Looking for a Place

This post is coming from that feeling one sometimes gets when one knows that something just has to happen. It’s all kind of names – guiding voice, spirit, … – something I’ve been listening more go lately because, really, following my head hasn’t really been working all that well. It is a bit rambling – rabbit trails of thought that have need to run.

This summer will be one like I’ve never experienced. For the first time in 42 years, since I began kindergarten, I will not be heading back to school or into an educational facility of some sort, either as a learner or a lead-learner, at its end. As I’ve contemplated this over the past few weeks and begun to look outside of eduction for some inspiration and some direction, I’ve been “exposed” to some interesting ideas and “endured” some interesting feedback which I’m still processing. One of the things I’ve contemplating/struggling with is whether I continue to pursue something in education or whether I go explore something else, something that might be completely unrelated to education. As I struggle through this period – anger, sadness, discomfort, self-loathing – I question how, after all this time, I reached this point. How, after pursuing learning my entire life, traveling across the Atlantic to attend a symposium before anyone did such things never mind doing my Masters all online when it was at its infancy, I end up looking to find myself here.

Could it be that not only is the system flawed for our children, but is it also flawed for those who work inside? Those of us who, as I was once called by a Director, are “lose cannons”, who see how things could be so different, who want to bring about change, who desperately want to share our ideas, insights and understandings but aren’t provided opportunity. Who, after years of seeking avenues now find ourselves extremely frustrated to the point we begin to look outside.

And it’s not just within the physical buildings but, as educators have begun to explore and expand into social media, the same thing happens. The “Echo Chamber” becomes one where similar ideas are tossed around and clicks form. Sometimes it’s like being Perceval Jr. in Athur Slades tribes. In a place where people constantly are advocating sharing and being part of the conversation, it happens way to often. It’s like being that kid who can’t go to summer camp or can’t get the new shoes or whose family doesn’t have quite the right lineage, or the teacher who can’t go to conferences because of a lack of money, or family commitments or ….., but who wants to join in the discussion – after a while, it becomes demoralizing. You’ll never be “In” and, really, with the pace of change that is happening, there are other ways to spend time to stay up on the latest.

I hear way to often, “more teachers should….” and “why aren’t more teachers using ….” – well some of them have come with an interest and desire to want to learn but weren’t heard. Others came and didn’t like the finger wagging and preachy style of the presentation. Others came but couldn’t join the “inside conversation and jokes” and weren’t really impressed with the conversation which wasn’t really with other teachers but people who like to tell teachers what they, and education, need to do to change. I hear how people need to share and anyone who doesn’t is “wrong” but why scream into the raging storm – no one hears you anyway!

The past three years I’ve often thought “well, I’d share more but there isn’t the time – I teach.” As an administrator, I taught one class everyday. I tried my darn best to make it to classrooms each day, to see what students were doing, to visit with teachers but I couldn’t always. I’d slip online at night, late, to read about how a 21stC administrator should be doing things or read how someone’s idea of what a 21st C leader should be doing and think “What’s the use?” And it’s the honest truth. I look at the teachers with whom I’ve spent the last 3 years, opening a new school, combining two schools into one, building a new culture, building community connections, fostering a dialogue with parents about learning and think “there’s no more time to do anything else” and then we start a snack program, a quilting club starts up, we host a Coffee House for one of our students with cancer and …. sometimes there isn’t the luxury of time to share. I spent free time removing graffiti from lockers and making sure teachers were supported – and I know I’m not the only person who feels this way – there’s at least 4 others!

It’s funny, but I hesitate to share this knowing that people will take exception to some of the things – and really, over the past 8 years of rebuilding the schools where I’ve been, I get enough negative feedback. There have been enough “Educational Thinkers” these past few years and not nearly enough doers. Talking about changing ways and mind sets and ways of doing is easy – sometimes too easy – actually having crucial conversations about students, teaching strategies, PLC’s, RtI, PBIS, digital device usage, grading practices, planning practices, classroom management practices is tough. Just as tough is moving a culture of negativity and bullying to one of success and acceptance. Doing it in three years, after moving two schools together – our success story.

Today we have too many talkers who gather to slap one another’s backs who have little actual understanding of what it takes to actually make it happen. To make a bit of an analogy – I’ve been in the delivery room for all 8 deliveries of my children and been through 3 miscarriages with my wife. I I have NO CLUE what it’s like to be pregnant or give birth although I’ve lived through this more than most men I know. Watching, talking, documenting, asking questions, watching is NOT the same as doing. There are way too many armchair quarterbacks in education who, if put in the real game, have only vague recollections of football games misremembered from their youth.

That is why such things as the mentor/mentee idea that George Courso has is so great. It brings together administrators from around the globe to help one another. That’s why I believe that sites like Ed Administrator2.0 are so crucial – they provide an opportunity for educational leaders a forum to discuss and share their ideas in a similar way that teachers can at such sites as Teacher2.0, Fireside Learning and Classroom2.0 are critical for teachers and such things as twitter chats (list of chats and times from Jerry Blumengarten’s blog – schedule) are so important as teachers and administrators begin to make connections and talk. Many teachers say the same thing – “we don’t need anyone else to tell us what to do – we need time to share and do what WE know and time to learn together to improve the learning in OUR school” It’s not about more conferences or more experts – it’s about giving teachers time to network and learn together, go back to their rooms and try, reflect on what was successful and what wasn’t and learn from that. It’s not about this program or that program but the relationships with the people in the building – you can’t build that at conferences or all day away PD because its about EVERYONE in the building not just the “Rock Stars” but also the reluctant readers!

What started out as kind of an Eeyore post, kind of like the Saskatchewan Roughriders started the game tonight, is really about the great playing the whole game – making adjustments at halftime and playing a strong game with all members of the team contributing. Yes, there are the marquee players but there are they will tell you that it takes a whole team to win a game just like it takes a whole staff to educate the students in the school and the support of the parents – providing feedback is crucial to building a successful team. And sometimes, you have to know when to step aside and let someone else lead while you take on a different role.

I’m still trying to find my place.

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