Wednesday, April 01, 2009

On the Teacher Leader Network forum, I have been co-facilitating a book chat around Failure is Not an Option. The conversation has been rich and engaging among this group of educators who have chosen to participate. Some of the ideas there are worth sharing on a larger scale though.

The book, written by Alan Blankstein, is a simply written explanation of a plan to change schools to ensure success by all students. Some of his principles are so basic and obvious I am forced to wonder why schools do not follow his sage advice.

Central to his success plan, collaboration among stakeholders in education. Not forced, contrived collaboration, but true, down and dirty, working together, how can we get this RIGHT work. I wonder though, are schools really ready for this type of model?

What about the holdouts who refuse to buy-in? What about time and money? Are we in public education ready for change? Are we willing to stand strong against outside forces fighting us at every juncture?

Often, teachers use the phrase, "Whatever is best for kids... I'll do it!" Do they mean it??

I am not fingerpointing at all. I question my own intentions as well as those of others. How much time and energy AM I really willing to devote to making sure every single one of my students WILL learn?

Some teachers choose to be a part of the larger educational community, becoming active in professional learning networks. For example, I am a member of National Middle School Association's MiddleTalk listserve, where daily conversations surrounding every aspect of teaching and learning with middle schoolers are carried on by teachers around the globe. I find answers to my pedagogical questions, ideas for lessons, support when the daily routine is rocky, and a sounding board for my own ideas. However, this membership is a choice I personally make.

Having been a part of lesson study groups that were contrived by higher powers, I have been a part of the "great job" detail, as many others have been. No real learning took place in those meetings, no give and take of ideas, no growth, professional or otherwise was seen.

Is the answer then, voluntary membership in these groups? Is that enough?

How can we create learning communities among teachers which are real, viable and continue to build and grow without indictments from above?

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