Standing Still While the Water Rushes By

standing in the water

Have you ever tried standing still in the middle of a river while the water runs by? Or what about just standing still on the shore of a lake/ocean? It isn’t necessarily easy.  Sometimes the riverbed is slick. Sometimes the shore line is rocky and rough. Sometimes its squishy and hard to keep your balance. It takes work to stand still in an unknown environment.  It takes focus and is a whole body effort.

Lately life has felt a lot like I’m standing at the edge of a riverbed and trying to keep my balance.  I am reminded by a trip we took last fall over to a local state park. I remember so clearly the difficulty Kylie and Lexi had just standing on the rocks while a couple of inches of water flowed over their feet and past them while they tried to navigate the slick rock.IMG_8006

The picture is sweet, but what it doesn’t capture is the slip and fall into just enough water and sludge to get yucky that immediately followed! I was glad that I had kept my shoes on and stayed on dry ground.

So why am I pondering and painting about standing on the edge of the river bank and waiting for the water to recede? Because that is the promise I am taking and firmly planting myself on in order to figure out how to “do” life right now.  You see, years ago I had the privilege of hearing my husband Doug preach over Joshua 3 which is about the crossing of the Jordan river with the Ark of the Covenant, and his thoughts and my processing over the last few years give me hope and peace in the midst of chaos.

Read Joshua 3:14-17

So when the people set out from their tents to cross the Jordan with the priests carrying the ark of the covenant before the people, and when those who carried the ark came into the Jordan, and the feet of the priests carrying the ark were dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks all the days of harvest), the waters which were flowing down from above stood and rose up in one heap, a great distance away at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan; and those which were flowing down toward the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. So the people crossed opposite Jericho. And the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground, until all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan. Joshua 3: 14-17 NASB

I know. Its wordy and full of commas, but it speaks to me.

Can’t you see it? Can’t you feel it?

I’m such a visual person that I can’t help but recreate the scene in my head. The Jordan river is at flood stage. The waters are rushing and the people know that they have to cross the river. Man, my pulse starts picking up just thinking about it. I picture myself as one of the priests, holding one of the poles to the ark on my shoulder.  It works well.. responsibility, peer pressure, expectations..

(I found the painting below labeled for reuse.. feel free to picture yourself as one of the other 3!)

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I digress.

So, anyway. We arrive at the edge of the Jordan. We know that God has foretold that once we step into the water, the river will recede with the water dividing and piling up above us and below us, on the sea side being cut off and not able to flow back in. But we have to take that step. Can’t you imagine it? The river is at flood stage! The water is flowing and not only do you have to take a step into the river, but you are carrying a large and heavy burden.

But isn’t that what life is like?

While I don’t really remember the particulars from Doug’s sermon years ago, and I’ll admit that my takeaway from it might be incredibly flawed. The one thing that really stood out to me that I have pondered and considered is the idea of stepping into the water and standing still while the water recedes. I have thought about it over and over. Maybe my interpretation is wrong, but I needed the image of having to step in and hold my ground while the chaos of the running water around me receded.

Life isn’t easy and anyone that says it is, is lying and somedays I need to be reminded that while I don’t have to trudge THROUGH the water, I do have to take that first step INTO the water.

Cause really, in my mind, I see the priests holding the Ark of the Covenant just a step into the water holding firm and steady while the water rushes between their legs and runs towards the Dead Sea. Can’t you just imagine the panic that was rising in those priests before the water started visibly receding. But they stood there and the water receded and Joshua 3:17 says that all of Israel crossed on dry land.

And so for me, as I stand in the water.. maybe just an inch deep, or maybe it is up to my ankles.. or even my knees.. I am reminded to stand and let the chaos around me recede instead of trying to push through and make  a path. That isn’t my natural inclination. I’m all about taking up my machete and forging my own path.

But I don’t have to.

Sometimes being a leader is forging the path and sometimes being a leader is taking the first step and then holding still so that others can cross on dry ground.

And that is what my watercolor painting is of at the top of this post. I’ve learned how to make a path. Now I’m learning to stand and wait.

