Every so often, it is good to have a reminder of why I do what I do.
I had the distinct honor of being invited to participate in the second OAC ECET2 convening. I love doing presentations for teachers, but I also love the informal opportunities to sit down with educators and talk to them about what is going well and what they struggle with.
Here are my five big takeaways from this year’s ECET2:
- The way we teach can be different. The biggest barrier to change in the way we teach students is not external pressures from standards or tests or evaluation systems. It’s us. I always love getting to hear from my friend and colleague Sean Wheeler about what real students are doing for a real world. His keynote to start the convening was the perfect way to get teachers thinking about what is possible, not about what we can’t control. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tjcqmC3IGDg
- The ECET2 style is extremely possible to replicate, and could be used so much more widely to encourage teachers to do awesome things for kids. Look into it, and think about exploring it for your school if you’re tired of professional development opportunities that don’t meet real needs and never last. Take a look at “Bringing ECET2 Home” for some resources and tips from the OAC ECET2 organizers!
- I want a drone! At the end of the convening, all of the attendees went out to a hillside for a “group photo”. The photographer took a couple of standard shots with his camera, but then out came the drone. After a few flyovers, we were done with photos, and I went up to the operator to ask him about the device. He was very enthusiastic to tell me about his drone and how well it works, showing me how it connects to his phone to control the drone and store video from the camera. I want a drone.
- Marshmallows, spaghetti, string, and tape are amazingly effective teaching tools. I ran a “Marshmallow Challenge” during one of the breakout sessions. I always love doing this and seeing the impact it makes on teachers reflecting on their work. I love it even more when I see one of my participants on Twitter the next week running the same challenge with a classroom of their students!
- There is a big focus on keeping teachers in the classroom as much as possible. This conference was even scheduled on a Sunday and Monday to help reduce the amount of time the teachers would have to be out of the classroom in order to participate. I understand the basis for this idea, but sometimes I fear that the philosophy is doing more harm than good. There is a popular quote misattributed to Abraham Lincoln that says “if I had six hours to chop down a tree, I would spend the first four sharpening my axe.” I want my kids’ teachers to be at their best, with lots of great ideas to try and plenty of enthusiasm for the work. If that means letting them out of the classroom more often, so be it. My kids would rather have a great, enthusiastic teacher four days a week than a teacher who goes through the motions every day.
I never know what thing I plan to say will resonate most with my audience. This one usually gets a lot of nods and smiles, and ECET2 was no exception. I use it in a lot of my presentations. It’s true, and it fits so much of the work that I do. Continue big thanks to my friend Greg Wilson for introducing it to me years ago.
“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don‘t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need more fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You look for reasons it is not doing well. You never blame the lettuce.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Reaching all students is an enormous task. We must never lose our perspective on just how enormous and important a task it is. It can all seem very overwhelming at times. But, a few lessons from things like marshmallows, an axe, and lettuce – as well as some time to discuss and reflect with colleagues – can go a long way towards providing the sustaining energy needed to be the awesome influence every kid is looking for.