Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Holding Up a Mirror

As the school year winds down, it gives each of us time to pause, and to reflect on what we've accomplished. It's through such critical consideration of our work, that we grow as teachers and as learners, so let's be sure to get beyond ourselves to consider how our actions have led others to grow.

What Students Accomplish
If you attend school at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, the reflection by your principal, Chris Lehmann, might lead everyone to reflect on what the graduating class has accomplished; not just in one defining year, but in an entire high school career.

If you're Megan Palevich, you lead your students to reflect on what they've accomplished, and you discover, that they've learned much more than the curriculum dictates.

Learning With Colleagues
Do you work within a community of teacher-learners?
How have you acted as a mentor to fellow teachers?
Which discoveries have you shared with your colleagues?
Is the sharing of your personal/professional learning a common practice at your school?

Learning in Community
How have you highlighted student achievement for your community?
Have your parents discovered what learning looks like?
Do folks know why you structure learning the way you do?
Have the doors of your classroom been open to visitors?
How have real people augmented your lessons?
Which learning stories are worth sharing with an even wider audience?
How have you publicly celebrated the greatest achievements and minor miracles from this school year?

What about You?
Sure, you've grown too. You've used proven methods and mixed in the use of some new lessons and tools. But it's in the work of our students and colleagues in the context of a learning community that we can best measure the effectiveness of our work. So before you hold up the mirror to yourself at year's end, hold it up to your fellow learners, including teachers, students and community members, and consider the ripples that have been triggered by your work.

Photo Credit: A6U571N

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cognitive Surplus vs Social Deficit

In recent weeks, I've done less collaborating globally, and more connecting locally; and over that period of time, I've felt less stressed, and more refreshed. While I continue to think, to learn, and to share, I regret that I've occasionally done so at the expense of spending time with those who matter the most to me.

I agree with Shirky's point that we can do plenty of good by applying our spare intellectual time to pursuits of collaborative knowledge development; but I've re-discovered that there is also much to be gained in freeing the mind from such work in order to be fully human.

I've found value in digging in my garden with my spouse; coaching kids soccer with my family; spending time on the links with friends; and reading real paper books and magazines all alone in my hammock. Knowing that these physical, social and emotional investments are paying rich personal dividends, I can't help but wonder: How will you be paying off your social deficit this summer?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Lessons Learned in Error

Even if you weren't among the 17,738 fans present at last night's Tigers vs Indians baseball game, you have likely heard the ripples of the '28-out perfect game' pitched by Armando Galarraga.

Calls for the resignation or firing of someone relying on their perception of a moment in time, are not warranted. The play was a classic 'bang-bang' play, that in real time would have been a difficult call for any observer. If you had the best seats at Comerica Park, this is how you might have witnessed sports history:

So what's a person to do?
Jim Joyce: When shown in slow-motion or freeze-frame, the 27th out is more obvious. So, after the game, in a move rarely seen among sports officials, first base umpire Jim Joyce chose to apologize in person, to the Detroit Tiger pitcher.

Armando Galarraga: Even as his greatest lifetime sports achievement vaporized, Armando Galarraga kept his aplomb. The disappointed pitcher closed out the game, and later chose to accept Joyce's apology. At today's game, Galarraga was slated to deliver the line-up card to today's home plate umpire, Jim Joyce... I hope they each received a warm ovation.

Bud Selig: As Commissioner of Major League Baseball, Bud Selig has the authority to overturn the ruling on the field, and to award the baseball's 21st perfect game to Galarraga. Whether or not he chooses to do so, the story of this game, and it's aftermath will forever be a part of the history of baseball, a game values tradition above all else.

Whether or not Selig chooses to correct the umpire's error, I think that this sports event can be seen as a win-win-win. Joyce should be appreciated for acknowledging that though humans may err, they can also make amends; Galarraga and his teammates will be recognized for an incredible accomplishment; and the commissioner's office will be remembered either for righting a wrong; or for reminding us that there are many human elements in the American pastime.

So, why aren't you sharing this modern fable with your students? Surely there are lessons in this story worth sharing, aren't there?