The link above is to singer/songwriter John Fullbright performing the song “Moving.” I heard him on NPR coming home from work one day (side note: listening to NPR and being under 50 is one of the top 10 signs of hopeless nerdiness). I ended up purchasing his album From the Ground up. It is one of the first music albums I’ve bought in years.
The whole album is pretty great from beginning to end, but his song “Moving” is my favorite. I love the message that even if we haven’t come to the end of the journey, we can keep “moving.” I think it is a great analogy for education and for life. However, as I reflect on many school systems I know, change comes incredibly slowly. The reasons for this are complex, but the most important underlying reasons is also one of the biggest scandals within education: many professional educators are not truly passionate about learning. If we as educators don’t have a true passion for learning, how can we hope to inspire it in our students? We simply cannot give to our students what we do not possess ourselves. Until we confront this truth, all of our efforts at professional development and school “reform” will be wasted.
I bring up this problem as someone who is proud to stand with fellow educators, but want all of us to take seriously the challenge to reflect on our passion as learners. Are you excited to engage in new opportunities to learn and improve your practice, or do you view every improvement effort as “one more thing?” Do you actively seek out opportunities to learn from others, or do you wait for professional development to be done “to you?” Are you taking risks and challenging yourself or continuing in patterns that feel safe or comfortable? Do you take time to look critically at the practices in your school and their impact on students, or do you continue on with ineffective practices because of time and money invested or just because “that’s the way we’ve always done it?” Do you model your excitement to learn for your students or your staff? Do those around you truly view you as a “lead learner?”
Learning is one of the most exciting things in which human beings can engage. Learning is eternal. If you think about it, there will never be a point as a human being where you no longer have the opportunity to learn something new. After almost ten years of marriage, I am still learning new things about my wife. She started her own blog a couple of weeks before me and it has inspired me to write and share and think. It also gives me a window into her thoughts in our inability to have a 30 second conversation without interruption in a house with 4 kids under age 9. You can find her thoughts on faith, friendship, and motherhood here.
In my second year as a principal, I am learning so much and have never felt so excited about learning! Here are a few of the things I am learning this school year…
1. How to utilize social media as an educational tool
It is hard to believe that just a few short months ago, I thought twitter was mostly a vehicle for celebrities to say asinine things and get into trouble. Now, I have access to educators all over the world who challenge and stretch my thinking, provide resources I can share with my staff and that make me a better principal, and inspire me to be at my best each day.
2. Giving effective feedback to staff and building a positive culture at school
Although I still have a long ways to go, I am learning ways to differentiate and individualize feedback I give to staff and concrete ways to celebrate the good that is taking place. #educoach, #atplc, and #spedplc have been great resources! I am excited for #iledchat starting this Monday at 8:00 CST!
3. Using technology to be organized, save time, and collaborate with others
I am far from a “digital native”, but I am using Google Drive as a tool for collaboration and communication and found it to be simple and really helpful. I have also recently started using Evernote to collect evidence of teacher practices and student learning as well as organize my thoughts on a great number of subjects. I also know what a “widget” is now! 🙂 Again, technology isn’t something that comes naturally to me, but I am learning.
4. Building in time for reflection is important
I started blogging at the start of the New Year, and regardless of how many will read this blog, one of the main benefits of writing it is to take time to reflect on how things are going and what I am learning. We know that building this kind of reflection time into our classrooms for our students will lead to greater learning that will be retained and it is no different for us. If someone is able to find something to help them on their journey or give me feedback on my thoughts, that is wonderful as well.
What are you learning this year? Let’s keep on moving!