 

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What I learned from watching my daughter in Colorguard

About five years ago if you asked me what colorguard was I would have asked if you meant the “flag girls” on the football field at half time with the marching band. I would have meant no disrespect, but I didn’t have a real frame of reference for colorguard beyond that they were the pretty part of the half time band performance.

Today however, if you ask me about Colorguard, I can talk about it for a looong time! Cause you see, I am a veteran “Guard Mom” whose daughter was Captain this year, is graduating from high school next month and last week performed her in final Winterguard competition. Oh.. you don’t know what Winterguard is? Well, Winterguard season is December through April and the guards perform a show entirely different from the fall and perform it inside a gym. It is quite a competition!

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So here are some of the things I learned over the last four years..

Colorguard is a SPORT.

Guard rehearsals are like practices for sports. Full sweat, smelly feet, sore muscles and long hours.IMG_2186 2

(Color/Winter) Guard is a synonym for FAMILY.

Over the last four years we have come to know the guard director, staff and students very well. These teenagers and their families have become our family.  The director has been a mentor and another mom for Maddie. Being part of the guard family is an honor.

Guard teaches the importance of the
individual WITHIN the team.

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One of the coolest parts of the color/winter guard team is that each individual and their work is incredibly important to the combined efforts of the team.  Hand positions, foot work, throwing (and catching) hard tosses, and the ability to keep up and on the beat are deal breakers for the overall look and ranking of the guard. Because of this, the team learns how to work together and use the unique skills and abilities of each member while working to get better and stronger each week.

 

Guard teaches young women that beauty and strength are two parts of the same whole!

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One of the greatest gifts that guard gives to teenage girls is the understanding that beauty and strength are two parts of the same whole. Being a member of the guard means that you have grace and dignity as well as strength and fire. These lessons learned during teen years are life changing and help girls mature and become strong and beautiful women.

I am so thankful that Maddie was a “guardie” and that I had the privilege of being a “Guard Mom!”

(Thanks to Amanda Akins and Derek Dodson for the incredible pictures!)

 

Empty Bowls

Months ago one of my colleagues, Beth, the Culinary Arts teacher came and asked me if I would be interested in having my students work with her students on a community service project. Beth told me about the concept of Empty Bowls and how if my students would make the bowls, her students would make the meal and we could donate the proceeds to a worthwhile organization. Sounded great!

So my students got to work. And work they did!! Oh my. They made hundreds of bowls. Some really great ones.. some not so hot. But everyone of my 150 students made a couple of bowls!

Once the bowls dried, the kiln was either running or cooling constantly for more than a month! So many bowls to fire to bisque and then to glaze and fire and then, we had issues with the glaze and many had to be fired again!

It was a tedious process, but the students learned so much and had so much ownership in this project. Students truly cared about their bowls.. significantly more than they would have if it had just been a clay project where they made a bowl.

These bowls had meaning!

We were also incredibly fortunate along the way to have a number of bisque ware pieces donated to my students, so we had some really great serving pieces and mugs that were already fired and just had to be glazed. This gave us a jump start for sure!

So finally it was time for our Empty Bowl Project. We decided to donate to Backpack Buddies of Erath County as this organization makes sure that students that would otherwise go hungry over the weekend and during school holidays have food. Given that a number of my students are recipients of this program, it was nice that they were able to give back without anyone realizing it!

empty bowl project

The night of the event it was cold and rainy.  The soup was PERFECT! The culinary arts students made a perfect meal and some of the board members of Backpack Buddies were able to come and help sell tickets and pottery.

By the end of the evening, we had sold lots of soup and 2/3rds of the pottery was gone. Whew. One of the really cool things from the event was being able to see the pride the students had in their work and their ability to give back to the community.

It was a great event and SHS Culinary and Visual Art students
were able to donate $744 to Backpack Buddies!

empty bowls
SHS Students with Backpack Buddies of Erath County Volunteers

Fostering Creative Thinking

Children are innately creative. I know this. I see this everyday.  Yet I regularly hear adults say that their children aren’t creative. I try to be nice. I’ve learned to just keep my mouth shut and not call out these parents, but oh it is difficult! Children NEED to be creative. It is who they are! From invisible friends, bringing soldiers and dolls to life, and even simply playing house, being creative is a necessary part of a child’s growth and development.

