Like any organism, a school needs to evolve in order to become a successful institution of education that provides students, parents and teachers with a positive learning experience. If schools remain stationary in their roles as places of education, then they risk becoming archaic institutions that serve no other purpose than becoming glorified creches for children and teenagers.
How does a school remain stationary in a world which has never been so dynamic?
Well, I believe there are numerous reasons for this. It could be any of the following: a lack of vision from the school’s senior management: poor teaching and learning: an outdated curriculum that no longer challenges and engages the students: a lack of connectivity with the school’s parent community. In fairness, these are but a few of the many reasons for a school to fail.
So, what can I do about it?
Well, as a class teacher, I have limited influence over many of the administrative issues facing the modern school. However, sometime ago, I came to realise that I did have the power to affect change at a classroom level. And so I gradually began to move away from the more structured safety of the curriculum we were teaching. Now let me be clear here-I didn’t instigate a one-man educational revolution and start teaching the children Zen Buddhist meditation techniques instead of maths. No, I just started to adapt and tweak the, already excellent, planning which had been in place since I had been at the school. However, I soon realised that I was starting to run out of ideas and that my creativity was becoming stifled due to a complete lack of ideas. In essence, I had nowhere to go to find ideas for new activities, lesson tasks and projects!
Is there anybody out there who can help me?
As it turned out, there were many like-minded individuals within my own school who were already creating and innovating on a scale I couldn’t even begin to think about (in fact some of these people are recent members of the COETAIL community and are the reason for my entry into the course). The problem was – “How do I approach these people for help?” And this is where I felt an almost empathic understanding of Jeff Utecht’s words regarding growing a PLN (Personal Learning Network).
Growing your network to the size you want is not very difficult, it is the self promotion part of the job that most people have issue with. Jeff Utecht-Reach
In all honesty I have never been the most confident of people. I find it really difficult to promote my ideas and have always worried about the inevitable judgements that people make. However, I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the school’s new Twitter feed by my year leader(a fellow COETAILER). She suggested that I join the school’s TWITTER community. So I decided to test the water!
And it has to be said, with regards to being a more active member of the school community, that it was the best thing I ever did! After creating a TWITTER account for my class I finally feel like I have a growing PLN within the school’s TWITTER community.
What is the next step?
Even though I have taken the first small step to creating a PLN, I am still terrified(as Jeff has written)of the following:
It’s much like opening the door to your classroom and having a “Anyone’s welcome sign”. Only now you are opening the door to your professional life online. Jeff Utecht-Reach
Personally, I find it very hard to imagine a more terrifying prospect than everybody being free to judge me! However, after joining the COETAIL course I am starting to realise that without taking the plunge and opening up a dialogue with other educators and teachers I too will become a part of the stationary school.
I would just like to add that I have no doubt that once I become even more connected and confident, and that may take some time, I do believe that my teaching practice will benefit greatly from the connections that are made.
Finally I leave you with my own small addition to Jeff’s formula for Network building:
Activity = Visibility = Connection opportunity = Many ideas = Creative curriculum = Engaged students = Positive learning environment = Everybody happy!