On Being Afraid

On Friday, Converge did a quite nice write up of some of our district’s work with technology. I found it to be a splendid piece. Specifically, a large portion of the article featured some of the work we’ve been doing with the Digital Learning Collaborative. If you need a one sentence summary of that work, well, Paige does a fine job:

It was awesome and scary for some to be in charge of their learning.

I think that pretty much sums up what I’m seeing with regards to the way that we’re asking teachers in the DLC to take control of their own learning. It is scary for many of our teachers to take control. And it is awesome, delightful even, when it happens.

More often than I’d like in the DLC, the teachers that we’re working with, and we work with the leaders of the teams, folks identified as teacher leaders in their schools, so chew on that a bit, are afraid, or unwilling, or unable, to take control of their own learning. These teachers, quite fine and thoughtful people, are often waiting for Michelle or I to tell them what’s worth learning and/or doing. That’s troublesome ((And the word “troublesome” is quite the understatement, I think.)).

This is mostly a rhetorical question, but I’d encourage you to consider it anyway – what’s happened to teachers and teaching that it’s so difficult for teachers to feel they have agency enough to follow their own lines of inquiry and learning?

And why in the world is that okay?

8 thoughts on “On Being Afraid

  1. Sarah says:

    So often we (teachers) are given a formula or prescription of how to approach our classrooms. Worse than that, sometimes there are vague prescriptions that we are passively told to consider, then chastised for not actually following. It is hard to have ownership of my classroom when others make a claim to know how to improve it (without ever setting foot within it). And no, it is so NOT okay. But it is out of our hands, Bud. Teachers are the pawns far too often in the push to reform. There is limited agency, it gets more limited every year, like an ever-shrinking window. It isn’t troublesome, it is tragic, it is passive-aggressive, and it is out of teachers’ hands.

    But there is hope… the DLC and other teacher-driven collaborations allow us to take in the reform, the prescriptions, the fixatives, and then OWN how they look in our classrooms. Do I get it right? I hope that I do, and the more I collaborate with my peers and colleagues, the more confident I feel about my agency.

  2. Jenny says:

    It’s not okay. At least not to some of us.

    I realized this summer that it must be awfully hard for some teachers to give control in the classroom to their students because they are not given control themselves. We should be modeling for students the behaviors we want to see in them (including being in control of one’s own learning) but that can be hard to do when we are often not allowed to do such things ourselves. That said, it’s no excuse. We still, maybe even more so, have to step up and do the right thing as educators. We may not be given the agency but we must take it.

    1. Daniela says:

      Teachers should have the agency to make decisions, and in turn to lead by example in teaching students how to make decisions and be in control of their lives. But too often they’re hamstrung by policy and standardized testing.

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