Sep 262010
 

I just watched NBC’s Education Nation Teacher Town Hall and participated in an online Twitter conversation with the hashtag #educationnation.

I saw two tweets from friends that really caught my attention:

and 

It is probably true that NBC will get all the attention for having brought together so many educators in one place while those of us who have been doing this for a year either through our use of Twitter or the weekly #edchat discussions

I guess my hope is that other teachers will see the value of conversations like these and join us.

The next step: action!

Jul 072010
 

Tonight’s #edchat conversation both invigorated me and irritated me at the same time. Don’t get me wrong, it had nothing to do with #edchat itself, but rather the topic. We have talked ad nauseam about reforming education. We have hashed out what needs to be done, what education should look like and why it’s important that we DO something.

So where do we start? How do we start?

As I was watching the tweets go by I began to think: we have a huge community that participates in #edchat. A huge community of taxpayers, parents, community members and educators.

To really move our words into action we need to start with those who make policy–our legislators.

I have drafted an open letter to a legislator that can be edited to fit the needs of any local community. The letter could also be adjusted to be sent to President Obama or Secretary Duncan.

The idea is to use the Google Doc to collect signatures. The understanding would be that once the letter’s body has been agreed upon it would not be changed,  but people could add their name at the end of the letter.

The letter can be passed around using Twitter, Facebook, email or any other digital method until the desired amount of signatures is acquired. The letter can then be downloaded as a Word document and forwarded to the legislator. I’m hoping to get 200 signatures of parents, teachers, admins and other community members once a version of the letter has been refined for my local community.  It is vital that all stakeholders are represented in the digital signatures!

Make your voice heard!

Copy the letter to your own Google Doc and get the message moving!

Of course, I don’t claim that this letter is perfect or speaks for everyone. It is a template to start from.

I’m hoping to get at least 25 people to commit to starting the initiative.

If you are going to participate, please fill out this Google Spreadsheet so we can track our progress and our reach.

Thanks and keep fighting the good fight!

For more information on how to find your local legislators:

Find your state Senator: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
Find your Congressman/woman: http://www.house.gov/house/MemberWWW_by_State.shtml

photo courtesy of hebedesign on Flickr

Jun 242010
 
photo courtesy of fmgbain on Flickr

During this week’s edchat I saw a name scroll by that made me look twice. Mixed among the many tweets was a tweet from Diane Ravitch.  I had just recently read an adaptation from her book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education in American Educator, which I had really enjoyed.  For those of you not familiar with Ravitch, she was Assistant Secretary of Education for George W. Bush and a supporter of the No Child Left Behind Act when it was first passed. Over the years she changed her views and is now adamantly against the policy.  In short, she is highly influential and well-respected amongst many educators and policy makers.

Thus, seeing her name scroll by caught my eye and my attention. It also caught attention of some other edchat participants. What ensued was a debate over whether to acknowledge her presence or not. On one side, edchat is not about who is more important, or as it was put, about ‘rock stars.’  On the other side, edchat participants want their voices heard. Some of us feel like we’re trapped in a bubble, with all of our ideas, reflections, experience and knowledge bouncing around inside our community without escaping into the mainstream.  “I wish Arne Duncan was here to hear this,” or “It’s too bad Obama isn’t at edchat tonight” are some of the comments I’ve read over the last year.

So, when Ravitch’s name crossed my twitstream, it was a big deal. At least to me. I thanked her for participating in the conversation. This sparked a conversation with an edchat participant I respect about whether we should be highlighting people who participate in edchat just because they are influential.

What makes edchat unique is that it is for and by the participants. While there are moderators and organizers, it is ultimately the participants who choose the topic and make the conversation. The conversation moves so fast (Ravitch herself confessed it was too fast for her!) and there are so many ideas flying by that when an idea or comment catches my eye, or if I engage in conversation, I may only have enough time to make a note of the Twitter handle. Often, I must go back afterwards and look through the stream to learn more about a person I was conversing with. More than often, this person becomes part of my learning network.  While they may not be as highly influential on a larger scale, they are influential to me and I respect their ideas and the dialogue that we share.

So do we treat someone who is influential and well-known, an established member of the education field, differently than we would a colleague?

I don’t think we should treat a ‘rock star’ in education differently than our colleagues. I think we should engage them on the same level we would our colleagues. I think we do need to keep in mind, however, that if we don’t remind ourselves of someone’s influence or if we shrug someone off due merely to their influence, we run the risk of perpetuating the ‘us vs. them’ culture between those of us who are in the classroom and those outside the classroom or those with seemingly little power and those who seem to have all of the power. Of course, ideally, it should be educators who are the policy makers and educators who run schools and the school system. In order for this to happen, we need to engage policy makers and so-called ‘rock stars’ in our conversation and expose them to our day-to-day struggles and our innovative ideas and practices in the classroom.

What are your thoughts?
Mar 252010
 

In lieu of all of the wonderful comments on my recent #edchat post, I felt the need to vent some frustrations about the initiative I started with some colleagues a few months back that I blogged about here.

Long story short, I started a Google Group around a school-wide initiative aimed at improving the climate at my school.  It started with about 10-15 members that immediately dwindled down to about 5, which is now close to a measly 4.  Despite the group messages I send out asking for help or asking for input, I am always met with responses from the same 3-4 people.

