I have learned more this year than ever before and I keep coming back to one inescapable truth: If I want education to change, it is up to me to change it.
I am not arguing that I am the savior of American schools. I am saying if we want local, committed, and relevant change in our schools, we need people – teachers, administrators, board members, and students – to make some tough decisions. In terms of function, school has not changed for almost 100 years. Students come, teachers teach, administrators oversee, wash, rinse, repeat. How long will we continue to wait for someone to come along and change school for us?
One thing I try to teach my students every single day is that they are responsible for the outcome of their learning. I cannot learn for them. I will provide opportunities for growth, but they need to meet me in the middle. Think back over the last week or two of teaching. How many opportunities for positive change did you meet? I know I met some head on and there was a step forward for myself and my students. I am also well aware that I miss some completely when they come. I think this happens for one of two reasons: A) I am not interested in changing a particular aspect of my teaching, or B) I am too afraid to take the risk in front of me.
Positive change in education will not come if we sit around and wait for our neighbor to do it for us.
Change is hard, and people will resist. But that is not an excuse to disregard opportunities for growth. Timeliness is important, but if you are not searching out opportunities to become a better teacher, you are doing a disservice to your students and your school. I have written about taking calculated risks in the past and I want to reiterate my points there: change requires risk. The two are intertwined and you cannot remove one from the other.
Risks can be as small or as large as you are willing to take. Some schools encourage risk-taking, while others might not be so receptive. This is why we are each responsible for positive growth. My risks may not be appropriate in your school, and vice versa. You are responsible for taking that risk and leading change.
Here is another practical example of taking a risk. A colleague of mine was absolutely buried by grading. He was taking up nearly every worksheet, reading, article response, and assignment he used with his kids. He felt that if he graded everything, the students would be more motivated to do the work and they would be successful. I saw how stressed he was, and I encouraged him to not grade so much for a multitude of reasons, but mainly to save his sanity.
Taking a risk is sometimes as small as grading one less assignment per week. But for some people, that is a major risk.
What risk are you still waiting to take? After all, it is up to you.
This has been the best collaborative year of my life. I joined Twitter almost one year ago (to the day, actually), and as I write, I am thinking back to all the people I have been blessed to meet and of even more that I am hoping to meet some day in the future (ISTE, anyone?). I have learned innumerable lessons through writing, tweeting, and teaching. I am blessed to be able to share these things and I want to thank my entire PLN, new and old, for pushing me forward. I only hope that I have helped do the same for you.