It seems that this year the mantra of education conferences, speakers, and vocal educators is that as educators we need to “tell our story.” I believe we may need to take it one step further: not only do we need to tell our story, we need to celebrate our story and then we need to challenge our story.
Educators are doing amazing things and our students are learning and creating amazing things; unfortunately, however, over the last few years there has been a lot of teacher bashing, so much so that it seems people don’t believe in teaching anymore. This is tragic because almost everyone agrees that we need teachers; and not just teachers, we need amazing teachers. This is why teachers need to “tell our story.” We need to celebrate our story to remind society of the great things that are being done daily in our classrooms. We need to showcase what our students are learning, how they are creating understanding, and why we know we can support their aspirations for the future. We also need to challenge ourselves to be innovative educators. We are teaching to the future: we are preparing our students for careers that haven’t even been thought of yet.
Telling our story is on individual educators and celebrating our story is on the educator community, but to move forward we also need to challenge that story which need to be done through collaboration. Educators need support to take time to get to know their students’ stories to be innovative and creative to best enhance student learning. In many districts this critical support is dwindling into overly large class sizes, mandated or outdated curriculum, or even a lack of technology and training. Yet educators are persevering and building collaborative networks and continually looking for ideas and inspiration to help our students succeed. As educators this is important to all of us, we have the passion to do this, and it is our continual challenge to do so.
Since school let out for summer, I have been building my collaborative educator network with gusto. I was invited to the Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts (MIE Experts) US Forum in Denver where I joined 100 fellow MIE Experts who actively partner on technology development and integrating technology into the classroom. We were celebrated by Microsoft and each other because we are creative, innovative, dedicated to learning from each other. At the forum we shared, talked, played, collaborated, and massively socially networked. We shared our stories and felt cherished. Every teacher should have the opportunity to participate in this type of educational rejuvenation: it is the kick starter for innovation and inspiration for the next school year.
Following Denver, I returned home and jumped in with another educator network, the Partnership for Ambitious Science Teacher Leaders (PASTL) which is just an excuse for a nerd-fest where all of us science teachers chuckle at the joke to “never trust atoms – because they make up everything.” Our task as Ambitious Science Teachers was to develop lesson unit bundles for teachers and students to actively think and scientifically explain a puzzling phenomenon and its corresponding concepts. Just like my MIE Expert collaborative network, science teaching is trending toward building a similar collaborative network among students. The old education norm of the “Three Rs” in a quiet classroom is no longer sufficient; we must challenge ourselves to foster the collaborative environment for our student’s innovation and inspiration that we know as educators. With the innovation and technology we now have at our disposal, it is our job as educators to teach students the skills of how to have a scientific discourse to share their ideas, conceptual thinking, and showcase their problem solving skills both in collaboration with us and with their peers in and out of the classroom.
I am lucky I have had the opportunities to surround myself with educational networks that inspire me to do great things. I believe that the sharing and celebrating of our stories as educators is necessary; we can’t do this alone. But we also need to go beyond just telling our story of the amazing things educators are doing for students’ learning, and so I challenge all educators—and administrators—to actively participate in an educator network. It’s impactful, it’s inspirational, and it’s important to all of us and the forward motion of our story.
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Click here for more information PASTL (Ambitious Science Teaching)