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Why do parent’s say that their children aren’t creative? Well, over the years I’ve decided that it is a control issue. Creativity is often messy.  Creativity requires a suspension of disbelief. Creativity embraces differences and pushes boundaries. All of these are areas that make adults uncomfortable. Believe me. I know! Even in my world where creativity is a prized treasure, it is still messy and at times drives me crazy.

But it is worth it.

So what do you do if you can’t fathom the thought of glitter in your carpet, paint on the back porch,  a million legos underfoot or blanket forts in the living room?IMG_5539IMG_7590

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, start simply.

There are some great games that you can play. While Kylie is the one pictured here, all of my girls are willing and happy to play the games in the pictures together! And that is a win in and of itself! Our family plays games. We play card games, board games and dominoes. We put puzzles together and build lego creations. If the idea of Playdoh crumbs smushed into the kitchen table and chairs gives you the willies.. start with games like Otrio, Trax or Mental Blox.

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(FYI.. this is NOT a paid advertisement.. these are my real life recommendations!)

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Fostering creative thinking is a soapbox issue for me. Why? Because I’m amazed at how many adults DON’T KNOW HOW TO PROBLEM SOLVE! And we as a society are not teaching nor are we modeling to our children how to problem solve, how to come up with new or different solutions to problems or even how to think for ourselves!

While I am a huge advocate for technology and I want equal access to information and all that technology brings, I am worried about the immediate reaction to just “google it” when something doesn’t work.

Resiliency is more than being able to survive when the internet is down!

We have to model and teach children that when there isn’t a clear answer, sometimes we have to simulate the what-ifs and work through options. We have to not only allow FAILURE, but embrace it and show our children how to move through failure to success!

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So there you have it. I challenge you to go be creative today. And no, you don’t have to go paint a picture or create a sculpture to be creative. Go play a game, create a fairy garden in the flower bed, build a treehouse.. do something that doesn’t already have a set finish point and that requires your brain and your body to work together in a new way!

And finally, enjoy the journey

Leader in Waiting

Waiting is hard. We all know that. It’s especially difficult when the waiting is personal. It seems like I’ve been waiting for a chance to be an educational leader for twenty years. The reality is that I haven’t been waiting “that” long, it’s just hard when I know that I have so much to offer and my skills aren’t being utilized equal to my potential.

Nevertheless, I’ve been adding to my education and my resume. I may not be an administrator yet, but I’ve completed my Superintendency certificate.

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I’ve also written another play and have a research article accepted for publication.

One of my friends recently posted a question on her social media feed that I have been pondering.. “How long do you knock on a door before you accept that it is closed?”

I have to say, I can’t help but wonder if the same applies to me. By no means am I going to give up my dream to be a leader. I don’t have to… I AM A LEADER. But the reality might be that being an educational leader might have me leading and serving in an area that I didn’t plan or expect.

And isn’t that the sum of life. So much of our life happens in the waiting. I can chose to be bitter about the fact that the “fast-track” to administration has never included me. Instead, I’m choosing to learn more, reinvent myself and ultimately, I will be a stronger leader.

 

Definitive Choices

IMG_0456How often do we choose to live in the land of the wishy washy choice so that we don’t have to go all in on something? I know that I do it. And I’m an “all in” personality.. Big time! But there are areas of my life that I need to be reminded to “go big or go home.”

Over the last two days, I had the privilege to work with a number of  high school one act play casts from the surrounding area as they prepare for competition. During this time, I found myself repeating quite a few concepts over and over to each cast. One of those was to make concrete choices and get rid of the wishy washy decisions.  It is early in their production cycle, so many of the notes I gave were quite useable (I hope!) as they have time to truly process what I said and then choose to use my thoughts or ignore them.

