Do you feel Alone?

My friends and I started the Twitter chat (#EdTechAfterDark) in January, and the blog in March, so over the past five months we have heard hundreds of stories.  Teachers, students, and parents from across the world have shared, no matter the differences, their passion for teaching and learning is insatiable.  However, there’s another side to those stories, something that is fills me with equal parts sadness and alarm. Most of these educators are individual islands of innovation.

Alex, Dan, and I have learned how incredibly blessed we are to live and work in a district where we can work together, really together.  Dan and I worked at Citrus Springs Middle School and helped with a group of awesome administrations and teachers to implement iPads in the classroom.  Alex and I have been working together just this year.  The expression “catching lightning in a bottle” couldn’t begin to describe the feeling of true collaboration, sharing best practices, lessons, apps, ideas, literally every aspect of our professional lives.

Having lived in this Utopian system of teaching and learning leaves me feeling equal parts excitement and antipathy. Why is it that we teachers refuse to collaborate?  Why are we afraid to try new things?  What drives our identity as teachers?  I am going to share my reflections on these questions, but what I really want to know is how is it happening in rural Missouri or inner-city Detroit? It is my hope that this post will be shared among parents, teachers, and students across the world and those who read it will take a moment to share their answers to these questions.  Infections can only heal when they are revealed and all that is ugly and ill is removed.  This post is my attempt to open the conversation and start sharing with each other in new and innovative ways.

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Why is it that we teachers refuse to collaborate?

On the surface, it would seem that some teachers just don’t like to work with others.   Carol Kinsey Goman shared in a blog for Forbes that the main reasons people refuse to collaborate are: People don’t see the benefit of collaborating, they are “unconsciously competent” (They don’t know what they know), they are afraid of being wrong, they can’t translate what they know into language that others understand, they’ve tried collaborating only to have their opinions ignored, they don’t trust their teammates, and they work for leaders who don’t share.

In a world of merit-based pay, it would seem that the easy answer comes down to teachers not wanting others to be successful.  I’m not buying that, having worked in a number of different schools and having struggled with the feeling of not wanting to share myself, it was never about another teacher being or not being successful .  For me, it was all about being “The Best”,  “if they take my idea and the credit then I’m no longer special”.

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Why are teachers afraid to try new things?

One of the most damaging and pervasive aspects of school culture is the phrase, “that’s not how we do things here”.  The teachers making that statement are typically the same ones who were standing up with Morgan Freeman in “Lean on Me”, or were cheering on Jaime Escalante in his masterful work unleashing the genius in each of his young delinquents in “Stand and Deliver”.  What changed?  Why are these teachers typically feeling the most anxiety when adopting or even accepting new forms of pedagogical discovery?  I’m not just talking about technology, what about Essential Questions, Learning Objectives, WICOR strategies, researched based best practices. I refuse to believe it simply comes down to their laziness, and if it is, by God they should be removed immediately from their positions.

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What drives our identity as a teacher?

In his book “What Great Principals do Differently” Todd Whitaker shares how important it is to focus on the positive and most effective teachers on a campus.  He states that “Our superstars will always be effective teachers, but if we do not value their contributions, they will limit their influence to their individual classrooms.” At some point in almost all of our journeys as teachers, we sought the approval of our mentor, department head, or administrator. That’s not to say we are all co-dependent, whiners in need of constant coddling to feel secure, but some of us are.  Some of us go back and forth between security and insecurity depending on our mood, brain chemistry, or time of the year.  The question though is, how do we peel the onion back to our core and discern why we are teachers.  For me, it’s the phone call from the mother who hasn’t seen academic success in her son in years, but this year he’s excited about school again!

What are your thoughts on why teachers are reluctant to collaborate?

Why are teachers afraid or reluctant to try new things?

What drives you to be a teacher?

Share your thoughts and answers to these questions in the comments below!

Resources:

WICOR Strategies are the intellectual property of AVID
Emerson graphic from Quotesgram.com
“Simba Tries some new grub” owned by Disney
Where is your identity? Know yourself for who you are! Spirit Talks by Nathan Virtus

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5 Comments

  1. What are your thoughts on why teachers are reluctant to collaborate? I think it’s part insecurity & part complacency. Insecure that their ideas won’t be validated or acknowledged. Complacent because for them collaboration doesn’t lead to results in their mind. I believe collaboration between teachers is powerful when all parties are equally invested in topic of collaboration.

    Why are teachers afraid or reluctant to try new things? I think their afraid to fail. Failure has always been discouraged. Trying something new may either succeed or fail. Unfortunately, administration may have fueled this reluctance.

    What drives you to be a teacher? Passion. I believe that no matter if I were a MLB outfielder, professional musician, or business owner, you have to love what you do. That’s what drives me to help educators improve instruction with using technology in the classroom.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your idea of complacency resonates with me, I know if in the midst of a school year I either have to consciously seek out my collaborators or they have to knock down my door. It’s tough education hasn’t been built for collaboration. So we are finding against the grain.

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  3. I think it’s really easy to get caught up on what’s going on in your own classroom, that it’s hard to make time to think about the benefits of meeting with others. As a specialist, I have to try really hard to get my content/project ideas to line up with what the classroom teachers are doing. When we are successful, it is awesome for everyone.

    Trying new things, on the other hand, is an attitude. It takes an attitude of not quite being satisfied even when a lesson or unit seems to go really well — there’s always room for improvement. It is work to try out new things, find new things, or connect with people whose job it is to find the new things.

    What drives me to be a teacher?? It allows the opportunity for me to keep learning – and to pass that love of learning on to students.

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  4. I think it’s a matter of an administration that supports, encourages, and also actively engages in collaboration along with a teachers desire for continual learning and growth that really drives collaboration in an educational setting. I’ve worked at a school where collaboration is not acknowledged as a valuable career building and professional development tool, and therefore it is not widely used. However, the school I’m with now embraces collaboration, encourages it from the top down, and requires it as part of our professional development.

    I think teachers may be reluctant at times to try new things because they have a very limited amount if time to teach a broad spectrum of information. If they try something new and it doesn’t work they have wasted precious time. I think there is a level of fear of failure involved.

    What drives me to teach is the possibility of instilling a true passion for lifelong learning. If I can encourage a child to reach and push themselves to find their passion then I have done my job well.

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