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Monday, April 29, 2013

The "S" Word


I've written a draft of this post a few times and found myself really unsure about whether or not to share it, or exactly how to articulate the sentiment. SHARING. There, I said it. Maybe I've become more aware the importance of the "S" word as it has gained value in my own life with a toddler at home. Sharing is not an innate act. We are not all the selfless creatures we might want to believe ourselves to be. We want to keep our stuff - whether it be physical or intellectual. While Coley is determined to keep her pile of rocks to herself, I find many teacher sit on their own ideas and accomplishments like a stubborn toddler. Why the fear? What is there to lose?

I would argue there are no truly original ideas. We are all influenced by what we hear, see and read. Unknowingly we are all probably holding onto the illusion that we created this masterpiece of an assignment, that in all actuality was the culmination of the ideas of many. Why is there such hesitation in our community to share with one another? Are we so afraid of someone getting credit for our great idea? What would that credit look like? A child who learns something? It seems so silly not share in a profession that should be about continually pushing ourselves to find a way to reach our students and innovate new practices for mastering a skill. 

I have a few theories on this, and they are my own so take them for whatever that is worth. I believe in education there is such a lack of recognition and options for upward mobility that we become very stingy with unimportant "stuff". Like who has the closest parking spot, who is closest to the bathroom, whose classroom has the most windows, who has the better schedule.  Without any way to distinguish ourselves we seem to hold on to these silly benchmarks. This is "my" project that I do with "my" class. We can become like dogs marking our territory. In the end the only people losing out are the students. I find it totally ridiculous that people would pay for lesson plans online. Why would we make our colleagues pay for an idea that is probably the hodgepodge of workshops and online resources and other teachers' previous projects? I know many may feel differently about this, but I think it is terrible that we would make it so difficult to help one another. Why would you keep something that has been a successful tool for you away from those it could benefit?  Why would you withhold your shovel to watch someone dig their hole with a spoon? 

There is also the new emergence of individual branding. My sister-in-law and I were having a conversation over Christmas about this very thing. She had just come back from a conference for dietitians  At the conference there was an entire session just on professional branding. Finding your "thing" and tweeting, blogging, promoting yourself as a master of knowledge in that area. The same thing is happening in education. You first need a Twitter presence, a cool nickname (preferably with a pun or some obscure literary reference if you are an English teacher), a blog (well...can't beat 'em join 'em), and then you can get on the presenter/lecture circuit. I'm really not degrading the practice, but it does create competition that wasn't there before. It isn't enough to just do a good job in the classroom. You also have to be the face of a whole movement. You need a professional head shot on Twitter to reach your mass audience with 140 characters of life changing wisdom. I think it perpetuates some fear of sharing. We are pushed to self-promote and talk about our awesomeness. We can become, if we aren't careful, educational narcissists. 

I have encountered some wonderful educators who have literally given me everything they have. At the mention of something I am thinking about teaching, they get absolutely giddy about passing on everything that they so enjoyed using. Why can't we all be so gracious? How do we create an environment that supports the art of sharing? It is such a disappointment to see great strategies someone is using after the unit is over. Sharing, as in any element of a relationship, works best when both parties are participating. Sharing our successes, and failures as well, are what help us grow. All of my best ideas have come from being able to brainstorm with fellow teachers. I am thankful for all of those who help me daily to take an idea and turn it into something wonderful. In the end everything amazing that our students create is their own creation. We only give them the tools and direction. 

By the way I am more than willing to share anything I have...:)


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