Thursday, June 11, 2020

Is it worth the battle?

Many years ago when I saw something that I wanted for school or my students, I was ready to battle to get that. I remember the battle to get students who didn't have computers access to computers. I returned from a conference in DC about equity and serving students well. I was empowered to make a difference from the awesome, pointed words of many, many educational leaders who spoke at the conference including Martin Luther King III.

Upon returning back to school, I mentioned the idea and received significant pushback. I was ready to battle and kept pushing the idea until finally someone with some clout agreed with me and started pushing for the change too. Eventually the change happened and that has made a positive difference.

I don't tell this story to pat myself on the back, but instead, I am bringing the story to mind as I think of another idea and wonder if I have the energy to battle to get the idea approved. I have had to battle a lot as an educator to forward ideas and efforts that I think are meaningful and beneficial to students. In general, people don't readily embrace my ideas. I've thought a lot about why that is true. Some may say it's my delivery--I tend to be direct, tangental, and led a lot by intuition which is sometimes difficult to translate in the real world. Also, since I've spent most of my time as a practitioner rather than a scholar, I've concocted my own way to explain and connect ideas and information--ways easily understood by children and some colleagues, but less understood by those distanced from classroom life. And, I admit, I'm often impatient--if I see a good idea, I want it now. I have a way of knowing good ideas when they occur, and I'm impatient about waiting for those ideas to happen. Further, I am a bit of a futuristic thinker. I know this because ideas I've thought about or started often become popular about five to ten years after I started thinking about the idea or making it part of my life. Many years ago I labored over teaching podcasting to my students. I finally gave up since I got little support for my efforts and it was so time consuming, and now podcasting is a much more popular medium. I shouldn't have given up, but to make it a steady part of the curriculum was such a steep climb.

So now I'm looking at another challenge, another battle. In general when I suggest my ideas to some in the school system, I'm scolded, ridiculed, and criticized. I'm told to fill out numerous forms, and then generally get the big NO. Other teachers simply don't ask permission and do what they want. No one says anything about that because they are quiet about their efforts, yet when you have lots of teachers quietly doing what they want you don't get the kind of dynamic teaching and learning community that's possible--a community of invested educators sharing great ideas and improving our collective efforts. That's my vision for great schools.

I think that I often get the NO simply because people don't want to be bothered with doing the extra work to try out new venues that actually support students in deep and meaningful ways. I think a lot of people like it easy and are unwilling to risk. I also get the NO because it's me, and people don't always understand me--fortunately children do understand me and make progress with me so that's good and why I've kept at this profession for so long.

I must say I'm a little battle weary, but I'll think on this next idea and how to approach it in the days ahead. It's too bad that school systems, in general, are a bit too cautionary when it comes to new and better ideas. Onward.