As part of my graduate internship for St. Joseph’s University, I will periodically be blogging and reflecting on my progress. At the close of the school year and as part of the beginning of my internship plan, I created surveys to get feedback from the staff on my value to them, their comfort level with technology and other questions that can help me to plan for training in the fall. The following is a post about my process of reflecting on this first year as a tech coach and the expectations I place on myself and others.
My mom has told me, more times than I would have liked, the story of when I threw a tantrum in a supermarket when I was 3-4 years old. I wanted some candy in the checkout aisle (watermelon Bubblicious gum if my memory serves correct). It was a doozy: full throttle, arms and legs pounding the ground, screaming, kicking and crying. It is only now, when I have children of my own, that I understand the complete and utter embarrassment that I was causing her. What did she do? She calmly placed her items on the belt and waited to pay. And ignored me. Even as people started to stare at the spectacle I was causing (No cell phones back then to divert your attention) she just kept moving forward. Channelling her inner Mick Jagger, “You can’t always get what you want” was the lesson my mom started teaching me that day. It worked, sort of.
Confession time: I still throw those little hissy fits. The only difference is that they happen inside. They happen when I get impatient with the process of change in utilizing technology in our schools and becoming a more relevant educational institution. As we wind down this school year, I have reflected on all my work and found myself frustrated that we haven’t moved even further ahead than where we are. I’m frustrated that I haven’t helped more people realize the amazing potential of social media to advance one’s own learning and connect to educators around the world. I’m frustrated that more blended and flipped learning could be happening in classrooms and faculty meetings. When your catch phrase is “relentless forward progress” it is hard to exercise patience.
Then last week I was watching the Tonight Show and President Obama was the guest. Jimmy Fallon asked him about this part of his commencement address at Howard University:
“Listen to those you disagree with, and be prepared to compromise. Democracy requires compromise, even when you’re 100 percent right,” Obama said. “You can be completely right, but you still are going to have to engage folks who disagree with you. If you think the only way forward is to be as uncompromising as possible, you will feel good about yourself, you will enjoy a certain moral purity, but you’re not going to get what you want.”
There it is. Whether we are talking about Democracy, Public Schools and the Educational system or our everyday personal relationships, the hissy-fit method just won’t cut it. We need a serious dose of patience when it comes to the evolution of the American classroom. So many connected educators get frustrated at the state of the modern classroom. It is not without good reason, but an overnight change just won’t happen. We can not create an “us vs. them” culture with regard to educational technology. Doing so will only further increase the gap between so called “modern” classrooms and the “old school” model of teaching and more importantly, the educators in those classrooms. For the greater good, as well as our own betterment, we must focus on positive, incremental change. Any frustration we feel should be channeled back into better efforts at modeling the change we seek and patiently helping those who need guidance. We need coaches, integration specialists and administrators who consistently show the positive benefits of progressive pedagogy and savvy technology use. As my good friend and colleague, Cathy Isaacs (@iwearthecrowns) once tweeted to me, “It’s like teaching a kid how to cross the street. How many times did we (and still) tell our kids to look both ways?”.
So what’s the answer? Rest on our laurels while others catch up? Give up and resign to the idea that some people will just never change? No. We relentlessly pursue the best methods of teaching and learning for our students. We model and share those. Every. Single. Day. We are persistently patient with our colleagues who are resisting change. Change is hard after all. As educators it is imperative that we model the type of collaboration and collegiality we want to see more of in this world. Look around. There are plenty of grown ups throwing hissy fits and hoping the “other side” will change. Let’s be the change we want to see in our schools to positively impact student learning.