Where Are We Going? My Entreaty.

June is always a great month. It’s not just because teachers and administrators can already taste the lazy days of summer. While earned, it’s more than that. June is similar to September in that both are “bookend” months. Not surprisingly, these two months present a great opportunity because the things we as educators reflect upon in June can be applied in September––allowing for the constant honing of our craft and with a fresh start every year. There are not many jobs that give people this opportunity.

The things I usually ponder in June are:

  • What lessons worked wonderfully and what lessons needed tweaking.
  • Was I a better teacher this year than from last? Was I better at communicating those tough concepts to a greater range of students?
  • Approaches to learning for next year. Will they change? Should they change? How?
  • How can I further integrate technology in a meaningful way into the classroom? Will it improve student achievement?
  • My professional experiences with students and staff (after all, this is a large part of what we do as educators).
  • And, as always, what is in store for us next year?

Another year is wrapping up and normally I am comforted by my usual pondering. I am normally rather ecstatic about the upcoming summer break and look forward to starting anew in September. However, this year is different. For the first time in my career, the future looks murky. I don’t mean my personal career, but the future of education in general in British Columbia. In June, I typically ask myself, “what will my teaching look like two years from now.” I normally have a two year plan, but I can honestly say that I don’t know what the future looks like. It’s not because I’ve lost the ability to plan; it’s because I get the sense that big changes in education are coming down the pipe from the Ministry of Education (MoE) and––in all appearances––educators in general are not being meaningfully included in the process of change. Change is inevitable, but for it to be lasting and effective all parties involved need to feel that they are a part of the team and working towards the same goals. Not only does that make good o’ fashioned sense, it’s good leadership. To anyone who is listening, this is my entreaty: less murk and more clarity.

“Collaborate. Collaborate. Collaborate.”

One of the joys of teaching is being able to collaborate with colleagues. My best professional development has often come from informal conversations with my fellow teachers. We talk. We get a great lesson idea. We plan how it would work in the classroom. Then we act on it. This process of change is spontaneous, dynamic, engrossing, and totally enjoyable. Here in lies the brilliance of being a professional educator and collaborator. It works because all parties involved have participated in the creative process, whom are working towards the common goal of great education. So my entreaty is, if there are indeed major changes taking place from above then please let us educators be a part of it. Let us teachers and administrators collaborate with you so that we feel we are an integral part of the team that is our educational system.

Minister of Education, George Abbott, recently stated that British Columbia’s educational system is “good” and that he wants to make it “great”. That sounds like something with which we can all agree. Having said that, I believe our system is already great. While I have not worked in every district in the province and can’t speak about other locales, it has been my experience here in the district of West Vancouver that we already have a “great” educational system and that we are always striving to make it better. International PISA rankings aside, I witness great things from our students every day. Together, we work hard and do great things here, as I’m sure is the case for educators and students in other districts.

I love what I do, but I do consternate about the dearth of collaboration between the MoE and teachers. The irony is that while we already have all these great 21st century communication tools, seemingly little communication is taking place from said parties. It occurs to me that we need the social networking equivalent of Facebook for teachers, school and district-based administrators, trustees, and members of the MoE. Collaboration is a very powerful tool and being on the same team helps set in motion some pretty powerful, effective, and lasting changes. I truly believe that everyone involved in our educational system strives for greatness, but we must do it together; the majority of the educational shareholders cannot be left in the periphery. While not everyone will agree with the changes, which is to be expected, most however will appreciate being included in the process of change. Far more can be accomplished this way and it allows all of us to plan accordingly, in June, as we ponder the future.

In the meantime, enjoy the summer break!

Why Blog?

A few weeks ago I began reading blogs from educators around North America. I found myself getting caught up in the discussions around educational issues of the 21st century. I got inspired by the thoughtful discussions and wanted to contribute. Sometimes I would agree with what was written and other times I found that educators, whether teachers or administrators, had missed the mark. While running the risk of adding to the literary din that is the blogosphere––an environment that is probably saturated with bloggers like me––I took the plunge and built my own humble blog. I was cautious at first. Does the world really need another blogger giving commentary on educational issues? There are many more experienced educators out there. Besides, there are universities full of individuals dedicating their lives to researching and identifying good pedagogical practice. So why do this? What can I possibly offer?

“Does the world really need another blogger? Probably not.”

In short, I want to be part of the growing and vibrant community of educators that are online. I want to be a part of the changing educational landscape in British Columbia. In many ways, because of technology, our profession has been democratized and I think it’s an exciting time to be a teacher or administrator. The world is changing dramatically and I think we as educators need to be aware of these changes––not necessarily for the purpose of trying to “keep up” with the changes, but to be familiar enough with them so that we can critically analyze and reflect on the path in which we are headed.

“When is change good? And when does it become just another fad?”

It appears that the Ministry of Education in British Columbia is preparing for some major changes for the 21st century. While no specific details have yet been provided, educators are probably keenly interested in how these changes will affect them. When is change good? And when does it become just another fad? Sometimes we take a few steps backwards when we hastily jump on the latest bandwagon. I get particularly concerned when I hear individuals throwing around the latest educational buzzwords and slogans such as, “21st century learning,” or “personalized learning”––these terms are meaningless unless we spend the time analyzing, synthesizing and applying these ideas into real world situations. I personally look forward to change so long as it has been thoroughly tested. After all, change is inevitable and sometimes necessary. Therefore my objective in this blog is to critically analyze a number of issues that I face and others face as educators. I may not always agree with my colleagues, and they won’t always agree with me, but then again that is the point. It’s forums like these that allow me to communicate with my fellow edu-bloggers in a way never thought possible ten years ago. So I encourage a good, healthy civil debate and discussion––a necessity to ensuring that we as educators produce the best educational system in the world.