I held a meeting today. I announced the meeting last Friday, it was in our “Daily Gram” posted at the front counter. I was out sick for two days and came in JUST to be at this meeting.

2 people came.

We were supposed to be hashing out a schedule to bring the School Store (part of the incentive program) around to the classrooms since our previous schedule had been turned on its head by newly mandated blocks of scripted teaching and a change in the grade group meeting times.

Instead, I found myself frustrated and hopeless. I was close to giving up completely.  “We can’t do this alone! People want these things to happen, but they don’t want to help!”

I thought about some of the comments (including my own reflections) on my #edchat post. Many people expressed how refreshing it was to hold meaningful conversation about relevant topics or how comforting it was to hear that others were also experiencing what they were living in their classrooms from day to day.

#edchat has become a community. A virtual community many of whose members have never met face to face.

This is what is missing in my building. Conversation, connections, community. The 3 or 4 colleagues who have helped make this initiative happen are like my #edchat community. They enjoy collaboration and sharing of ideas, they are open to new things and seem to thrive on it just like I do.  But 4 people out of 45 is not a functional community.

I started realizing that being a principal could be a really hard job. How do you unite your staff and motivate them to take on leadership roles if they are not intrinsically motivated to do so?

It also made me realize how important it is for a school to be able to choose its staff members. Teachers need to work as a team. They need to come to a school prepared for a give and take process.  This means discussion, time and collaboration together. They need to come to school with a common vision, purpose and dedication to a set of ideals.

My #edchat community incarnate.

I’m at a point where I don’t have the patience for apathy anymore. Now that I’ve come across so many passionate people with so much energy to collaborate, reflect and discuss it’s hard for me to tolerate anything else.  The teachers will call me in my room: “When is the store coming? It didn’t come to me today.” But when I ask for volunteers or ideas or feedback, I’m met with silence.

I was close to saying “Let’s just close the store.” Well, actually, I did say it. My colleagues reminded me that the initiative was for the kids, despite the fact that the adults were letting them down.  We as a committee had made a commitment to the kids, and it was important that we didn’t let them down.

We finally decided to create a sign out sheet for the teachers so they could sign out the cart of goodies when it was a good time for them.  We as a committee will be  responsible for stocking the store, keeping it neat and making it available.  We have shifted the responsibility from us to the teachers in hopes that they will take more ownership of the initiative (and in hopes that their students will pressure them to bring the store around!).

I would hate to see this initiative fail, as we put so much time and effort into it and it was successful for a few months.

Now I am faced with the fact that I’m frustrated with my own colleagues and feel unsupported.  What do we do when we feel this way in our own building? (Aside from running to Twitter every Tuesday night at 7pm?)  Does this mean it’s really time for me to move on, to find a new community that is more connected and willing to take risks?  What do I do if such an opportunity doesn’t arise?

Mar 222010
 

I have been participating in the weekly Twitter discussion, #edchat, since August 2009.  It has been amazing watching the conversation grow and expand, pulling more and more people into the conversation. The topics range from educational technology to best practices in education and schools.  Many times the conversation is heated, often it is inspiring and it is ALWAYS fast-paced.

Many nights I have found my thoughts challenged, or had my beliefs validated. I have learned what it may be like to teach in other parts of the country and the world. I have learned that many of the struggles that I face here in Philadelphia are not isolated to my school or my district. I have also learned that perspectives are very different depending on many factors such as what state, suburb, city or rural town you teach in, whether you teach in a private school, public school, charter school, high school, elementary school or in higher education as well as many others.

Sometimes we get caught up in our own bubble, and #edchat has helped burst that bubble.

That said, there are those who feel that #edchat is a group of educators “preaching to the choir,” that it is merely a gathering of like-minded people agreeing with each other and not making any real ‘change’ in education.

However, I have found that certain #edchat discussions have forced me to think and/or rethink how I teach, what I teach or a belief that I hold. While I may not go back to my classroom and immediately implement something from the night before, my goals and approach to teaching has been influenced by the conversations I’ve had with others from around the country and the world.

How has #edchat made ‘real changes’ for you in your classroom, your school, your district or your professional life? 

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Please leave a comment below.  I am collecting ideas to share as part of the Real Time Communication and Education panel at the #140 Characters Conference in NYC on April 20th.

Feb 182010
 

For those of you who participate in #edchat (more on what that is here and here), please add to the conversation on our wiki: http://edchat.pbworks.com

Jerry Swiatek already updates the wiki with an archive of both weekly discussions, but we have added a page for participants to add resources and success stories.

As a moderator, I have noticed people asking how our discussions are being applied to ‘real life,’ or that “we’re preaching to the choir.” Our fast-paced discussions leave the brain spinning, and often spark heated debate, so how are we transforming these conversations and ideas into action?  This new page allows for us to share our successes or those that we come across on the web or in our schools/districts.

In addition, it is hard to keep track of the many links that fly by during the conversation. Use this new page to add links to a discussion, even if you come across them weeks later.

To edit the wiki, just click the ‘Join’ button. You may need to set up a PBWorks account.

You can also become more involved by joining the #edchat group on the Educator’s PLN Ning community.