Shall we talk about what it means to be a professional educator/role model in the 21st century?
Does this include reflection on one’s practice? Does it include collaboration with other educators? Would the description entail something to do with continual professional development and intellectual curiosity? Staying current with best practices? Might it involve the integration of technology into lessons? Does being “professional” mean that you do whatever it takes to help students reach the standards---putting student learning at the heart of every decision you make, from the posters on your walls to the words you use in talking with students about their work?
I am fortunate to have developed an extensive personal learning network over the last few years. I’ll have tens of thousands of visitors to my site this year who will help me shape my personal reflections on my professional life. I have regular daily contact with superintendents, principals, technology leaders, teachers, and others not only in Washington state, but around the world. These contacts supply me with a constant stream of updated information for the classroom---whether they are new technologies or new applications for the classroom. In this ongoing collaborative network, kids come first. There are continual questions about how best to meet the needs of all learners and a supportive attitude of making things happen.
The real world of my school district is not so “professional” in this sense. If reflection is important, then where are the blogs of administrators? Why is it okay for one of our building principals to refer to those who use social networking as "freaky." To our district technology "leaders"---I don’t see you on Twitter or a Ning. Do you not believe in the technology you represent? Where is your role modeling for others? When will there be trainings available for teachers on social networking tools as opposed to just Microsoft wares?
Where is your leadership? How do you justify to parents the inequity of access to 21st century skills you are developing in their children? No wikis, no blogs, no nings, no cell phones, no GoogleDocs, no streaming media, no right-click options on computer mice. The big list of "No!" goes on and on. When will you realize that technology is not just "stuff" like document cameras and projectors used as no more than glorified overhead projectors? When will you step up to the plate and be leaders?
I know how easy it must be to dismiss these tools. You think you have the very convenient excuse that you're too busy...that there's no time. And yet I see evidence of other administrators in the US and Canada making time to blog, participate on Twitter or a Ning, or use a wiki to support professional development. I applaud their interest in choosing to be professional...in choosing to model intellectual curiosity...to do what's best for kids. I know our "leadership" attends various conferences and meetings, but so far, there are no district leaders here who create content and present to others. How do you expect those who work for you to believe that you are learning when you only absorb what you can from others and do nothing to show your thinking and application? We don't accept this level of effort from kids in our classrooms---why do you think that it's okay for you to model that it is?
The graphic for the post today comes from Married to the Sea. They published it earlier this week and it seemed fitting to use it today. And while this post has become a rant of sorts, I can't emphasize enough that those who are in leadership roles have made the choice to be there, with all of the associated responsibilities and privileges. Maybe it's time you stepped up and showed that you should earn the right to be called professional.