The overarching takeaway from Educon 2.2 is that I’m learning a new language. Not that I don’t understand the buzzwords that are in common use, but I don’t know how to express my needs as a teacher and my wants for my students. Educon has helped a great deal simply because I have been engaged in this conversation for three days straight. And although I have been repeating myself quite a bit this weekend, each time I give my schpeel (albeit a sincere, authentic schpeel) I get better at expressing what I want my classroom to be and what I see as the barriers getting in my way. This weekend has been like a three-day long Dobbs Cohort meeting, only with people far crazier than all of you 🙂
At the end of the first day, although the panel discussion was a bit of a let-down, I felt hopeful. By the middle (early middle?) of the second day, I couldn’t take it any more. I had had so many wonderful interactions, I couldn’t bear to let it all combine into a cacophony of thought. So I hopped on a bus and took a long, quiet bus ride to Independence Hall and spent some time with Ben Franklin’s ghost. So there I was, standing in Signers Hall, listening to an overly theatrical Park Ranger give a very spirited treatment of the process of the founding of our country. I didn’t let it go unnoticed that here I am in Philadelphia trying to start something from scratch (my vision for how kids can gain access to and affinity for modern languages), and I found myself in a room where a bunch of guys did just that! And the overarching message of my would-be diva Park Ranger was that it was a MESSY PROCESS. There’s a lot of blowback, even from the most noble minds in the room (the drafting of Declaration and the Constitution was anything but a chorus of like-minded cuddlebugs), and in the end the founders created an imperfect system that has yielded the most enduring democracy in history.
So, too, is the process that I’m undertaking (imperfect, that is). I have come to be comfortable with failure, I have become comfortable looking a little farther afield than the next graded assessment, and I’ve become comfortable letting the students determine the path of their learning. However, I’m still very much tied to the textbook. I need to think of it more as a reference than as Assembly Instructions. However, in the forefront of my mind is the fact that I’m not a veteran of answering these questions from DuFour:
- How do I know students are learning?
- If not, why not?
- What do I do if they already know it?
I wonder if the answers to these questions become clearer after I’ve seen this type of learning occur. Or do I need to get busy building rubrics that assess this type of learning?
Back to words. Despite my allergy to institutional mantra and buzzwords employed by those trying to sell you their recently published book, I have come to realize that in order to build the environment that best feeds the wonder, intellect, and compassion of the teacher and the students, you need to be able to define the environment. So, I’ve half-heartedly uttered words like collaborative, creative, design-oriented, essential learnings, etc., without allowing them to take on the full weight that they deserve (many, many other words, by the way). So, as I (re)define my own teaching and learning, I hope to give deference to these words. And perhaps the modifications that I make in the future will constitute a renovation rather than demolition/rebuild of my teaching practice to date.
If nothing else, Educon taught me that there is meaning to these words, and for their full effect to be realized, we must use them in dialogue with other practitioners.