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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Finding Your School's Meaningful Language


Lately, our school has been revamping, rewriting and rethinking our student/parent handbook. This has led to some really great conversations that have shown the need to open the door for even more conversations...which I feel is always a good thing. The more voices, both horizontally and vertically within, and best practice viewpoints outside your district, the better the chance to get to a place where all can either "agree on" or "agree to disagree and strategize for the common good." I'm thankful for this period of uncomfortableness and for pushback. I'm thankful to be heard and to be in community to listen to other viewpoints.

During this time of decisions within our technology department I am also dealing with a dog in a halo cone due to surgery (innovation that is a disruption to reach a future goal) and a book that is helping me sift through my thoughts on analog behaviors (our desire as a human race to use all our senses and experience realness). Lump that with having the opportunity to hear Heidi Hayes Jacobs speak at Covenant College last week on the essential question of "How can we prepare our learners for their future?" and my mind is working 90 mph at any given moment with the feeling of conflicting ideas surging through me looking for resolution. I'll be honest, I love it.

One of the things I don't do well as an instructional technologist is assuring others that I am not trying to radically change every classroom in the world. I am just so passionate about what I learn about and the future possibilities I see that I come across sometimes as being a techno-fanatic. I can guarantee you that if you don't work hand in hand with me, you probably have thought that, and as much as I have tried to temper that opinion over the last few years, I do get excited when I see tools evolve that can make a difference in education. Right now I am ├╝ber excited about two things:

  • Next generation chromebooks with touchscreen and the ability to run android apps.
  • Paper or paper-like options for computer input that is becoming reasonably cost efficient. 
Forgive me, I digress into a potential future blog post but I share that to say, that's how my mind works. You tell me things you want to do and I am looking towards the future of what that will one day look like. I look for streamlining of tasks, blending of current good pedagogy with contemporary technology tools, and creating a culture of future readiness for our students in a world where the job they may work in does not currently exist. I do get passionate about that, sometimes to a fault.  And that is where Heidi Hayes Jacobs put into words what I sometimes fail to communicate when I am talking with teachers. She has a cut the chase type behavior that makes me envious. She very succinctly shared that pedagogy falls into 3 categories: Antiquated, Classical, and Contemporary.
I love the wording of this. Much to my chagrin, this is what I've been trying to say but I often fill the void with too many words or with too strong of words regarding contemporary. There are things that are outdated or unneeded that we need to cut in our classrooms, there are things that are enduring/essential or well done in our classroom that do not need to be done away with, and there are things that are being created or learned that we need to create in the spaces of our classrooms. Three distinct categories of pedagogy that allow us to sort, filter, and critically look at options, opportunities, growth, AND stability. 

Words matter. As we discussed these 3 words this week, we realized that defining words are important for a sense of cohesiveness. Classical doesn't mean "classical education practices" in this case. We can't allow educational buzzwords to derail us from having a growth mindset. It is my desire to become better at defining words I use and asking others about their words. Assumptions cause us to posture around each other with no moving forward. Creating a culture of safety both horizontally and vertically in a district allows people to feel comfortable to share their views, concerns, and goals. It also allows us all to get to a place where we realize that all disciplines bring value to the conversation of how to best teach students. Feeling valued doesn't mean always getting our way but that you are respected for what you bring to the table. 

As we move forward to both define what our goals are for a graduating student from our school system, we must also realize that expectations from each curricular discipline looks different due to standards, best practice, and prior experiences. Finding meaningful language helps define the culture, expectations, and future of both the educator and student subcultures within a district. Finding how to mold that language based on input from a variety within the constituency creates common vision and buy-in to best answer that essential question Heidi Hayes Jacobs started with:  "How can we prepare our learners for their future?"



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