Danger, danger, Will Robinson! Fair warning that this post may sound a bit like a soapbox address, as it addresses an issue I am currently seeing on social media: focusing on the negative.
It all started, once upon a time, when a friend posted about a certain airline ("I'll never fly that airline again. They delayed and made me miss my connecting flight"). One of her friends backed her up, "I know. That happened to me on the same airline. I won't fly them either." Oh, how I didn't want to jump in the controversy, but, having a bit of experience with air travel the past four years, I know one thing for certain: all airlines get delayed; all airlines have maintenance issues; and all airlines have on-time departures and early arrivals at times.
That post got me thinking about how some of these same people give a restaurant one chance. If things are not 98% up to their standards, not only do they refuse to return to the establishment but they often talk poorly about the food, the people, the...everything....based on one single visit.
How am I about to relate this to education?
I recently read a colleague's post on social media---an article that totally trashed a leading educator's book on classroom management techniques, questioning skills and strategies to encourage participation in classrooms. My first response? Instead of relegating a book to the rubbish bin, how about instead looking for any pearls of wisdom we might glean from it? For instance, what about the teacher who is struggling with a particular sort of teaching behavior? For example, in my work in all types of schools (from Bogota, Colombia to NYC to rural Washington State to schools on Native American reservations, teachers often struggle with "How do I start my class so that students know I have high expectations of them from the get-go?" I work with several superintendents who say, "We can tell them generally to get better at their routines and procedures" (we, as Danielson consultants call that 2c "managing routines and procedures), "but what we really appreciate is when a consultant/facilitator can actually model those explicit teacher moves that help the teacher learn some new strategies to add to their toolkit". I think the previously trashed author offers some of these---is it the end-all, be-all? Of course not, but neither (In my humble opinion) is poo-poo'ing some strategies some really great strategies that might add to a new or seasoned teacher's repertoire.
I feel that this "throwing out the baby with the bathwather" has become a rather popular tact, in social media, in conferences, at faculty meetings, and I'm not sure of the logic. In a recent keynote and subsequent workshop I taught in the Upper Peninsula, one participant said, "It is so refreshing to have someone not just tell us what to do or what not to do; what's bad to do or what's good to do. Instead you are modeling effective strategies for us. I'm picking up all of them, but some others may just take one or two." Now, how is that for solution-oriented??
I often share with participants in my workshop that it would be so easy for every single one of us to consider our teaching situations terminally unique---so very different than anyone else's. Instead, I suggest that they look for each piece of learning as an opportunity to adapt for one's own teaching situation. Obviously, it's easier to say, "Well, that would never work in my building..." or "You don't know the kids I have in my class". But, I wonder if we do that, are we simply setting our profession up for poo-pooing every idea we come across---making us even more vulnerable to going back to operating in our own little silos?
Just for today, perhaps we could take a look at a publication, resource, airline, restaurant, conference, or even professional learning opportunity and search for one strategy we can either use or adapt for our own needs?
A special thanks goes out to my dear new colleague, who is a band director, and said to me, "So many workshops I go to focus on the general classroom educator. I always look for ways to adapt those strategies to meet the needs in my bandroom or on the marching field."