Jan 292012

As I settle down to sleep after a long day of conversation, reunions and inspiration at Educon, there is a recurring theme: Big Ideas. While sitting at dinner with friends, it was brought up that many teachers attend conferences to get practical information. They want the 5 tips or the handouts that they can then go back to their classroom and use.

We wondered: would the average teacher find value in Educon?

One of the things I love about the conversations that I had today is that I was able to step back and look at the big picture and discuss vision, mindset, and philosophy. Did these conversations move to more practical applications, sure? But mostly as illustrations of big ideas in practice.

In my morning session I had powerful discussions about valuing teacher time for collaboration, of democratic leadership and distributed leadership that helps build a positive and strong school culture.

In the mid-day session about self-guided professional development through social media we discussed the fact that many educators are not well versed in educational research for a variety of reasons. The presenters offered to help facilitate an action research project with educators all over the Internet. At a time when the teaching profession is often under attack, this was really exciting for me. As teachers, we should be looking at big ideas and applying them to our practice. In addition, we should be creating our own big ideas as we reflect on our practice. Thinking deeply about what we do and making that process transparent is a powerful way to show the public that we are intelligent, informed professionals.

At the end of the day was a passionate and inspiring conversation about what discipline looks like in a culture of caring. The question was asked: should our educational philosophy match our discipline practices? An important question and something I have always struggled with since there has always been a disconnect between my educational philosophy and the discipline policy of the school I work in.

Another recurring theme, especially during the lunch time Encienda session, was professional development. Teachers are obviously craving something new and different in their learning opportunities and the time is ripe for big changes in how teachers learn and the opportunities provided to them.

While I did not necessarily take any tools or processes away from today that I will use in my classroom on Monday, what I did take away was thoughtfulness about structures within schools, philosophies, value systems and attitudes that guide pedagogy.

Are we giving teachers the chance to engage in big ideas? What would happen if big ideas were a standard part of conversations in our schools?