Back?

    Happy New Year! (Better late than never, right?) 
    I’m returning to the blog after a pleasant break from most of the online world.   Very pleasant break.  There was lots of snow to remove from driveways and sidewalks, and plenty of good friends and family to visit.
    Tomorrow begins our third quarter of the year, and I’m pleased to report that I’ll be beginning the quarter with a new colleague in my classroom as I’ve got a student teacher for the spring.
    Supposedly, I’m to teach him how to teach — but so far, I think I’m doing most of the learning.  A fresh pair of eyes is really handy to have in the classroom, and I’m looking forward to learning a great deal as I basically reexamine my practice through another’s eyes in the midst of honest questions.
    This idea of learning through questioning actually helps me to connect back to my last post, one that has spawned an awful lot of conversation that I haven’t quite been able to process properly.   Seems as if I touched a nerve or two.  It wasn’t my intention to put anyone’s back against a wall, but it seems to have happened. 
    When I want to better understand something, I ask questions about it.  Asking questions, in and of itself, is important to do.  When we don’t question ourselves and our motives from time to time, we fall into bad patterns and we quit thinking constructively critically.  than I can:

Yet another quote from Deborah Meier’s book:

Expecting
teachers to take responsibility for the success of the whole school
requires that they begin to accept responsibility for both their own
and their colleagues’ teaching.

This made me think
of something Ron used to say a lot – "Care enough to confront." He was
referring to students, but I think the same thing applies to our
colleagues. I think we need to respect our colleagues enough to ask
hard questions of them. That’s part of what I’m trying to do with this
staff development – ask hard questions of each of you (and myself) to
make sure we are doing all that we can to make our school a success. I
don’t think it’s okay anymore (if it ever was) to just say "I’m going
to close my door and do whatever I want." It’s not enough to be
successful as individual teachers, we need to be successful as a staff
if we want our school to be successful – and if we want our students to
be successful and achieve to their potential.

Of course there’s a
fine line between pushing our colleagues to do their best teaching and
conveying the impression that "my way is right, your way is wrong." But
I think that’s a line we need to walk. I think if we fail to approach
the education of our students as an entire staff – with a coherent
approach and clear goals for what we want to achieve – we will be
mediocre at best. And I guess I’m at the point in my career where I
refuse to be mediocre – or part of something that is.
If
we intend to dramatically improve the education of American kids,
teachers must be challenged to invent schools they would like to teach
and learn in, organized around the principles of learning that we know
matter.

    When I asked about groups, that was an honest question.  And I appreciate the honest answers.   I’m still thinking, too, about my questions.  I don’t know the answers.  Of course, that’s the whole point of the asking, isn’t it?
    A new read in my aggregator has been asking some wicked good questions lately, the kind that challenge the assumptions that I bring to the classroom.  I don’t agree with all of his conclusions, or his methods, but I really dig his questions and the motivation and solid writing behind them.  Here’s one, taken slightly out of context (read the original post):

If the point is to acclimate them to what will be the essential
publishing tools of their day (a cause I can get behind and push),
then,
[expletive deleted], will Journalism and English please step up their
curriculum, pronto? Otherwise, will someone link up the post I’m
missing? Because until someone explains how wikis will increase
Instructional Value while decreasing Minutes Expended then I’m content
to play wallflower at this party.

    It’s a good question, passionately and honestly asked.  Lots of responses in the comments.  Good ones, the kind that help you clarify what you think, not flame-y or anything. 
    Ask good questions this year.  Especially the hard ones.   We all need them. 
      

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