This habit provided ample opportunity for me to reflect on my past experience and look to the future.
It is dangerous for education to be competitive. Before you get your feathers ruffled, let me provide a story to provide further clarity. As I mentioned last week in my professional experience blog post, I have spend the majority of my professional career in North Carolina. I experienced push and pull factors to relocate back to California. One of the major push factors was the education budget proposal for my last year in North Carolina. The state legislature, in it's infinite wisdom, wanted to make teachers compete with each other like businesses compete. They believed that it would create innovation, and drive student success if teacher pay was tied to student performance. It did not. Quite the opposite, in fact. The environment deteriorated. It was like working in a nuclear fallout zone. I don't blame any of the teachers I worked with for not wanting to share their best practices. I wouldn't have. I wouldn't want to give another teacher the tools to do better than me, so they can get paid a livable wage while I don't. I was at the district office as an Instructional Technology Specialist at this point, supporting our 1:1 technology model, so this is based on my observations of my schools. The Chief Instructional Officer called the Tech Specialists into a meeting at the beginning of the year and told us that it was going to be very difficult for us to do our jobs. One of the primary foci was to foster collaborative dialogues among teachers about how to best use the chrome books as part of the teachers daily instructional practice. I couldn't get a teacher to show up to a planning meeting to save my life. A change of venue to a happy hour location, with refreshments provided, didn't work either. I even brought rice crispy treats to school and hand delivered them to teachers with an invitation to come.
Luckily for me my teachers and my colleagues, the state finally passed a budget in October that did not include a correlation of pay to student performance. It was night and day. Teachers instantly began to share. They came to my training sessions, some asked when the next one at happy hour would be, I reminded them that the happy hour idea wasn't a popular one, so I returned to the previous training model. The moment competition ceased in the school, vibrant learning re-emerged.
Sports and other activities have competition as a purpose. Education shouldn't be a competition between teachers, administrators, or students. A teacher shouldn't have to compete with one of their more interesting students for a productive classroom. As I said in my Culture blog for this week, "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak, it is also what it takes to sit down and listen (W. Churchill)." I won't compete with my interesting students, I try to listen to them, and if the opportunity doesn't present itself, I invite them to go to the office, or ask that they share when I am done giving instruction.
We just had progress reports distributed last week, which means that the emails from parents requesting meetings has commenced. While talking with my colleague, Rebecca, about this habit, we were both encouraged to think about the upcoming meetings, and how we can best present ourselves and dialogue with our parents. Digging in your heels doesn't do well with our community. If we problem solve and find the middle road, perhaps we can have consensus with our parents. Like Obi-Wan Kenobi told Anakin Skywalker in Episode III, "If you stop, think, and use the force, the solution to the problem will present itself."