive experiences worth sharing. But I do! I have wonderful students who are venturing into the world of 1:1, student centered learning, standards based education and multiple literacy strategies. There’s a lot going on in my classes! Maybe it’s time to share. I realize it’s not about me. It’s about them. People don’t need to hear what I have to say. People need to hear what my students are doing and learning and what they have to say about all of it.

I’m not sure any of this will benefit anyone, but if I expect my students to work with each other and not just side-by-side, then I have to model that as well. I expect them to contribute in class, so I guess I need to step up and contribute too! I’ll share what we are learning and if it helps, that’s great. If it doesn’t…well, let’s just hope it does!