This got me thinking about decision making it in terms of real life.  I personally love making a decision and then going headfirst into a new adventure. I know that scares some. It invigorates me! My problem typically isn’t starting, it’s finishing.  Nevertheless, there are a number of areas in my life where I need to reevaluate my choices.

There have been times that I have chosen to go headfirst down a wishy washy path purposefully forsaking the definitive choice. Sadly, I see that and realize that the window for the definitive choice has passed me by in some areas. Knowing this, I desperately want to stop, and take the advice of business man, Brian Buffini:

“While there is a time to think about a solution, reflect on it and gather feedback from others, there comes a time when you have to forget about input from other people. Be confident in your choices, and stick by them.”

Open letter to Pediatric Specialists

This week we took my daughter Maddie to a new specialists. This was her 22nd Specialist. Twenty-two times we have sat in a specialist waiting room and have answered countless questions. 22 times. This number doesn’t even include dental/oral specialists, physical therapists, and all the other extra doctors/practitioners we have seen over the years.

We left frustrated.

We left a little more resigned.

We left a little more heartbroken.

So here are my thoughts, not that any specialist will ever see them.. but it makes me feel better to get them on paper. I realize that there are many specialists out there doing a fantastic job and making a huge difference in the lives of children (Dr Wasserman is our hero!) But for every incredible doctor we have seen, we have a handful that have left scars.

Those scars hurt.

And when your whole life is about finding help for your child, having a specialist add to the wound is wrong. I truly don’t believe they realize what they are doing… so here are my wishes and recommendations:

  1. My child has a name.
    Please make an effort to talk TO my child, not at my child. Even better, call her by name! The best way to make a connection is to find a few moments to get to know the patient. I realize that you don’t need a connection, but WE DO!
  2. Read the medical chart before entering the room.
    If we are seeing you, the likelihood is that there is a reason! Please don’t ask us simple questions about diagnosis and referrals, we need to see that you have read the chart and have made an effort. And really, when I have to explain what the primary diagnosis means or how to spell it, how can you expect me to trust anything else that you have to say?
  3. Honor the work that we have made to get here.
    You may not agree with what other doctors have done or said in the past. In fact, you may not see any reason for us being in your office, but please honor the work it has taken to be sitting in your exam room.
  4. Listen
    When you ask a question, listen to the answer. Don’t assume that you already have the answer. We can tell and the best way to get a child to stop answering your questions is to show her that you don’t really care what she has to say.
  5. Don’t discount our experiences
    My child has been sick for 17 years. I have sat in countless doctors offices and have experienced more than you could ever imagine. My daughter is in the 1% club for side effects, allergies, and illnesses. I’ve lived through the fine print! Please, don’t discount our experiences. Just because we don’t describe it exactly how you read it in the textbook doesn’t make it any less valid.
  6. My child is more than a test result and quality of life matters
    I realize that your care is driven by and dependent upon test results, but those things don’t mean much to me. I care about my child and the fact that she is hurting. When tests results mean another dead-end, can you please offer more than “well, at least we have another no..”
  7. Do a thorough examination
    My daughter told you that she had seen 21 other specialists for a reason… She didn’t like your vibe. You then proved it by doing a minimal examination. bummer. You proved you didn’t care right then.
  8. Acknowledge that you don’t have the answers
    After 17 years of consultations and testing, I don’t expect you to have the answers. I pray daily that you do, but I don’t expect you to do so. So instead of brushing off symptoms and clinical observations, acknowledge that you don’t know what to do! We will honor that and invite you to join the journey.
  9. Imagine life in our shoes.
    I’m guessing that living life as a speciality doctor gives you the understanding that you are the smartest person in the room most days. Well, being the smartest person in the room may or may not be the case, but you could at least be empathic! I don’t imagine you have ever considered what it would mean to you and your mindset if you had to go through life knowing that no matter what you did, where you looked, or who you talked to, you couldn’t make things better/heal/fix your child!
  10. Please leave me with hope
    At the end of a consultation leave us with hope. Please. Instead, after sitting through an almost 2 hour visit you said there was no reason for a follow up unless the blood work came back “icky.” Really? How hard would it have been to leave us with the “I’ll be in touch” or something tinged with hope?! But to make a decision that we aren’t worth your time before even seeing test results? really? nice.

