Sunday, April 15, 2012

What does a firefighter and a teacher have in common?

I recently had the opportunity to visit four local Fire Departments where I live. These visits were meant to encourage the firemen and women who courageously serve our community each and every week. I mean, the last time I checked choosing a profession in which you knowingly run into burning buildings is the epitome of courage! These visits were just a small token of our appreciation. Some friends of mine and I went with gifts of baked goods to express our gratitude. Overwhelmingly, the four visits were accepted with open arms as each department welcomed me and my friends inside to chat, show us around their station, and just talk. The conversations we had that night were blanketed with this sense of stress. At any time the firefighters could get "the call." In fact, two of the four visits did not last but a mere five minutes max due to being interrupted because of an emergency. At the conclusion of the night, as I reflected, I could not help but also notice the other sense that blanketed these men and women. It was a sense that I feel from educators, sadly, all too often. It was a sense of being under appreciated. The final station visited on this night was one in which the station's Captain extended his hospitality to us in such a way, you thought he may have been a concierge at a five star hotel in his former life. He was positive, thankful, hospitable, welcoming, kind, mannerly, calm, and gracious. At one point in our conversation he made a comment that resonated with me in such a way that I felt compelled to share it with anyone who would listen. At first, it seems as if it is just a plain ole comment. But, if one listens closely, it is much deeper than just the 10 words that comprise the statement. "It feels good to know that people are behind you." Shhh... Listen close... If you do, you will hear someone who wakes up each and every morning to give his life for others, to work specifically for his local community, to serve, to sacrifice, to teach, to help, face adversity, to deal with people, to lead others, to rescue, to give hope, and to give his life away if need be. Our firefighters do this for average salaries, for little praise and recognition, enduring too many challenges with the government, and being stretched beyond the resources they can provide and the little resources they are given in order to do the job they are charged with doing. Just like the firefighters who lay their life on the line, I want to thank all educators for all you do: giving YOUR lives for others, working specifically for your local communities, serving, sacrificing, teaching, helping, facing adversity, dealing with people, leading others, rescuing, giving hope, and giving YOUR lives away if need be. I applaud you, am behind you, and encourage you to stay the course! I am with you. #edudream

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Is the illiterate growing?

Prediction: the more the educational institution in America focuses on standardized test scores, the more America's illiterate will increase in today's 21st century way of doing things. Futurist, Alvin Tofler, has been credited with the following quote... "The illiterate of the 21st century are not those who cannot read and write, but rather those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." Wow! Do we really see the impact of this quote? If this quote is accurate, then we MUST change the way we educate our young people in America. I, for one, believe the aforementioned statement is more than accurate given we are in the midst, and have been enthralled for about 10 years now, of a revolution the world has never experienced before with regard to technology, learning, information and its abundance, education and its increasing irrelevance to students in the United States, and the overwhelming and sweeping changes that have come with how we commmunicate with one another through social networking and social media. We must wake up! It is no longer about test scores, how well one can read, or how well one can even write. Now, do not get me wrong. I do believe one must be able to be a communicator. I also believe one must be a voracious learner. But, communicating is no longer limited to writing. Learning is no longer limited to how well one can read and comprehend a selected passage. I believe our students who display creativity (see Daniel Pink @danpink), motivation (see Philip Schlechty), ingenuity in working with others (see Michael Wesch, @mwesch), an incredible focus and passion for their work (see  Mihály Csíkszentmihályi and his "Flow Theory of Psychology"), and pursue personal growth through learning (see Carol Dweck's "Growth Mindset") are the ones who will reap the benefits of prosperity in the 21st century. Moreover, I believe the educators who also exhibit these traits of learning, unlearning, and relearning are the educators who are relevant to the needs of students. If you are an educator and you find it hard to implement this change in focus, I implore you to start with one simple step: rethink your values. Do you value test scores or do you value authentic and relevant growth in your students? If you value authentic and relevant growth in students, then no longer pay any attention to test scores which students do not value, but instead look at ways to encourage students to learn, unlearn and relearn through the vast amount of resources this information-age has offered you.