Wednesday, November 26, 2014

If You're Not Giving, You're Not Teaching

Thanksgiving is a great time to think about and celebrate giving. The best teachers are the best givers, but not all teachers believe in giving. In fact some teachers think it is unfair to be expected to share their hard work. 

I was reminded of this recently during a conversation among innovative educators who were discussing how much they enjoy the opportunity to share best practices and materials across schools. They shared stories of going to other schools where they learned from other teachers with an area of expertise that they wanted to get smarter about. They discussed stories of teachers coming to their school to learn from their teachers.They shared all sorts of great things that result from sharing. 

Because our district has developed and identified expert teachers in a number of areas (i.e. Digital Literacy, PBS resources, Google Apps for Ed, etc) the ingredients for this to occur are plentiful. Fortunately, teachers in many schools are reaping the rewards and students are benefiting. 

Unfortunately, at other schools, great ingredients don't always find their way to such favorable outcomes.

This happens when you work in a culture where teachers don’t want to share.
In such places, they discourage teachers who are coming to learn from them from taking photos of the cool things they are seeing. They perceive teachers bringing best practices back to their own school as stealing. They refuse to give documents in an editable format. They worked hard to create it. Why should they make it easy for another teacher to use what they worked so hard to create?

Innovative/Connected Educators believe in a culture of sharing. They take joy in helping teachers and students. This thinking seems strange and disappointing, but unfortunately it exists. In fact it exists to the point, that one teacher shared that their school was committed to stopping teachers from stealing their best practices. They feel their teachers worked hard on these ideas and it is "unfair" if other teachers take them to use at their own schools. To prevent this theft, some schools now have policies in place to ban visitors from taking pictures.

Ack! What? No!

Innovative educators, find stories like this simply horrific. Not only that, but they really shouldn't be allowed to be greedy with ideas and materials. Public school teachers need to be reminded that they don’t own their great ideas. They are paid by the school system for their work and ideas. If you’re a public school teacher, the public owns your ideas. And that is a good thing! We want the public to have access to the ideas and resources of teachers. 

We don't want teachers to hold their ideas and resources as prisoners of their classroom.

Teachers have the power to make the practice of other teachers more successful and help students achieve. This is a great privilege for teachers. But when teachers refuse to share, they hurt their colleagues. 

A teacher's mantra SHOULD be:
"SHARE" your work. 

"OWN" our work.

Don't be a part of a culture that is not only harmful to the profession, but also hurts our children who can benefit from the knowledge of a teacher's learning network. 

For some, helping teachers and students succeed is not a priority.These teachers believe teaching is competition. It is a race for high test scores and reviews. A race to the top. If everyone knows their secrets, everyone will be as good as they are. They want themselves and their students to be on top.

Unfortunately, this is not what is best for our students. What students need is  “More collaboration between schools — and less competition.”

But our most talented teachers can not be best-practice horder. We must not only encourage, but require them to be best-practice givers.

This means doing things such as...

  • Inviting visitors to take out their cameras. 
  • Inviting colleagues to steal your good ideas.
  • Providing your materials in editable format to be remixed, remashed, repurposed for student success.
  • Feeling excitement, when discovering other schools and students are using your ideas.

And, if you really want to help students, not just in your school or district, but around the world, then blog about too!  

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