Ayla Gavins, Jose Vilson, Christina Cantrill, and Philip Schmidt presented a great panel discussion on the topic, "Openness: Creating More Transparent Schools." The discussion left me with many points to ponder in days to come including the following:
- Gavins shared strategies used in her school such as discussing the article, "Willing to be Disturbed,"and posed the thought that we need to develop a culture of share in schools and a willingness to be open with one another. She said there are two roles in her school, "teacher and supporters of teachers."
- Vilson discussed the distinction between "inspect and respect" with regard to evaluation and share in schools, and supported a school culture where educators are able to say to leaders/teachers, "Come look, come talk to students," rather than a culture led by "blunt instruments" that don't tell the real story of student need, achievement, and growth.
- Cantrill promoted transparency that's supported through practice, invitation, and permission--a purposeful openness.
- Schmidt thinks about openness as cultures where people are "invited in" and given a license to make change. He noted that the best way to promote change is to show the positive, engaging sides of new practice and innovation. It was noted that it's important for educators to model for families and colleagues the kinds of questions, thinking, and strategies promoted in the classroom.
- Vilson challenged that many systems don't value expertise, and questioned the employment of those without classroom/teaching expertise as assessors, coaches, and guides for educators.
- Gavins promotes leadership with all staff through multiple, purposeful discussions, outreach, and care for children. At her school, they have collective ownership and support of the standards and take the time to discuss, analyze, and reach common understanding of teaching/learning goals with an eye on the present, and an eye on the future and what children need.
- Schmidt noted that students need to be part of the discussion; they need to have ownership in their school environments.
- All of the participants discussed the role of narrative with regard to successful schools, and they all promoted the notion of inclusive learning communities that engage students, families, educators, and leaders in the education story of vision, plans, events, and reflection. Gavins explained that we need to "take advantage of a captive audience."
- Cantrill discussed the Internet as a learning space, and challenged us to think about how we use that space to forward the education and collaboration of all.
- The discussion of transparency and accountability emerged with the observation that cultures with greater share and transparency actually exemplify greater accountability and rigor since people tend to push each other, collaborate, and communicate regularly about the goals, vision, and efforts. It was also noted that working in public spaces such as the Internet builds accountability--when you're visible you open yourself up to growth, critique, and share.
- Gavins recommended that we create "public service messages" to tell the true story about what matters in the classroom, and noted that "misinformation rolls back the clock about what we do, and can do for students."
- Vilson challenged us to tell the stories that matter even when those stories may be unpopular or controversial--telling the stories that matter empower students.
- Lehmann posed the final question, "How do we encourage and model the idea that we can take care of one another so vulnerability is not singular?" (The vulnerability of transparency, openness, share, and trying something new.) Vilson shared that there is a big difference between calling someone out and bringing someone in. Gavins spoke about the intersection of celebration and challenge--noting how good we feel when we work at a challenge. She also relayed the story of a group of elders who said, "We hug before we talk," and described how that was the way they decreased the vulnerability inherent in tough conversations, problem solving, and share.
Sunday Conversation: Preservice Teaching Programs
After the panel discussion, I participated in a great conversation related to preservice teaching programs. Many ideas were shared:
- We discussed the potential of University-school partnerships where teachers serve as preservice instructors while hosting interns for a year or more.
- We talked about how connectivity and technology can be shared with and taught to new teachers.
- We noted that it's imperative that educators have a PLN (personal learning network) today, and talked about our individual paths to creating and using our PLN's to benefit student learning.
- We discussed the fact that there's too much busy work in preservice programs, and that should be replaced by more meaningful, purposeful work.
- It was also expressed that there isn't enough time in preservice internships for meaningful teacher-to-teacher talk. Further we wondered how "mentor" is defined today since the collaboration of student teacher to classroom teacher is an exchange.
Educon 2.6 was an affirming, challenging, and thought provoking event, one that will serve to positively enrich my teaching repertoire.
If you're interested in attending this wonderful event, save the date for next year's Educon 2.7:
January 23, 24, 25, 2015 --Great PD for all educators @educonphilly