If I could put in a few phrases what I took away from this year’s Educon experience it was this:
Stop complaining. Be the change. Love your students and do well by them. If that includes technology, so be it.
And it was those first two that stood out, for me at least. I heard variations on those themes more in the last two days than the first two Educons combined. Maybe it was because there were more people this year. Maybe because we’re finally getting tired of talking about change, about waiting for something or someone else to change. Or maybe because when you get into a room of people who are seriously reflecting on their own practice and their own schools, getting fired up and committed to action is just easier to do. I kept thinking during the sessions I attended that if I could start a school picking my teachers from those who were in the room, it could be a pretty amazing place.
But while most in attendance want to change the classrooms and the schools they work in, that vision of change is still amorphous. Jon Becker wrote about that fact pre Educon, and I hope he follows up with more thoughts post. I mean David Warlick and others were talking about creating a new story for education like four years ago and we still don’t seem to have a handle on it. It’s the tease of having the conference at SLA where you get to spend a couple days in a school that probably comes as close to what most of want our schools to be. All sorts of tweets along the lines of “I’d kill to work here” were popping up in the stream, as if SLA were out of reach at their own schools.
But do we all want an SLA? I know that I would want the culture of learning and the singular focus on kids, something that I don’t see very much in my travels. I mean I’m sure that SLA teachers have their complaints, but their good fortune is to work in a culture of teaching and learning that represents no new vision of schooling as much as it does leadership that can successfully navigate the current minefields that work against that vision. What I’m finding more and more as I visit schools that are getting more serious about “change” is that they have someone at the top who is willing to focus on the learning and not on the other crap. And you can pick these people out in a heartbeat; they are leaders AND learners, and they’re not ashamed to share the driving questions they have about their schools with those around them. They have a passion not for making AYP or top schools lists as much as they do supporting their teachers to be learners, allowing them to look at their own teaching as a deep learning experience and share that learning with others. I see those types of leaders very rarely. But more and more this year I heard, “so what?” I heard “you [teachers] have more power than you know.” I heard “It’s too important to wait for permission.” Create your own vision for change that you think is best for your students and implement it. Love the struggle. Love your kids. Lead. What choice do you have?
One of the things that makes Educon special is the structure: these really are conversations, not presentations. I don’t go to sessions to learn as much as I do to think, to contribute, because that’s where the best learning takes place. But I’m wondering if (and I hope to talk more about this later in the context of my own session) if next year we can call the sessions “conversations/actions” or some other phrase or term that captures that “be the change” idea. We’ve been talking about this stuff for so long; maybe 2010 can be the year we really start creating a clearer 2020 vision for our schools with more of a roadmap of how to get there.