Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I read the look on her face--she was revealing an unspoken challenge.

I knew what she was thinking, Last year his bag was filled with corrected worksheets with stars on the top. The teachers always said he was tops in the class--an obedient, responsible boy who completed all his work.  Now this year, everything has changed.  There are few to no worksheets, the practice work is online and he's making movies, digital portfolios and Google charts.  This is not a real education.

I never just do something because it looks good or it's easy, every project, activity and endeavor my class engages in is embedded with standards, cognitive theory and learning research.  I spend a lot of time prepping each activity and revising units to meet students' needs and goals with engaging 21st century projects that mirror the venues they'll be using in their lives to both to learn and to communicate.

As I watched the woman, a loving and caring mom, my reaction at first was to be defensive.  Doesn't she know how many books I've read, chats I've been involved in and courses I've taken?  Has she ever tried any of these projects, and does she realize the creativity, critical thinking skills, communication and collaboration involved--all vital skills for life long learning and success? Yet, I'm the first to say, no one knows it all, but how do I tell her that it's important that her son is more than obedient and learns to independently advocate, create and communicate in addition to filling in the blanks of a worksheet. 

Moving forward in education relies on conversation and discussion with the whole learning team: educators, parents, family members, community members, students and administrators.  Instead of defense, we have to learn to openly communicate, debate and educate making the best decisions for the students we serve.  We need to help parents envision the kinds of skills and knowledge that will help their children to succeed in the future, and we have to listen to parents too and honor traditional approaches to learning that are still essential.

It's not all of one or the other, but instead the strength lies in our collaboration--working together to build engaging, empowering learning communities for all. How does your team foster this collaboration?