“Of course the internet being the internet…there was a rapid outcry.” Scott McLeod

Snowballing happens when nothing gets in the damn way.  The honest reason that more teens aren’t using social media to change the world is because there are so many teachers in the way.

I’ve been that teacher.  We have all on occasion been more of a hurdle and less of an inrun.

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A huge shift in my teaching and learning happened seven years ago.

Thanks in part to NIST

I applied to be on a small team of educators who would shape the house program.  We coordinated a range of activities big and small, we brainstormed ways to inspire a culture of mentorship and community.  The key to that coordination was two part:

a) Empower student-driven activities

b) Provide open-ended opportunities

Coordinating our house program wasn’t about coordinating kids.  It was about fostering creativity and collaboration.  Navigating that challenge is only possible if you trust the students.

Want to see what happens when you get out of the way of students?
We need to shift the way we think about assessments. 

My former colleague Brian Jackson is a true trailblazer in this regard.  He knows that we need to give our students the opportunity to think for themselves in regards to the methodology in which they can demonstrate learning objectives.  Brian Jackson often constructs rubrics with the students.  This shift in collaboratively constructing units of inquiry is hugely needed.  The top-down approach no longer fits our flat context.

The reality is, students have publishing, programing, and production opportunities at their fingertips.  The options for demonstrating learning have quadrupled. 

As an MYP and DP teacher, I think of myself as a thinking-facilitator.  My primary purpose needs to be fostering globally-minded citizens.  That’s huge.  That’s why teachers get summer vacations.  If I am not asking my students to practice being thoughtful day after day after day, I have no hopes of achieving my primary purpose.

It is difficult to ask someone to be thoughtful and creative if you keep students out of the planning phase. 

Schools that don’t make time for this are short-changing the entire community.  I’ve long been an advocate for protecting ‘teacher-time.’  When I am short on time, my planning suffers.

“Nobody needs telling that meetings are a catastrophic waste of work time. But even so, it’s a little alarming to learn just how much time they can waste. In the Harvard Business Review, three consultants from Bain report the results of an exercise in which they analyzed the Outlook schedules of the employees of an unnamed “large company” – and concluded that one weekly executive meeting ate up a dizzying 300,000 hours a year. Which is impressive, given that each of us only has about 8,700 hours a year to begin with. Including sleep.” Taken from The Guardian’s “Meetings: even more of a soul-sucking waste of time than you thought.”

Most schools prioritize teachers meeting with other teachers and administrators.  Shouldn’t we place more emphasis on the time we each spend with students?

Teachers and administrators can also be hurdles.  What might happen if we hosted a ‘meeting-free month’?  What creativity might ensue from those pockets of time?

Much in the same way we need to challenge our students, schools also need to challenge their own practices.

Empowering learners is not only about empowering students.  How can we empower our colleagues?

Make room.
Make time.

Assume your community will use both wisely.


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