I have put considerable thought into this post. I’ve avoided it for weeks. I was reminded recently of what Dr Brad Gustafson said about blogging in his interview with EdTech magazine:
I don’t want this post to be negative, though it may sound that way to some. I hope it ultimately makes a difference. That’s why I do the things I continue to do; to make a difference.
I have been a connected educator for almost three years now and the evidence can be seen by observing my practice, reading my blogs, and viewing my digital footprint on Twitter. I’ve also endured a rather trying year, professionally. This post will hopefully reflect the frustrations I have about being a reflective connected educator stuck in a school and evaluation system that does little to empower educators to become better. Sadly, it feels like there’s no room for an educator who has a passion for learning.
During this school year I’ve engaged in the following learning opportunities:
- moderated and designed questions and topics for #wvedchat
- visited Beaver Local Schools to participate in their day-long CE session with Dave Burgess: Teach Like A Pirate
- completed the following webinars with Alliance for Excellent Education
- My wife and I hosted the 2nd annual state-wide Edcamp event in Parkersburg, WV.
- I read the book Teach Like A Pirate and began incorporating the questions into my lesson plans. I also made the TLAP philosophy a part of my classroom
- I read the book by Eric Sheninger titled Digital Leadership: A Changing Paradigm for Changing Times
- Eric supported me in developing a week-long graduate course I taught over the summer for RESA V
- My wife and I attended Edcamp Columbus for the second year in a row
- I participated in Connected Educators Month by participating in a Google Hangout sharing my story of how I became connected and what it has done for my practice
- In an effort to start having conversations about instructional practice with educators inside my school building I attempted to start a weekly morning meeting. The attempt was not embraced by enough staff members to keep it going. Thank you to those who came. As Todd Whitaker says, “nothing happens at random in great schools”.
I also continued to document my progress in refining my assessment practices to better communicate student learning. Throughout this process, I began to move my classroom towards becoming paperless. I incorporated more digital tools to provide me more formative feedback about my students (Kahoot, Nearpod). Most importantly, I did something about that feedback. I have participated in countless Twitter chats on topics including leadership, blended learning, professional development, family-community engagement, and building relationships, just to name a few.
I’ve written before about how isolation is now a choice educators make. Every day I choose to connect with other educators, whether it be through Twitter, Yammer, Facebook, or Google+. Yet, I still feel tremendously isolated because there are so few educators in my area engaged in the conversations of growth and development that I choose to be a part of so often. Note: my wife, Julie, is also a connected educator engaging in her own opportunities for growth and development. We often share a lot of these opportunities through conversations at home. The isolation, though, was exacerbated during my end-of-the-year evaluation with my administrators. Not a single thing in this post was discussed during my evaluation. None of the efforts I’ve made to improve my practice were acknowledged during the course of my evaluation. I want to confess that I don’t engage in those efforts listed above for higher pay, awards, or notoriety. My investment in growth and development is done simply because I want to be the best educator that I can be. I want to provide my students the highest quality experiences during their year with me. However, it was very defeating leaving my evaluation questioning why anyone else would want to engage in similar opportunities. Telling my story and sharing the tremendous value in these learning opportunities with others has provided little benefit in the eyes of my bosses. I have a tremendous PLN and certainly don’t take them for granted, but it’s extremely lonely being in a school with little growth and development every year. I was disappointed that my efforts to grow and improve my practice went unrecognized by my administrators and the evaluation system. Aside from my self-evaluation where I filled boxes with typed narratives attempting to provide “evidence” of my own evaluation, I feel like I made zero progress in the eyes of those ahead of me. My students low standardized test scores were acknowledged during my evaluation, perhaps indicating that I’m wasting my time investing in the opportunities for growth listed above.
What reason do other educators in my area have to engage in opportunities for growth, reflection, and learning? There aren’t any administrators sharing their story of how the investment is changing their practice. The evaluation system provides little to no recognition of your efforts to improve. The only standard of measurement, that one data point measured by standardized tests, may be the only story ever heard by those above you.
I work in a school building that has almost zero conversations about improving instructional practice. As a result, I appreciate the amount of opportunities I get to engage in those conversations online. I apologize for the negativity in this post and do not intend to offend anyone. I hope this post results in much needed change. A change that empowers others to begin adopting a growth mindset. I hope the change allows others to be recognized for their attitude and actions towards growth and development. I hope my own fire is not extinguished but until my family can afford to move, I’m struggling to justify the burn. For those that are offended, consider these questions:
- What opportunities did you leverage to improve your practice?
- What are you doing to empower others to learn, reflect, and grow?
- Who do you have in your professional learning network that is better than you?
- How do you engage in professional conversations with other educators?
- What evidence of continuous improvement can you point to this school year?