So what do we do? We continue to fight. We continue to research on our own. We continue… It seemed awfully easy for you to look at us and say that the current medical research doesn’t have a unifying diagnosis for my daughter. But it’s not easy for us.

and so we will continue the fight, we will continue to search, we will continue to hope.

Cause Maddie matters.

Teaching in a Problem/Project Based Learning Classroom

PROJECT BASED INSTRUCTION – #EDUBLOGSCLUB PROMPT 17

project based

Teaching in a project based learning environment is:

  • exciting
  • fun
  • loud
  • interesting
  • chaotic
  • engaging
  • different everyday

It is not however easy. If a teacher is looking for a simple and quiet environment, a project or problem based classroom is not for him or her…. for that teacher, my suggestion is to stick to the ole’ worksheets and sit back and be bored! A project based classroom is an incredible place to be, but it is work!

Case in point… my classroom. Yes, for the last 9 years I have taught art, but prior to that I taught Economics, Debate, Reading, Creative Writing, Career Investigations, Math, Speech and Theatre and in all of these courses, I used project based instruction. So from a veteran twenty year teacher, I feel like I am a perfect advocate for this type of instruction and learning environment!

So how does project based instruction work? Here is an example..

Over the last few months my art 2 – 4 students have been learning to create logos and to screen print their design on shirts. This project has been a huge undertaking and has lingered on and on!

One of the hardest parts of project/problem based instruction for the teacher is understanding that your schedule, your bundled curriculum, and your lesson plans might just have to be thrown out of the window for the good of the students!

EEK! Yes, I did just say that! But, what I have learned is that while I might have to adjust my plans to make problem based learning work, it is worth it. And, in order to give all of my students time to process and consider the problem or the process, I have students work through the project in stages or increments with breaks for other assignments built-in (this also catches me up on my bundle..) So for example, here is my logo design screen printing project timeline:

Early February: Create a logo for art using a custom graphic and just one color. Students created this by hand and/or digitally. The students that worked quickly set their design aside and moved to a different project. The students that worked slowly were given a couple more class days to work and then had time outside of class to continue working on their own time. Students were told at this point to bring a tshirt and a frame for their screen.

Late February: Students learned how to cut green screen film. This was time-consuming. As the students completed this they were able to adhere their film to their screen and print.. if they brought their supplies. However,  after a couple of class days, students were asked to move to a different assignment and finish cutting as they had time between other projects.

March: Students were expected to have frames and shirts at school. Some did. Some didn’t. As students would complete a different project they were given time to continue their screen printing project. This ebb and flow of the project worked to my advantage as students would get excited when they would see student’s completed work and then want to figure out how to finish their project. I would completely move on and not mention the project for days at a time.

April: Not much happening on the screening of shirts. We were busy with other projects and contests. If a student wanted to work on this project, I let them. But I pretty much ignored it until the late April when I gave a hard deadline that we would be finishing the project the first week of May.

This forced those that had been procrastinating or forgetful to get busy! This was a week of seeing months of on and off work completed.

And why now after all of this time? Because the second Tuesday of May is the day we take our big group picture where everyone wears their creation!

I can’t wait to show those off! I wore one shirt yesterday and am wearing a different design today!

So do all of my students have shirts to wear?

NOPE! And that is one of the real life lessons from project based instruction. I gave lots of opportunities to work, create, problem solve and get help, but in the end, the students had to complete the work for themselves. This week I had one of my oldest, most advanced students get left behind because she missed too many deadlines and never got her green film adhered to the screen. Sad, but that’s part of life and truly one of the best lessons learned with project based instruction.

Do I consider the project successful?

YES! The joy on student’s faces when they successfully created something that could be worn is worth the effort! Besides the fact that I cover a truckload of the required essential skills (TEKS) in this one project, I pride myself on the fact that these students leave with tangible job skills.

Do all of my project based lessons take so long?

