Friday, August 09, 2019

Make time to work with children

I fear there's a growing divide between those who work with children day after day and those that tell people who work with children online and in real time what to do. This divide creates an unnecessary gap between leading and doing, a gap that's costly and a gap that creates unnecessary steps between learning and teaching.

I have noticed this gap recently when I've attended professional conferences. At the conferences there has been more leaders, directors, and coaches than teachers. Now I know that those educational leaders, directors, and coaches will return to schools and try to disseminate the information to teachers, but there will be a considerable loss of effect and depth in translation. I believe that it's better to have teachers, the people who are working directly with the children, attend the conferences as that will eliminate the loss in translation while also boosting the camaraderie, enthusiasm, and shared knowledge amongst educators. Will Richardson from Modern Learners would like to take this a step further by including students in these learning events. I believe that Will's idea, to a large degree, is rightly directed. I've often felt that we spend too much time talking about students rather than talking to them and including them in our planning, problem solving, and learning events. One great way to enrich our schools and elevate the learning for all is to plan professional learning events that include students. Our team has done this and plans to do this again this year as we know it is very helpful.

Online share also includes lots of educators who do not have significant experience working in schools or with children. When these experts get online to tell educators what to do, their words often add up to greater obstruction to good work rather than the good work possible. As I state this, I do want to say that I believe education like any discipline can profit from the viewpoints and perspectives from those in other disciplines. That's why I like Twitter so much, I learn many ideas from other disciplines and then use those ideas in education. That's helped me to be a better teacher. That said, however, I do think that we have to beware of experts that don't regularly spend meaningful time working with children and schools. We don't want to be spending critical education dollars and time supporting experts without dedicated experience with children rather than supporting those who work with students day in and day out. Teachers should not be considered the do-its, instead they need to be considered as professionals who deserve the time and attention for apt professional learning experiences as well as support for the work they do each day with state-of-the-art learning environments, materials, schedules, and leadership too.

In any profession, the people who sit on the sidelines advising alone rather than getting involved in the daily details of the work they advise about are not as valuable. If you want to influence education, you have to spend some time working deeply to help students learn. That will make your words and work meaningful.

As educators, we can't be fooled by those who haven't had this experience. Yes, there will be a few, who are able to share information well and motivate without good time with students, but for the most part, we need to support and look to experts that have experience and experts that continue to work with children regularly. Those that do not make the effort to work with children regularly are typically less relevant, helpful, or worth the time or money. Onward.