0161: A few tools missing from my teacher toolbox…and how to get them
#education #SOSchat #advocacy
When I first stepped into a classroom I had an incomplete box of tools. I had your basic tools. I knew a bit about planning lessons. I had taught a few myself during practicums and student teaching. I knew a bit about literacy. How to write rules. How to teach the basics. On top of that I had some knowledge of language and linguistics, and other content/social knowledge. I also had experience teaching some dance forms. I had tools but not enough. None of us do when we enter. That should be expected. There’s always stuff to learn once you get on a job. But, you have to know that you need to know more. And, the people with whom you’ll be working should know the same. Schools should be a learning environment for both students and teachers. Experience helps you build tools, but which ones? How could teachers enter the classroom with a few more tools?
The tools that I have developed over the years, and the ones I deem most important are advocacy, communication, and organization (of resources and people) skills. As teachers we must learn to advocate both for our students and ourselves. We must know (through critical questioning) what is important, ethical, and right, and be damn determined to stand by that, whatever the cost. Advocacy has many forms and can be linked strongly to the communication and organization skills mentioned above. Advocacy can be as simple as providing support to a fellow teacher in order to help them embrace a new idea that can revolutionize or slightly change their practice. Or, it can involve working with outside organizations to affect legislation relating to education. Communication and organization skills correlate beautifully with the advocacy tool. As thoughtful, aware, radical teachers we have the opportunity to unite the faculties for which we work and create a powerful force of educator-advocates. We have the power to lovingly communicate ideas as we build relationships with students, fellow teachers, principals, government officials, and so forth. Small conversations lead to lasting relationships that can empower you to make changes possible. We win more through building relationship than slashing red tape with a sword.
I’ve had the opportunity to develop these tools over my career through work with non-profit advocacy groups, experienced teachers, professors, government workers, and stubbornness. I get a little better, a little quicker each time I use them. Even better if I help someone else develop their toolbox. We learn what tools we need as we wander along the path that reveals itself just as we take the next step. The important thing is to commit to developing your toolbox and knowing it was never full to begin with.
What can we do to help our fellow teachers develop their toolboxes? Could teacher education programs offer some training in some of these other areas such as advocacy? I think it would be beneficial.(?). What is a good first step? How are you an advocate? Do you see yourself as one? Is there anymore information I can help you find?
0025: How Social Media (namely Twitter) is Making Me a Better Educator
I would like to see teachers, myself included, become more aware that they are a part of a global community. Within our own schools and classrooms we become myopic. The education system becomes a weight bearing down so heavily on us that we are forced into submission and silence. I started researching various technologies as literacy tools a few years ago, and was blown away by their effects on teachers. We’ll get to the students later. I looked specifically at social media sites like twitter. What I was surprised to find was a worldwide community of educators who are all connecting to and supporting one another with advice, research, and professional development tools. I’m slowly becoming a better user of social media to benefit my own practice. Almost every PD tool I uncover on twitter is more valuable than any staff development I’ve been subjected to. And, they were free of charge. Districts pay $1000 or more for professional developers. I’ve gotten to do some myself. I like making the money, but districts could save millions a year by using free resources at their fingertips. They could start by treating their own teachers as professionals, but I digress. Teachers working in communities of teachers are more effective, hands down. Beyond professional development and networking their are, of course, myriad classroom resources available.
I’m learning to communicate globally by experimenting. I’ve grown up with technology, but social media is relatively new for everyone. If your new to it, experiment. Go to your search area and type in #edchat, #ctchat, #sschat, or #____________ anything else like literacy or whatever and you’ll be linked to a worldwide conversation on your topic. Creating this blog has given me an outlet for reflection, and a bit of feedback. As I learn these skills I’m learning to convince administration to allow these skillsets to be integrated into the classroom. Our school has a few iPads that are minimally used by administrators. I try to get them to play with new apps. The learning and convincing is slow. As I progress I’ll share more.
My point is try to expand your education experience to the global community. Engage educators. The worst thing any of us can do is stand silent or alone.
0011: Question of Education, Content Literacy, and Teacher Education— and more questions
Elementary Educators work to teach children to learn to read; that is, they equip them with tools to decode words, sentences, and so forth. With those tools hopefully children are stimulated with experiences and conversations that help kids build their vocabularies. Of course, the effectiveness of these grade school experiences vary according to myriad factors from class size to teacher experience. But, as children progress through school, the focus shifts toward content and reading to learn. Unfortunately, the learn to read part was often not fully mastered. The skills are not always easily generalized to other areas, thus the 4th grade slump. Kids who have been taught to decode words phonetically, and “read” as quickly as possible for various tests that calculate reading fluency in it’s simplest form (rate only) are suddenly expected to comprehend texts that are not predictable and have no root in their own experiences. It’s like teaching someone to read musical notation without every applying it to an instrument or even a melody. And, this slump can continue far into high school leaving kids and teachers alike absolutely disillusioned. The transition is so abrupt, and the teacher training is vastly different. Elementary and secondary teachers have had varying levels of literacy training. But, the “methods” learned are mere algorithms to be implemented through rote-like practice. For true literacy to become a reality, we must shift and expand our views of literacy to encompass so much more than just reading and writing. We must engage our students, teachers, community members, and whoever else in critical discourse about issues relevant to our lives. By engaging in these ongoing conversations (verbal, written, drawn, etc.) we will expand and connect out worlds. Thinking skills will develop that have been neglected, and are absolutely necessary to success beyond fourth grade. Content literacy encompasses much more than simply reading the words. It requires learners to glean concepts from texts and repackage them into smaller units sometimes referred to as vocabulary. To do this teachers must practice this.
So should teachers be trained in critical discourse? Should their training include methods for leading and facilitating complex discussions? Would this help students and teachers?