YES and NO! Some project based instruction is fast, some is slow. After years and years of this type of teaching I have learned how to weave the projects and expectations of lessons in and out and have multiple things going on in my classroom at one time. This process works for me.. but it would drive some teachers crazy. I get that.

 Is project based learning or problem based learning?

Let me give you an example… I teach four sections of art 1. I really wanted to do a problem based instruction unit on ceramic molds. I knew that this would not work with all of my art 1 classes. So, three classes did a manageable PROJECT based ceramic project where they learned how to create a clay monster and a clay box.

This was PROJECT based… meaning I knew the exact outcome I wanted, but the students still had to experiment, learn and explore the entire process and create a product.

The remaining class whose class dynamics were right for the PROBLEM were given the option to do the project like the other classes or take on the problem. They of course, chose the problem which was to experiment, learn, explore and create using ceramic molds.

The outcome of their problem was not a given. I refused to be anything more than a facilitator and mentor. They loved the process and worked tirelessly for weeks!

For me, the difference between the project and the problem is the willingness for me to let go of the final product. In the world of art, students are constantly working with a project based instruction model.

But when I used problem based instruction, I have to take a step back and let the students drive the process. This happens less often as so much of what we do is for contests. However, when we do, magic happens!

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So in the end, whether you are interested in using Project Based Instruction or Problem Based Instruction, I challenge you to just do it. Giving students hands-on applicable work transforms classrooms, student’s attitudes about school and gives student’s a sense of pride and ownership. Yes, it is a lot of work, but it is SO WORTH IT!

Public Education meet Weight Watchers

Prompt number 16, … Tell a story.. is part of the #EdublogsClub where a group of educators and edtech enthusiasts that blog around a common theme each week.

I’m running behind on my blogging. It’s a sign of the crazy busy schedule. The downside of not being able to respond to the prompt immediately is that I miss out on posting weekly. The upside is that these prompts from #EdublogsClub marinate in my brain for days at a time and I am enjoying the thinking process prior to writing my response.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, right about the time the tell a story prompt came out, I rejoined Weight Watchers. For those of you new to my story, I am constantly battling my weight and have a love/hate relationship with food. A few years ago I joined Weight Watchers and changed my life. Since that time, I have struggled continuously to maintain a healthy weight. Thank goodness I love to run, otherwise the struggle would be much more difficult. However, every so often I try something else.. some gimmick, some supplement, some quick fix.. but in the end, nothing has the staying power of Weight Watchers. Why? Because Weight Watchers doesn’t make me change the very nature of who I am. In order to be successful with Weight Watchers, I don’t have to give up the foods I love, I just have to plan and make better choices. The problem is, Weight Watchers  is boring. It’s not flashy. If you lose a ton of weight week after week, you are doing it wrong. It’s steady, consistent..boring. But it works.8535053-An-image-of-a-person-standing-on-a-scale--Stock-Vector-weight-loss-healthy

And that is the very nature of education.

Quality education is boring. I’m sorry, but if you think that teaching is glamorous, you have not lived in the trenches with teachers very long. Teaching students day after day is hard, it is tedious and to be successful, much of what we do is boring. There. I said it! After almost twenty years in education, I feel like I have earned the right to say it… quality education is boring.

Why? Because the very education that students need, the foundation of our content doesn’t change. Yes, education evolves and yes, new technology brings in new elements and new methods, but the lessons that need to be taught and the skills that must be mastered don’t change. And contrary to what so many talking heads would have us believe, the way we teach much of our information must remain the same. That sameness, that one on one, teacher to student, direct content distribution isn’t flashy, it isn’t cool and it isn’t trendy.  Quality education is like Weight Watchers. It is founded in principles that work, it gives teachers the flexibility to make choices that work for themselves and their students within the guidelines provided and just enough wiggle room each week to keep things interesting, but keep them accountable to the group. See?!school-295226_960_720

And what about the flashy, quick fix? It doesn’t stand the test of time. Over the years, I have seen so many state tests come and go. I’ve seen teaching strategies and classroom management techniques questioned and labeled differently so that the latest and greatest buzz words are being thrown around and used. But at the end of the day, quality teaching and learning is still pretty much the same with a few new additions to improve the process. Just like Weight Watchers… the point system has changed, the activity credits adapted, and the delivery options greater, but the methodology and the results are still based on the same research and continued results.

