Building that bridge


I read this wonderful post this morning from Niomi Clyde-Roberts – “Building the bridge as you walk on it.

The content wasn’t quite what I had expected from the title but still was an inspirational read.  I had memories of reading this great book.  “Building the Bridge As You Walk On It: A Guide for Leading Change.”  Admittedly, an oldie, but it should be in your school’s or district’s professional library.

Close your mind and picture it.  My vision is of the observation deck of Niagara Falls on the US side.

A couple of screen caps from Google Streetview from both sides of the border …

The Canadian side definitely shows the best views of the Falls but you need to experience the deck from the US side as well.  I still remember when I first saw it – it looked like someone had tried to build yet another bridge across the gorge but ran out of resources.

My original thoughts about the title from Niomi’s post immediately went to education.

If you’re an educator, you went to a Faculty of Education or Teachers’ College somewhere.  And, like my education, you were probably taught that there were absolutes about education.  You had to learn these absolutes, if only for the exams or assignments.  Then, when you get hired, your employer will lay on professional learning for you where there are more absolutes that you need to learn to be consistent with their educational priorities.  Does this even work?  “5 Reasons Professional Development is NOT Transforming Learning

And yet, there was one course that still sticks with me.  It was called the “History of Education” or something.  I wish that I still had the textbook; I remember reading it and being impressed with the work of the researchers as they tried to understand and explain how things work.  Each chapter was devoted to a researcher – Skinner, Thorndyke, Pavlov, Watson all come to mind.  I still remember thinking that teaching was all about Classical Conditioning and, once you’ve mastered that, you become a master teacher.  I was so young.  I also had a well trained dog.

It only took about a week in the classroom as a first year teacher to realize that wasn’t going to work and that students were as diverse as the learning theories researched by these people.  They really did lay the groundwork for thinking about education but what we learned was truly as dated as their research.  Looking back now, the theories were answers that were “one size fits all” from these white gentlemen.  There was really no intent, at least from what we worked on, to understand the diversity of the Canadian classroom, the effects of poverty and hunger, bullying, technology, and all the things that the modern classroom teacher deals with daily.

It’s a tribute to teaching as a profession that attempts were made to try to understand just how teaching and learning works.  But, just like the bridge under construction, we should know that that bridge hasn’t been completed yet.  And, sad to say, it probably won’t be built in your lifetime.

A couple of things tack on to my thinking about this.  One was the post from yesterday – “A couple of projects“.  Could any of these researchers have sat back and predicted that students would be reaching out across the globe to learn in real time (or possibly “delayed by a day” time)?  Could they have fully understood the power of connections and the inspiration for learning that they afford? Morning smile – would they even know where Longlac was?

The second is the power of professional learning connections and sharing.  There isn’t a day when I don’t learn something new and powerful from my connections.  For that, I’m eternally thankful.  This hit home yesterday when Vicky Loras reshared a post from her blog from a couple of years ago.  “Really Value Your Network“.  Vicky’s acknowledged as one of the “42 Women Leading in Education” – check out the entire list for some great minds to follow.

At the same time, I had an interaction with my friend Aviva Dunsiger.  She’s digging in to the concept of colouring and its value in the classroom.  Her recent post shows her current thinking.  “Colouring: Taking A Risk And Seeing The Benefits“.  Couple that with Vicky’s most recent post “Are You Playing or Learning? – Both!” and I see the best of what’s happening today in education.

Here’s a case of a pair of educators who recognize that the bridge is not complete.  In their teaching environments, it’s still under construction and they know it.  They’re building their version of that bridge and, through social media, they’re taking us for the ride.  As passengers, we’re watching them learn how to traverse this new bridge and how they’re building their skillset for their future.  They are also not selfish.  They’re sharing every bit of their learning and encouraging feedback and thoughts along the way.

Such is the way that contemporary teachers learn.  Yes, we all sat in university lecture rooms and learned how leaders in the past tried to understand just what makes the mind tick.  In their world and resources, they did the best they could and we continue to use that as the basis for our bridges.  Anyone who has stepped into a building and looked at today’s reality knows that we’re nowhere near done. 

I can’t think of a better reason to engage seriously with learners on social media and starting your own presence to share your learning and thinking.  With the connections and interactions, let’s get to work on that bridge!

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OTR Links 01/25/2016


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.