Looking from the outside in

The Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum is over and the barrage of Tweets, emails, Facebook posts and text messages have slowed to a trickle; which should please my wife since we were getting overage notices from AT&T on the text messages. Yet I find myself missing the constant ‘ding’ that let me know there was something important, relevant, informative or funny to be read and responded too. I know today, which marked the official return to the ‘real world’ was… different. I was different today.  I was disconnected.

I had been away for a week wrapped in a cocoon of creativity and an environment of encouragement. I spent a week in an educators dream; sharing ideas, methods, projects, anecdotes and outcomes.  I was treated royally and looked on as a professional and not “just a teacher”. In short, I was celebrated as much for what I do and listened to because of what I know.  

So nothing got done today.  In between fielding congratulations from my colleagues and conducting interviews with our school news show and newspaper I was sharing the week with my students. I showed them all the videos and pictures. They reveled in the diversity of the attendees and creative projects on display.  They listened to my replay of the awards night and got excited when they saw me onstage. Reliving the week each period I found myself missing my USA teammates more and more. These young men and women (and I can say that because I’m older than all of them) are the most creative, dynamic individuals I have ever had the pleasure to know.  Rest assured if you are reading this and you have a child as one of their students, that child is getting the best education you can hope for!  Team USA at the American History Museum

Team USA at the Partners in Learning Global Forum reception held at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

So, I am disconnected. Not because what I experienced or learned or shared with the attendees; that was a highlight. It is not because of the awards I won; that was humbling.  No, it is because it took 34 years for me to experience this.  In those years I have been forced to endure professional development courses, seminars and meetings that claimed I would grow as an educator.  What they were really set up to do was justify the continued employment of the individuals running the sessions. For the life of me I can’t remember a single bit of information that I could effectively use when I was in the classroom or helped me discover the key that would unlock learning in my students. So I developed my own theories and practices, my own methods and ignored what the professional development teams were telling me to do.  You see, what they were trying to sell never once called for real student engagement. What they called for was micro management and control and that only leads to teachers going through the motions and students unwilling to try.  It leads to over inflated grades and fear of failure. It leads to what is exactly wrong in so many classrooms today.

Do I have a solution for this… no. Except to point to the common themes and success and individuals that I met last week and to tell you to talk to them.  Find out what they are doing and before you know it you will begin to hear the same story and the same theme. You will hear stories of student engagement and high level learning. You will hear joy and excitement and most of all, you will hear pride at being a teacher.

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  • Pauline  On November 14, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    Thanks for the link Lou-I totally relate to everything you said, it was wonderful to get back to my kids and into the hurlyburly of being a teacher today but there’s a tiny seed of fear that we will become totally disconnected and the glow of last week will fade into a distant memory. Lets make a deal-lets keep fanning the flames that were ignited last week so that we can continue to set alight our students

  • Laura Rahn (@rahnlaura)  On November 14, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Great post Lou!! I agree about the disconnect. I felt that way after returning from Redmond last July. I was so glad to spend a few hours with all of you on Thursday. It gave me a boost of positive energy and passion towards teaching that I have been missing. I look forward to staying in touch with all of you and continuing to “fan the flames” as Pauline said. And…Congrats on the win!!!!! So happy for you all!!

  • Alfred Thompson  On November 16, 2011 at 10:57 am

    The pronblem with so much PD is just what you say – not relevent, not inspiring, not enough about engaging students. That is why getting the chance to meet with teachers, like yourself, who do engage with students and who do real things with them is so valualble. If only we could make more of that happen for more teachers.

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