Relationships, passion, and the pursuit of learning.

What did I learn on the first day of this year’s ASCD conference in Philadelphia?

  • Relationships rule.
  • Without passion, learning suffers.
  • Educators who connect have unlimited access to support systems, resources, and inspiration.

I know other bloggers have echoed these sentiments in their reflections, but it’s because they all ring true. It only took a few moments listening to ASCD 2012 Outstanding Young Educators Liliana Aguas and Matt McClure to recognize some of this.

Liliana, a 2nd grade teacher from Berkeley, California, explained how a passion for science led her to develop inquiry-based, hands-on learning projects that she and her colleagues shared at a local elementary school while they were working in a lab. She found that she loved watching students “discover.” The principal of the building said that she should become a teacher. She replied, “I work in a lab! I don’t teach!” Nevertheless, she was offered a fifth grade position, and she accepted. As a US immigrant, she began to contemplate the role of language and its influence on how we learn, and now works in a dual immersion classroom where she continues to stress the importance of discovery and inquiry on a daily basis.

Matt McClure, Superintendent of Cross County Schools in Cherry Valley, AK, spoke to his work with groups of constituents in his district. He asked teachers, “What skills do our kids need?” and then together they worked to prepare students for their futures. He said, “Knowledge is cheap. Everyone can be an expert.” What does this type of access to information mean for our students today? As McClure said, “It’s what you do with it that matters.” He stressed building relationships and trust with parents and community to allow for innovative practices and risk-taking.

Want your teachers to be more passionate about professional development? Consider hosting an edcamp-style PD day at your school and sending your teachers to your nearby edcamp offerings in the future. Kristen Swanson, Ann Leaness, and Chrissi Miles led a great conversation about how to better empower teachers and place them in command of their own learning through the “unconference,” edcamp model. While this may be intimidating for some, and a definite departure from typical PD models, I can speak from experience that the days when we allow teachers to direct their own learning and share with colleagues have been the most rewarding days of learning for staff. This is evident in the feedback they provide to us. They’re hungry for more of these days. They know that together, they’re better. The ideas flow freely, the growth is organic. They inspire one another, push each other, and ask the hard questions. If you’re an administrator who is looking to involve your teachers in this type of day, please contact me any time with questions, and/or check out these¬†additional resources from the edcamp session here,¬†here, and visit the Edcamp wiki. My next edcamp? Edcamp Philly, May 19. Join us!

After the sessions ended, it was time to meet up with friends, both old and new, at the Tweetup hosted by ASCD. These are always fun events, because you have the chance to meet face-to-face those educators who provide you with a wealth of resources, ideas, and support each and every day. Each time you meet someone new, you further develop your PLN. There’s nothing better than receiving a heartfelt paper tweet from Jerry, conversing with Joe and Antony about the sheer joys of the principalship :), meeting Josh’s adorable spawns, talking with Spike and his colleagues and looking forward to their future visit, meeting Jason and Bill for the first time, and engaging in genuine conversations with so many passionate educators.

I know we continue to say this, but being a connected educator enhances the work that we do with students on a daily basis. And, let’s face it, that’s intense work. So it’s time to sift through the jargon, look past the big claims made by companies touting the “latest and greatest,” and get back to relationships, sharing with one another, admitting we all have a lot to learn, and helping each other do just that.

3 Replies to “Relationships, passion, and the pursuit of learning.”

  1. The three bullets at the top should have been lead with “what I already knew that was reinforced” rather than what I learned. In regard to “everyone can be an expert,” this doesn’t fit with the definition, which states “a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.” It’s true that everyone can find bits of pieces of knowledge with relative ease, but without a knowledge base in one’s brain, there is no expertise. Read the first chapter of “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell. Here is a link to my summary. Thanks for post and keep up the good work.

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