A popular belief is to do first and ask for forgiveness later. I have heard so many people spout the idea. Today I heard a principal (@ugafrank) stand out against that idea and give a very convincing argument. During a great voxer discussion with administrators and education leaders, he stood up against this concept while we were discussing making changes in our classrooms. Drew said, “I really struggle with the ask for forgiveness not permission as I think it is indicative of an unhealthy culture. I as a principal want teachers to feel 100% comfortable asking me anything.”
To me this spoke volumes not because Drew spoke out against what was gaining weight in the conversation, but because if the culture in your building is one where teachers, staff, administrators believe they should just do things they know are probably not “allowed” to do then you have a major culture problem in your school.
How do you fix that? Engage in dialogue, say yes when it makes sense or it is not going to do harm. When you say no, give reasons that also make sense (even if the reason is, “I am not allowed to let you do that because of regulations) the answer may not be one we like, but honesty will ensure that when your teachers are ready to make big decisions, you will be included in part of the collaborative process. Finally, be clear in your answers. If you really don’t want something done because of whatever reason, say no. I know I have gotten plenty of less than clear answers on questions that left it up to me to determine what I thought was right. If I am asking, it means I value your opinion or expertise enough for you to give it to me, so please share it!
As someone trying to get started in administration, I admire Drew’s point here: if what you are trying to do is best for kids, of course I am going to listen and discuss it with you, so instead of “just doing it” talk with me about it and maybe I can help make the idea even better.
No matter what subject you teach, no matter what grade you teach, there is one thing that the new world of education must embrace, problem creators. This might seem counterintuitive. Why would we want to create problems?
Problem solvers are great. They see the pieces and put the puzzle together. This is a great and needed skill in the world. It has always been important. The world in the future will need problem creators. Problem creators see not just the pieces of a puzzle, but they identify what puzzles are going to be made next. A problem creator identifies the problems before they arise. I saw a great statistic about the job growth for the future where the greatest field was biomedical-engineering. In jobs like this, you are not just solving a problem that exists, you are solving problems that do not yet exist. It is visualizing the puzzles that have not been made yet and creating solutions.
Our future learners need to see beyond the problems in front of them and construct solutions to the problems that have not yet been created. These true innovators will be the successful leaders of the 21st Century.
I am still inspired by Seth Godin’s TED talk about learners and why we have school. It reminds me of one of my favorite days with my young scientists from our entire year.
My 1st Graders had been studying air, how it moves, air pressure, and how it interacts with water. They seemed to get most of the basics of what the effects were from a few simple experiments. Now, it was their turn to create and find a way to solve the challenge.
I gave my class materials, then told them to make a water fountain. Six small groups of small people took some small materials and created some big ideas. Within ten minutes EVERY group had figured out how to solve the challenge, and all but one had figured out a way to safely get the water back into its original container without spilling so they could continue using their homemade water fountains.
Why did I love this so much? Simple, I didn’t say here is how to build the water fountain and then away they went to build. Instead I said, “What do we know about air pressure, air movement, water?” “How can you use these things to make a water fountain?” This was not the “prescribed” water fountain experiment in the lesson, but it was so much better because my class was able to solve a problem, to determine how something worked using knowledge rather than repeating knowledge. It is a moment from this year that will stick out in my memory for a long time. And, I was reminded of it again by the idea that we want kids to be problem solvers, problem identifiers, and problem creators! Twenty-first century learning is not about having knowledge, it is about using knowledge and that is what my 1st graders did during the water fountain experiment!
Today I watched a TED talk by Seth Godin called “Stop Stealing Dreams” and it went along with a conversation I had with my PLN that essentially led to a great google hangout.
What do most classrooms look like? Just how different does school look now than it did 50 years ago? How much have we actually changed?
In many classrooms I have seen a noticeable change. But, the question Godin asks is, what is school”s purpose now? We all study the history of public school, as an MSA student I had to learn about the history of administration and curriculum development. But, the ultimate question remains, why are kids going to school? What is our purpose now?
I would assert that the purpose of school is to open up the world for kids, and to ultimately build creators. I try to have my classroom reflect that goal.
Godin talks about how textbooks and rows of desks, memorization and some other problems no longer need to be part of education. I completely agree. Educators using these methods are not inspiring learners, they are crushing spirits, inhibiting ideas, and stealing dreams.
Are you a dream thief, and if so, why?
In reflecting on this morning’s live broadcast of a Google Hangout I participated in with educators from around the world, there are many incredible things that come to mind.
First, was the inclusion of Craig Kemp, a teacher in Singapore who joined us to share his ideas. Just the fact that I am connecting with, and sharing ideas with someone from halfway across the world, is incredible! Add in the teachers and administrators that joined in from around the country and the collaboration was incredible.
Another thing I loved was that I was so engaged with the people I was conversing with, that I forgot all about the fact that it was being live broadcast and people were tweeting to the #superfriends .
Ultimately, we did not solve any major problems today. We did not save the world from injustice! What we did, was spark a flame. I enjoyed the conversation and I am inspired to continue meeting with this group. I hope to expand the #superfriends group.
Finally, I am glad my friend Lauren Taylor joined the group! She was our only Super Woman (and she is quite a superwoman!) I hope some of the other incredible women educators join us for our next hang out. Check out the video at the #superfriends and I am hopeful it will happen again next Saturday!
Saturday morning I am going to be doing a Google Hangout with a number of very smart, very engaging twitter PLN members. Sometimes I have agreed with the people in this group, sometimes I have not. Regardless, we are jumping into this hangout to just talk about education.
We rarely just talk! We tweet, we argue sometimes, we defend each other in some situations. This is a group of very interesting educators with diverse backgrounds. I am excited at the chance to connect more deeply with the people I am going to meet tomorrow,
The idea of sitting in a room and interacting with great educators from all over the world is exciting an I cannot wait to see what it brings.
What are the things that bring you joy? What brings kids in your classroom/school joy? What stops your joy? Often we get caught up in our own world so frequently that we dimly forget to eat, or to drive the car home. How often do you talk about what makes you extremely happy.
As educators, leaders, and parents, we need to bring back something VERY important to our schools: JOY. Joy serves as an inspiration for learning, it has to develop through meaningful experiences coupled with some ownership go a long way to determining the quality of the learning in the classroom. Kids need to :build on these ideas,
Have a great Friday everyone and remember to find some JOY!