I have gotten the hang of creating educational quips within 140 characters or less. I started my educational Twitter account in January 2015, and I now have a large, diverse professional learning network (PLN), a clear testament to this fact. I worked at it: I got involved in educational Twitter chats, I replied thoughtfully and honestly to the tweets of fellow educators; in brief, I engaged. What is coming less naturally is blogging, and I have been chewing on the ‘why’ in earnest. My summer reading for professional development (PD) has provided some clues, and mother nature has provided yet other clues. I will attempt a synthesis of these clues here.
My first summer PD reading was “Inquiry and Innovation in the Classroom” by A. J. Juliani. My age belies the probable style of my teacher training; I undertook my Bachelor of Education in 2006-7, and I am well steeped in the what, how and why of constructivist techniques. Juliani’s book provided me with some great new tools for my toolbox, including regularly scheduled 20% time. I absolutely believe in students creating and driving their own learning, and fresh ideas for the implementation of this process are just what I needed eight years into my career of teaching high school life sciences. I cannot wait to see the looks on the faces of my students when I announce it in August; permission to explore their own curiosities!
It has dawned on me in retrospect that my blogging journey has been stunted not by a lack of permission to engage in my own 20% time, I am an adult, I can do mostly what I want, but by a perceived lack of permission. I am brave, but I step very much outside my comfort zone in putting myself out there on display. It is my nature to work behind the scenes, often nervous of what others might think or say. So today I say to myself and with emphasis that I absolutely have the right to post my ideas in a blog that others might read. This is my personal journey in lifelong learning, and no one can take that away from me, neither with thoughts nor words.
Disturbances happen with regularity. In the ecological context, land clearing is a disturbance, which, at is conclusion, can provide the right conditions for colonization by opportunistic plant species. These species are resilient, but far from equivalent. What they have in common is the ability to capitalize on a specific set of environmental conditions in a shared geographic location, but their differences and unique adaptations concurrently set them apart. Their own 100% time is spent exploiting the resource to the extent that their individual adaptations allow, and what they have in excess is the freedom to grow.
In the educational context a disturbance could be many things, a change in administration, a change in curriculum, a shifting of subject courses and their sequence, but we must still find freedom to grow. My personal disturbance has been eye-opening, I no longer teach ecology, and the educational landscape is a moving target, shifting under me. I must rely on my strengths, develop my weaknesses, and seek new opportunities for freedom to grow. My Twitter PLN has provided me with the right set of environmental conditions, and now I must give myself freedom to grow from there. I remain a work in progress, and each day I become a little more proud of this.
Juliani, A. J. (2015). Inquiry and innovation in the classroom: Using 20% time, genius hour, and PBL to drive student success. Routledge Taylor & Francis Group: New York.