I don’t like to be pushed. Who does? But when I look back at the big professional changes I’ve experienced in the last year, I find that this is how they happened… I got pushed.
When left to my own devices, I work hard, but hesitate to make really big changes. Let’s face it. Big changes usually involve a huge amount of work, time, and discomfort – Sounds like fun, right? As teachers, we are busy people. We have after-school coaching or clubs to sponsor, grading, lesson plans, and often children of our own with extra-curricular commitments, homework, etc. If we are involved in church or community activities, we may have meetings, rehearsals, or events to organize as well. Making a fundamental change in what we do and the way we do it is something we don’t even have time to get our heads around… unless we’re given no choice.
I tend to be strong-willed. Opinionated. Ok – a control freak. Sound familiar? These are common traits of educators. So when I’m pushed… I push back! That’s my initial reaction, anyway. Then I take a deep breath, step back, and acknowledge that I can’t ALWAYS be in control. That’s when I’m finally ready.
As part of our PLP (Powerful Learning Practice) http://plpnetwork.com/ professional development this year, our team was pushed – Before the kick-off event, we had to complete a “pre-game” activity that involved 13 activities to set up a PLN – A Personal Learning Network. This involved creating a Gmail account, an RSS reader, a Twitter account, a blog, and joining a Ning. We had very little time to complete these activities before the kick-off. I did them ALL over the Labor Day weekend! I felt I had been pushed into the deep end without my first swimming lesson.
What happened? I struggled to tread water for a while… but then I started enjoying the water, and the new challenges of the deep end. I tested my abilities a bit more, and found new ways to grow and learn. I whined and complained a bit, but I kept swimming (click on link below).
I had a similar experience this year when we got a new Head of School. He was excited to bring new practices to the school, and pushed our faculty to start changing our methods – to incorporate a Morning Meeting, use less paper and pencil, more workshop-style lessons. AGAIN, I felt I was out of my element. My confidence was shaken, but I refused to go under. I started learning, and doing – My job depended on it.
Now our Digital Learning Team is getting ready to prepare an Action Research Project as part of our PLP experience. It’s our turn to push. I am conscious of this as we think about the professional development project we want to prepare for our faculty. We are excited about what we have learned – how far we have come – but I don’t want to push so hard that the faculty pushes back. We will make them uncomfortable – that is unavoidable. But hopefully we will help them, support them, and encourage them as they learn. Together we need to first BECOME 21st century learners, and then use our skills to bring 21st century learning to the classroom. It will happen. If you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to read NAIS’s document “A 21st Century Imperative: Becoming a School of the Future” http://www.nais.org/files/PDFs/NAISCOASchools.pdf.
Even though it’s not fun to be pushed, it is often the way we are forced to move forward. Change is uncomfortable, and we naturally avoid things that bring discomfort… So sometimes we need a little shove in the right direction… 🙂