It has been an interesting exercise to go back through some of my previous posts and consider whether my position is the same or different now. As I have recently re-entered the state system and will be teaching full time again this term it is a good time to review my perspective and the difference between what is between my ears and reality.
Earlier this year I wrote two pieces about the Game of School, the first a rather dystopian perspective (I learned that word in a Children's Literature paper I did a couple of years ago) and the second a positive, forward looking perspective to offer a challenge to the first post.
On reflection there probably needs to be a third in the series and I think this one needs to be written for teachers, perhaps looking at how we can change the rules to the Game of School despite the pressures on us to stick to the old ones. Here are some thoughts:
1. The first thing is that you are not alone, you don't have to change the rules on your own, there is a whole world full of people out there with different ideas that are happy to share and grow with you.
Recently I have been getting more connected with other educators in various forums: on the NZTeachers(Primary) Facebook Page which is a valuable tool for sharing ideas; in online discussions with other learners completing a paper on Internet Based Learning through Otago University Distance Learning; more recently participating in the #amplifiEDU twitter chat (fast and furious for a first timer but SO interesting!); and most recently engaging with the #EdBlogNZ challenge. I can't believe how much I am learning!
2. Don't be afraid to try something new, co-construct what you do with your learners, let them know that we are going to try some stuff that is a little bit different and if it doesn't work then we can try shift or change or try something else.
We can teach our children heaps by trying things and being open to them not working out. Failure isn't a bad thing, it is what real learners do... just think about toddlers learning to walk, if they gave up at the first hurdle then most of us would still be crawling or bum shuffling (now the image that brings up makes me chuckle a bit!)
3. Not everyone will like you changing the rules, but remember you can't please all the people all the time and if you know WHY you are doing what you are doing then pursue it but remember to do so with respect to the values of others and your community. Sometimes doing what is right will mean you need to do what is different, sometimes what is right is darned hard work but if it makes a difference for your learners then it will be worth it.
There are a lot of reasons for people not getting behind your new approach... sometimes they are happy with what they are doing and seeing positive results for their learners, they might like the rules, sometimes they feel like they have a better idea but no-one asked them, sometimes it is actually daft idea and they can see that, sometimes they feel threatened by the rate of change around them and just want to keep doing what they know, sometimes they just need time to get used to an idea and see it in action, sometimes they might not like you and that's not really your problem (unless you have really done something to upset them and haven't attempted to address that in some way!)... you get the picture. New ideas will often be met with some resistance, in the past there have been times when I have felt really lonely as I have tried something new, technology offers us a community to help mitigate that isolation now-a-days.
4. Notice what happens when you change the rules. Observe, research, read, listen, learn and record your new idea and what happens when you implement it. This is good for your own practice as an educator, it helps you to note positive or negative impacts, it also helps you to become more informed about your practice and then gives you the material to be able to share it with others.
Again technology is our friend. Use the internet and your contacts to read reliable information about what you are interested in. Read/listen widely, not only to the perspective that supports your assumptions but to the ones that counter it too... there is much to be learned. Practice a little skepticism too and where possible verify your sources. The sharing of new practices or your adaptations of others ideas is what I understand to be amplification... taking what is and shifting it and sharing it so that it can grow more.
5. Look after yourself. This really should be the FIRST rule. Too often I hear people talk about putting on your own oxygen mask first, that you cannot give of yourself if your tank is empty etc. It makes sense. We want the people in our class to be bright, engaged, enthusiastic learners but that is a hard ask if they have a shell of a human being eking out the last of their energy just turning up to teach.
We are no longer isolated islands of practice in the four walls of our classrooms, we have the capacity to connect with other educators all over the world. We are in a position to learn so much more from each other than we could in the past. We do make a difference and can make an even bigger difference if we work together... it is so tough being a maverick all on your own, much more fun being a maverick with friends! Let's start a movement... see below for instructions...