Tomorrow marks the beginning of the EduCon conference in Philly at Science Leadership Academy where Chris Lehman  is principal. In my PLN there are a number of people making the trip to take part in this great conference and I know there will be a host of live Ustream events and people blogging about the event. This is a wonderful chance for people to see an example of education that is much different from the regular education model. I commend Chris on his work, effort and what he has accomplished and what is happening at Educon.  

However, there is one nagging thing that keeps gnawing away at me. You see, no matter how hard we try, almost all schools I know will not be able to do what is being done at SLA. They don’t have the resources, they don’t have the mandate and they don’t get to choose their students. I am in a rural school where our K – 12 population is less than 250 students. There is no way we can: attract the teachers; select students; diversify our staff – to be able to create soemthing even remotely close. Don’t get me wrong, I think that if you have all the right pieces, then go for it. Heck I would.

In my reality, this is not possible. We can chin wag all we want about so many things but, when the rubber hits the pavement, we aren’t going to be able to follow the model no matter how motivated the teachers or how deep the desire because of too many things that just aren’t part of the equation. So if we can’t follow that model, what’s the alternative? For schools where all students must be taught and our goal is to have every child learn to their greatest potential, where differentiation is often so varied in a classroom and students have all sorts of learning disabilities, where teachers are often teaching in their area of specialty plus teaching a few other things that need to be covered, where our technology, although better than in many areas, will not be able to grow and evolve with the students growth as we would like it, where socio-economics does play a part and students are involved in so many things, how can that model fit?  Just looking at my own teaching load this year, it has changed twice since the year began because that’s the reality of our school.

I know that there will be those who are thinking “Well, if you just tried harder.” or “You need a more positive attitude.” or “Not all schools will fit one model”. Maybe I can try harder and be more positive. As for the model thing, being someone who has been deeply following the growth of edtech and school development over the last 10 years, the hype that this conference is getting and the wonder produced by those who attend would make it seem that isn’t necessarily true.

To tell you the truth, as much as it is a great thing, it is so far from my reality that it really doesn’t interest me. The gap between the Science Leadership Academy and our school is just too large. It’s kind of like some of the things I hear from people who haven’t been near teaching or in a school every day for 15 years. Kids have changed and they aren’t the same. All the theory in the world isn’t going to fill empty stomachs, mend hurt feelings, solve arguements or provide a safe place for those students who need it. I get a bit frustrated with people who toss out ways to solve educational problems without having the experience of seeing what is happening in schools firsthand. We do need to take a look at education and there needs to be changes. However, the variables have changed and it just isn’t that we have the technology to get information so we really don’t need to despense it any more. It goes much deeper than that, much more to the worldview of the students, the way of seeing a world that, for them, isn’t the same as it is for adults and continues to change at a rate that boggles the minds of most people.

I don’t know, maybe I’m just frustrated or, deep down, jealous. It could be it’s really cold here and I’m tired with a pile of work left. Maybe it’s just the fact I’m not getting enough sun. I’m not really sure but there just seems to be something missing in all the discussions and writings I’m reading regarding schools, education and the future.  I can’t put my finger on it but it just isn’t fitting right. Call it a hunch but there is something about what is being said that isn’t quite jiving with what I get from going to class each day and doing my best to move student learning along in some fashion.

Or maybe it’s just that extra piece of garlic bread.