Saturday, January 30, 2016

#ECET2: Celebrate and Elevate!

In many ways, it used to be a lot easier writing a daily post at an education conference because there were so many broad categories of needed change with regard to our work as educators. Also in many ways the solutions were general and somewhat simplistic. A blogger and educator like me could attend a conference, write daily posts, and return with big ideas such as "We need more computers" or "Professional learning opportunities must improve" or "We have to make our work more student centered." But now, it seems like there is greater deep, targeted information out there about what it truly means to teach and learn well, and this is a direct result of the knowledge age we live in. Everyone essentially is a knowledge worker and almost everyone is navigating multiple knowledge points online and off every day in their personal and professional lives. Learning and teaching touches every industry and organization, not just schools. And that fact has resulted in lots of research, data, ideas, contribution, and discussion about what it means to teach and learn well.

This move from a broad lens on education to greater specificity means that we have to think more deeply and strategically about the messages we send and the work we do. We have to put greater effort into our collaboration inside and outside of school environments because this is a sophisticated time of educational change and one or two voices will not suffice. Good answers, efforts, and service will result from quality collaboration that represents all the voices of the learning/teaching team including students, families, educators, leaders, and community members.

This change is why we see organizations like the MacArthur Foundation making big shifts in vision and action with regard to education. In the 2010 MacArthur Foundation video they note these shifts:
  • education to learning
  • consumption to participation and production
  • institutions to networks
At #ECET2 one of yesterday's keynote speakers, Irvin Scott, inspired educators as he relayed the focus of the Bill and Melinda Gates Education Foundation's work with educators. Essentially the theme that "Nobody knows teaching like teachers." led the discuss as Scott relayed the focal points of the Foundation's work with educators:
  • Nurture trust among teachers.
  • Focus on each teacher's potential for growth.
  • Inspire the intellect and passion driving teachers' work.
  • Provide time for collaboration and learning.
  • Put teachers in the lead. 
  • Recognize teachers as talented professionals.
He went on to emphasize that it's time to "celebrate and elevate" the profession.

Nate Brown from the Gates Education Foundation shared the image below which provides a pathway for school communities that "celebrate and elevate" teachers:

So where does this take us as educators in the field?

As I begin to think about this, I know that we can put this research into place if we're cognizant of the work we need to do:
  • Advocate and contribute to the presence of the focal points and processes outlined above in the places where we teach and learn with the following questions:
    • How do we build collegial trust?
    • How do we support each other with regard to professional growth?
    • How can we discover, empower, and share intellect and passion as we collaborate around issues and efforts to teach all children well?
    • How can we advocate for needed time for planning and collaboration?
    • How do we advocate for and contribute to structures and support for the development of teacher leadership in our schools and organizations?
    • How do we "celebrate and elevate" each other as we recognize and treat teachers as professionals?
  • Work to create teaching/learning organizations that follow the pathway above by decreasing isolation, encouraging greater share of quality resources and practice, leading each other forward, and looking for more ways to celebrate and elevate the work we do day to day.
As we continue to rethink our profession and redesign our schools for better, deeper teaching and learning, we do need to rethink our roles, structure, routines, and content, and we have to do this as collaborative teams of students, families, educators, leaders, and community members. Within each of our contexts, we have to look deeply at what we're doing well and what we can do better. We have to stay on top of the research and share what we learn and know to be true, and we have to do this with the common vision of teaching every child well. 

It is so gratifying to be at #ECET2 and to hear that what we've thought all along as educators is true--we know what it takes to teach well, and together with the right support we can really empower, engage, and make a positive impact on the lives of the children we teach and serve every day.