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!


6 thoughts on “Building that bridge

  1. Wow! Thanks for the kind words, Doug, and for sharing what I think are some really important thoughts about connecting, reflecting, and continuing to improve our practice. It reminds me of an email conversation that I had recently with a previous principal who’s thus retired. She’s back in a temporary position, and she emailed me to catch up (and ask a couple of questions). One of her questions was about what I’m up to professionally right now. I shared some information with her, and I just loved her reply: “I’m glad to see that you’re still questioning your practices,” of which the next sentence spoke about doing so in a desire to continue to improve. Her comment made me stop and think … much like your post. How can we not always be questioning what we do, what we can change, and how we might be able to do better? We read more. We see more. We learn more. We have different students with different needs, and we’re forced to think differently in an attempt to meet them. I love how social media gives us a chance to share our thinking, and more importantly, learn (and benefit) from others. Even the thoughts on that colouring blog post gave me a lot more to think about.

    Thanks for a great morning read!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Another thought provoking post Doug! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Twenty years ago, when I first started teaching, I could never have dreamed that the opportunities for learning would be so vast and readily available. I am an adventurous spirit and believe that the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in my life have come through adventure. In my “pre tech” days of teaching, I instilled in my students that they could adventure far and wide through reading. Today, you will still find my students happily exploring, meeting new people and learning new things with their books in hand. They love reading! However, technology has also allowed me to bring adventure and exploration to another level in my classroom. We have “virtually” traveled together to all ends of the earth and met some incredibly awe inspiring people. I have “brought” my students along with me on my own adventures through the use of video in the classroom and we are looking forward to travelling on the Iditarod Trail in March. On Thursday my students and I will be inviting teachers and students to visit our classroom in Thunder Bay. I know it sounds cheesy, but I often feel the same excitement travelling to school as I do to the airport. When my students arrive in the classroom they often ask, “Mr. C, where are we going today?” Where would you like to go?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Today, I did some bridge-building. I’m a participant in the Core French collaborative inquiry that my board offers each year. My consultant, who is a friend, asked if I would join the group, to share my knowledge (I’ve been doing this gig for a while). I found myself sharing my learning today with another experienced colleague, and an amazing collection of “newbies”, in their first or second year of teaching. This felt a little strange at first, until I realized that we really were bridge-building – between one another, between experience and fresh knowledge, and hopefully between the English and French realities in our building. I also realized that it’s okay that I choose to continue to question my practice, as Aviva’s puts it. My ability to adapt my bridge to changing conditions depends on it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Doug!

    Thank you ever so much for the wonderful mentions and linking to my blog – I truly appreciate it : )

    Your blog posts are something I look forward to at around 10 am here in Switzerland – I always get the notification on my phone, and if I am not teaching, they are the first thing I look at! Otherwise, I read them afterwards and I never cease to be amazed at the ideas you get to write about on a daily basis. I really mean it that you are one of my favourite people I have connected to online and one of my favourite bloggers!

    I know what you mean about reading theories of education – we had a similar book in university and I was so excted to learn about each and every researcher and the theory that each one had developed – but then, stepping into a real classroom I saw that it was a totally different world.

    Isn’t it great how much we can learn every day from each other? I am so grateful to learn from you, Doug! Thank you so much and have a great Tuesday : )

    Liked by 2 people

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