The other day I was reading an article in the New York Times entitled "In Reassessing Schools, a Lot of Bad News to Break". The following comment in the article stuck out to me and others on Twitter:
“There are two reactions those of us in this business can have,” said Geoffrey Canada, the chief executive of the Harlem Children’s Zone, which operates the school. “One is to complain, and it’s human nature to do that. The other is to say we need to do something dramatically more intensive and powerful to prepare our kids. We are going to look at the mirror and say we have got to do better.”
Geoffrey Canada hits on something that all schools and educators need to reflect upon and that is the need and desire to be better. My comments are not meant as a call to arms in support of better standardized test prep, but rather a holistic metamorphosis of teaching and learning practices. Much to often educators reach a saturation point where doing what it takes to get by is the prime choice of many. Tenure adds to this problem and is frequently used as an internal excuse to not work hard, take risks, collaborate, or pursue professional growth opportunities outside of the school day. Utilizing free time in the summer to learn and get better has also gone by the wayside and been frowned upon.
Personally, I get offended every time someone says how great teachers have it because they have the summers off. This is a much deserved reward in my mind. Dedicated educators know that the summer break is needed for all of the extensive hours spent planning, grading, and helping each and every kid succeed for 180 days. The summer months also represent an opportunity for all educators to get better. More educators need to take advantage of this time. Excuses such as money are now a non-factor as numerous free professional development opportunities have arisen. Just check out NTCAMP and The Reform Symposium as two fantastic examples. I am even sending four of my teachers to a free training session provided by Discovery Streaming this week. Getting better does not have to involve educational technology. It could simply be developing an authentic-based unit of instruction in collaboration with a teacher from another department, attending graduate classes, or reading the latest research in the field. My point is there are so many opportunities to get better.
There has been so much talk lately about education reform, change, and innovation. None of this will occur if educators don't find it necessary to get better. Take Twitter for example. While becoming a major part of our school’s communication plan, Twitter has also become a major part of my own professional learning patterns. I use this tool on my own time! How each one decides to accomplish this is up to them. My challenge to all of you is to empower, support, encourage, and assist your fellow colleagues in their improvement pursuits. Here are some professional development resources to help you and your colleagues get started.