On my first day as a program consultant, I asked my superintendent what was the best way to introduce myself when visiting a school for the first time. His answer made me smile “Just let your reputation open the doors for you”. Whatever you do, don’t say, “I’m here from the board office and I’m here to help you.”
I still remember that conversation. As I was assembling the interview blog post from yesterday, I was really struck by a comment from Brenda Sherry.
When I’m asked to coach in a school, for example, it’s not really just me who visits but my whole network, as these are the resources (people and ideas) that I rely upon in order to maneuver effectively through the learning landscape of today’s world.
What an interesting and appropriate comment to read in the year 2012.
Ask anyone not in the teaching profession and it’s likely that you’ll get the opinion that the teacher is the sole owner and dispenser of information and knowledge to students. I think it’s something to be expected.
For the most part, we (just about anyone who reads this blog) graduated from a system where we expected that our teacher knew everything about the subject matter and our goal was to be able to learn 50% or more of it. The more we remembered and was able to pass back on an exam, the better the mark. To reinforce the concept, we attended college or university where our abilities to soak it all in was truly tested in classes of 2-300. In a way, I think that’s why some of the tenants of video learning are so popular. Watching a video of someone solve a mathematics or science problem reminds us of our classroom experiences – only better. We can replay the video many times until we understand.
Such an environment is far removed from the real classrooms in today’s schools. Even the notion that Brenda’s employer sees the need to hire a technology coach is confirmation that the classroom teacher can’t possibly know it all. In her interview, Brenda acknowledges that she doesn’t know it all but she sure knows where the resources lie. They lie in her network.
There may have been a time when collaboration meant working with the other teacher of the same subject. That’s not enough. Having that “whole network” of ideas, resources, colleagues, teams, dissenting opinions, links, like minds, … is priceless.
In a district the size of Brenda’s, it’s unlikely that she’ll be able return to that classroom working with teachers and students day after day. Yet, the true value will accrue to those who watch and listen when Brenda says “I have an idea from …” or “Let me connect you with …” or “I saw …’s ideas about this”. The true value lies in the connections.
At this point in 2012, I think that Brenda has truly nailed it. If there’s one thing that she can leave behind after one of her visits, it’s that there’s a whole connected world just waiting to be accessed. You just need to make the connection.
I also hope that you, dear reader, are nodding your head as you think about her comment. A connected teacher is the most valuable asset that any system calling itself a 21st Century institution can have.
Are you connected? Are you connected enough? Are you one of the people who Brenda takes with her when she visits schools?