Starting the Process

It’s probably sort of cliché that I offer my first blog as sort of a genesis story for how I have arrived as a member of this group. But, as I once told a class, clichés exist for a reason.

I begin with the easiest of clichés. These guys didn’t seem like people I’d ever get to know, but instead have become great confidants, supporters, and friends in my career. I had to attend a new teacher orientation, the second time I had gone through the process in the same district, and I’m sure my face showed some combination of boredom and annoyance at going through those days’ events. Jason and Bill were there and have both acknowledged they did not have the best impression. I remember a first-day teacher lunch where I sat down at a Chinese buffet first and Jay chose to sit at the table next to me, rather than beside me. I taught with Marc for a year back in 2012-13, but he was an alternative teacher. I didn’t know what kind of stuff went on “down in the basement”, so I didn’t bother finding out. Jeremy hired me, so he’s cool I guess. The point is, those old-school school clichés still impact those “leading” in the building. There are cliques. There are mistaken first impressions. There are tiffs and overreactions. But through reflection and communication, there can be real growth as a person.

So, that’s what I’m hoping to bring to this website and continue to foster that mentality of growth with these dudes. Most of all, I love that our site has a Parker Palmer quote on that front page. Palmer, a writer who focuses on issues of education, spirituality, and social change, wrote The Courage to Teach, a foundational text in Earlham where I earned two degrees. In that text, Palmer writes, “Good education is always more process than product. If a student has received no more than a packet of information at the end of an educational transaction, that student has been duped.”

That quote perfectly encapsulates what this site is aimed at doing for teachers. We want to avoid the flashy product at the end that is somehow a magic bullet to earn you one day of good instruction and pat on the back from an evaluating administrator. Rather, we are trying to explain the process. What has worked? What hasn’t? What are the challenges in change? What is the benefit compared to other ways of instructing? What can we help identify as road blocks? What can we do to remove those road blocks? Most importantly and above all, we want to provide a community of reflection and adaptation, while still being pragmatic. At least those are my goals, maybe I should have checked with the others?

Palmer later writes in the same text: “Perhaps the classroom should be neither teacher-centered nor student-centered…this is a classroom in which teacher and students alike are focused on a great thing, a classroom in which the best features of teacher- and student-centered education are merged and transcended by putting not teacher, not student, but subject at the center of our attention.” That’s the question posed: what can we as teachers do in preparation, in the shadows, with aid, with help, with change to make learning the heart of our classroom? What can be done to foster that environment? There are a lot of questions as we begin this journey, but I’m excited to continue searching for them with these guys. Awe, how cliché?