Monday, May 16, 2011

Yes, you have to...

As part of pretty much every teaching professional body/union/licensing agent/other "thing", teachers agree to ongoing professional learning.

It's a hot button issue around contract time (oh, we need more PD!)

In fact, one of the biggest things I keep hearing from my colleagues is that they aren't trained on xyz equipment. why do we have to wait for someone else to teach us?  I suppose it's because we're teachers who are used to guiding students slowly but surely towards a "lightbulb moment".

Here's the problem....ask most teachers, and they all want their kids to be more independent, more able to solve problems, more able to "figure stuff out", and yet, some people will sit idly by and say "I don't know how".

Here's my solution - tell them to learn!

We're not allowed to be "bad" teachers - we need to have criteria to mark with, we need to ensure that we have an orderly class, we need to ensure that our assignments are more than simply stand at the front and lecture, and we need to ensure that our students learn things.  These things are professional obligations that, rightfully so, are enforced (or could be enforced) through our contracts.

Why then are we allowed to simply say "Sorry, I know all this research says that using this idea or that idea or this thing or that thing is a great tool for learning, but no thanks, I'll stick with what I've got".  This is the response given far too often when teachers are asked to implement this idea, or this technology, or this lesson.

So I go back to it - tell them to!  My first VP was fantastic, and a major innovator in educational technology.  He told the whole staff "You will use Twitter and you will use a blog roll.  We're going to talk about what you learn at monthly staff meetings".  This was my first job - I didn't know that, in the culture I see now, he apparently wasn't "allowed" to tell teachers this.

So brand-new-me learned how to use Twitter.  I learned how to set up a blog roll.  It didn't take long, and it still doesn't - he wasn't expecting the moon, he wanted us to get into it.

And I thank him for it every morning when I use these tools to better my learning.  I didn't know what it was at the time, but I went along with it, and it's really made me a better teacher.

So really folks - why CAN'T we be told to learn something?  That's just one example - I've taught myself how to edit videos, shoot photographs, use twenty-three million online tools, and generally how to be a better teacher.  It didn't take forever - 20 minutes here, 15 minutes there.  I see it as part of my professional obligation.

Doctors and engineers and pilots and the like (appear) to have done it right - they subscribe to journals, they talk to colleagues, they stay up on the cutting edge stuff because they're required to by their professional obligations.

So a message to administrators - please, force us to learn!

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