Aside from taking about a zillion pictures during our trip to Australia, (and yes, I did take that photo) I did do some work too, giving presentations at the Expanding Learning Horizons Conference in Lorne on the south coast and at a smaller, local conference in Mackay on the East Coast. (Did you know like 95% of people in Australia live near a coast?) After the one in Mackay, a woman came up to me and gave me an Aussie “yeah but.”
“I’m really interested in all of this, but I have to tell you, I can’t do any of it in my classroom.”
(In case anyone is wondering, I found the lives of educators in Australia to be pretty similar to those in the US, especially in terms of their own use of social software and their ability to access these technologies in their schools. But I do have to say that some of the work that’s being done in Queensland to prepare teachers to teach with technology is pretty impressive. I’ll save that for a later post.)
“So that’s fine,” I said. “But what do you want to learn more about? What are you passionate about?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I mean, what do you do when you’re not teaching?”
She looked at me quizzically as if to say ‘Well, what does that have to do with anything’ and said “Well, I really love mountain biking. I do it with my family all the time.”
“So, that might be a place to start,” I said.
She hesitated. “Oh.”
“I mean, there must be thousands of mountain bikers out there who are sharing stories and information online,” I said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some pretty vibrant mountain biking communities that you might explore.”
Her eyes widened. And then she said, and I quote, “Oh! You mean I can do this for myself?”
We talked for a few more minutes about how this is about learning for yourself first and then potentially modeling that for your students even if you can’t necessarily use the concepts very easily in school. And when she walked away, she seemed almost surprised that it wasn’t just about teaching, that it was about her own personal learning, too.
I know I’ve been here, done that in terms of teachers as learners, but that moment really captured for me a lot of what’s been niggling at me of late. Not only is our kids’ enthusiasm for learning being largely dampened by the system, so is that of our teachers. And I’m not sure which of those problems is worse.
Karen Janowski says
Welcome back – sounds like an unforgettable adventure for your entire family.
Just can’t agree with you final conclusion – that “Not only is our kids’ enthusiasm for learning being largely dampened by the system, so is that of our teachers.”
What do you really mean by this? Does “the system” control teachers’ time outside of school? Does “the system” restrict or even mandate what teacher’s can learn in any environment? Does “the system” limit opportunities to model lifelong learning?
Teachers are responsible for their own enthusiasm for learning as well as their own learning.
And who or what is “the system?” Your statement sounds very Orwellian and I don’t believe that it applies to the profession of teaching. Part of being a professional requires one to continually update their knowledge and and use the latest tools, technologies and theories.
The worse problem to me, would be if teachers relinquish their responsibility as professionals to continue to seek knowledge.
Will Richardson says
@Karen…thanks for the comment, and I hear you. There shouldn’t be anything stopping teachers from continually learning. But there is a system that most every teacher operates within, and at the end of the day, it’s one that promotes very narrow assessments as the measure not just of student achievement but of teacher competence. Creativity and teaching “out of the box” is not rewarded for either group. In a perfect world, professionals continually update their knowledge because they are compelled to, intrinsically more than extrinsically. In education, it seems the extrinsic pressures are to stay the course, and at the end of the day, that dampens anyone’s desire to keep learning.
john brandt says
Will, I am curious about “vacation/holidays” in Australia. I just visited some Aussie education sites which show the kids get a “summer vacation/holiday” for about 5-6 weeks from around late December to late January. They then have what looks like 1-2 week breaks three times during the school year. I wonder what effect that has on learning since it is unlike the American system where kids have off for over two months in the summer, plus a 7-10 day break at Christmas, and a week in the winter and a week in the spring.
wendy phillips says
Hi John! You are correct – the school year is broken up into 4 ‘terms’ with a break between each one of 2 weeks duration (some private schools have a 3 week break between terms 2 and 3). The Summer holiday break between school years is about 6 weeks and spans christmas from december to the end of january. Personally I think it’s a nice set up – they get refreshed and ready to go again between each term and have a good long break over our summer, and enjoy the warm weather. Usually, they have projects and study to do during the breaks as well.
Greg E says
After meeing you in Lorne, I decided to challenge my own teachers about their own learning and digital life-style. Since then, Library Lynn has started a great blog about every book she reads (subscribed to by teachers and students) and Keith has created a multimedia blog for his Oxfam trip to South East Asia. Our students might be involved, but so might anyone, anywhere. I feeling good about moving beyond thinking of the Australian classroom walls and Australian education system as barriers to new learning. We just need to think bigger, and that is every teacher’s responsibility.
Janetta Garton says
Perfect turn around. I’m going to try this strategy on the next nay sayer with the “but…I can’t….” attitude.