So as the world continues to watch the state of public education, I offer this… let’s help public education be like Weight Watchers! Sure, the no carb diet gets results, but a person can only live without carbs so long before they give up the will to live. Okay, maybe that is a bit extreme… but really, I’ve tried the no carb thing… it’s no fun. Take the “specials” out of education and leave only the basics and you get a no carb education. Sure you can can survive it, but do you want to?

 

I could go on.. like..

Extreme weight loss surgery that leaves people looking malnourished..yep, we have education systems like that too…

And how bout that crazy diet that some go on that put them in a constant bad mood… yep, we have education systems like that too…

Really. I could go on still, but you get it. From the 15 year old girl who lived on Slimfast to the 40 something woman still fighting the pudgy middle, I have learned that the flashy quick fix doesn’t work. Successful and healthy weight loss and maintenance is slow, it’s steady and it’s consistent daily choices.

And that is what I hope for education.. content that is built on a secure foundation that is capable of withstanding slow and steady growth and change not looking for the flashy quick fix, but strong and steady for future generations.

The Pendulum in Education

The pendulum: used to describe to the tendency of a situation to oscillate between one extreme and another.

That is why the image of the pendulum works so well when talking about education “best practices” and trends.  After almost 20 years in the classroom, I have had the opportunity to learn and use a number of teaching methods. Some are worthwhile. Some are not. But every few years the new “great” thing comes out and all of us educators have to sit in professional development sessions and hear about how if we will use this new method our classrooms will be transformed. They never are.

Yes, I’m a bit cynical.  But after all of these years and reading and researching and actually doing the job, I realize that the catalyst for change, the red ball in my picture above is never a teacher in the trenches. The catalyst is a politician, a higher-education researcher, a group of specialists, a retired administrator.. someone that personally benefits from suggesting this new better thing. The catalyst of the pendulum shift is on the outside and only sees what happens from one point of view.

The best classroom instruction change agent.. a would be pendulum shifter… that I’ve ever heard was at our district’s convocation this past August.  His thoughts were radical! (well not really, but they might as well have been watching the response of the people in the audience..)

He asked teachers and administrators to think creatively and to be engaging in their instruction. He asked teachers to invest themselves personally in the process and not worry about the tests so much. (scary stuff for sure.)

Yes, he was selling his books and yes, he made a nice chunk of change for the presentation… but he was living in the trenches and doing what he was asking us to do. (You can find him at Teach Like A Pirate.)

Huge difference. His ideas came from seeing education from the center of the pendulum. While he was pushing for change, he was also being hit from the other side by the realities of his classroom.

pendulum

In the end, it was a nice presentation and we went on doing what we’ve been doing.. because there wasn’t an outside force that required change. There wasn’t any follow up, no required test, no paperwork followed.

hmmm. interesting. So I guess this reality becomes my question.

How do we in education become internal catalysts for change that we know is needed?

How do we, in essence, change the direction of the pendulum?

Do we have to wait for the hit to come back at us?

Do we have to absorb the changes in one direction before we can send change back in the other direction?

Lots of questions.

Processing this pendulum concept empowers me. Often I feel completely on the outside of the educational process and that my world doesn’t matter to anyone or anything beyond my students and my classroom.

But that is not the case.

All of us. Every. Single. Teacher is part of the the great pendulum and while we may not the be red ball catalyst, we do impact the structure of education.

With every hit (new law), we respond.

With every thud (new research), we react.

With every swing (new method), we learn.

Our ability or inability to absorb pendulum shifts with grace directly impacts our students. So instead of focusing on the bruising impact that some of these shifts in education policy leave on teachers, I’m going to remind myself that I’ve always loved to swing and that the pendulum and all of its back and forth is just a swing set and I’m going to hold on and swing high!