Before I start posting about my week at Communities for Learning, I want to recap some of the powerful learning that happened for me last week at High School's New Face. This conference is an amazing joint effort between our regional BOCES and a great chance to work and learn alongside our districts. The line-up this year was amazing and all the sessions, key notes and panel presentations seemed to really fit and build upon one another. I have to say that for me, the conference hit it's highest note with the speech by NYS Teacher Richard Ognibene from Fairport, NY.
Richard spoke powerfully about his students and his profession and laid out three challenges for educators:
1. We must create family in our schools.
2. We must use assessment wisely (and humanely!)
3. We must promote the teaching profession.
These three really hit home for me as they are the very things that I wrestle with in my position leading professional learning opportunities and some of the very things that I am wrestling with at Communities for Learning.
Creating family - or community - in schools is an important piece if we are to engage our students. Doesn't everyone do more for someone they like and respect? When was it we stopped trying to create and instill a sense of respect between students and teachers? Community for me goes even beyond this - it is a sense that one will work towards bettering the community and the place in which it resides. As Ken Kay and Tony Wagner both touched on at the conference, we do need to teach our students 21st century skills in order to ensure that they can compete globally - but also so that they can leave our globe a better place than it is now. We must help them create their legacy.
Unfortunately, many will blame the mandates of NCLB for the reasons why we cannot or do not create this community. "We must teach to the test" is a line I hear over and over and over again. Readers of my blogs know that I personally subscribe to what I call the Diffendoofer Philosophy and that we must teach our students to learn - that will help take care of the test. Richard spoke wonderfully about the humane use of assessments, not just summative tests and rightly said that the more complex the content or topic, the more we must use formative assessments to determine whether our students are grasping it. Are we creating a generation of good test takers or a generation of thinkers? Are we practicing 21st Century skills ourselves as teachers if the only problem-solving and higher order thinking we do is complain that we can't teach the way we used to because of tests?
I have long been puzzled by the fact that so few in our society view teaching as a profession - including those who are within the profession. Sure - I have run up against the cranky teacher who as 2 years left and wants to dig their heels in and not try something different. But I have also witnessed amazing growth in teachers as they learn something new and become re-engaged in their own learning. How do we create situations for that to happen, not in isolation but in community? How do we show students that we so love our content and our profession that they want to be just like us and become teachers too?
I found this quote while catching up on my feeds today (thank you Passionately Curious!):
"All mankind is divided into three groups: those that are immovable, those that are movable and those that move.” — Benjamin Franklin
I might not know the answers to all the questions that I posed above but I absolutely know which group I want to be in!