Friday, October 30, 2015

Finding Common Ground

Last week at our PLC I cried. I cried when I perceived a colleague to be limiting what I could do to teach children well. This upset me because I like to teach in creative, multi-sensory, differentiated ways that stretch and bend to meet students where they are. If the parameters are too tight, I can't teach that way, and when I can't teach that way, I can't create the vigorous, enthusiastic learning/teaching community I aim to create.

Yet, a week later, I've been thinking about those tears and that disruption. For so long, in a sense, I've felt trapped by the mandates, processes, and structure of school. While I'm a fan of many new initiatives, research about good teaching, and student-centered, brain-friendly process, I'm not a fan of teacher-less dictates and orders that don't include our voice, ideas, or experiences. Hence, I guess I've grown quite a strong outer layer after all these years of what I think of as "oppression." Therefore when someone tries to limit the work I can do or have researched and worked on with depth and significant time, I react with emotion. This isn't the first time this has happened. It happened once when a school poster seemed to demean girls and people of color, and it happened another time when software choices also limited the students who could "see themselves in the program." Each time the challenge didn't fit recent reading and research or my experience as a teacher of 30 years.

But we all bring different perspectives to education. We bring our perspectives as learners ourselves (We all have had different learning experiences). We bring the perspectives of the homes we were raised in and live in now. We bring the perspective of gender and power. We bring the perspectives of our education, tenure, and professional work. We bring the perspectives of our vision, dreams, hopes, and plans for the future.

With that in mind, the goal has to be finding common ground, understanding each other, and working with respectful, forward-moving process. So when we meet today, I hope to learn more about the limitations, directives, and process that frustrated me so. I also want to understand why my tears and words were disconcerting to the colleague. I also hope that I can relay a bit about who I am and my perspective to the colleague too. In the end, I hope we can find common ground because I know that we both care a lot about children, education, and doing what's right in the community of learners we contribute to each day. Onward.

Finding common ground depends on good listening, quality process, and common goals too.