In response to a post I wrote a few days ago, Debbie and Mark left comments with a similar sentiment. They claimed my classroom and/or SLA as flukes of education. I hear and read this pretty frequently about any teacher or school making exciting change or doing better things to help kids and teachers.
How many exceptions does it take to change the rule?
Anytime someone claims a classroom or school as the exception they then cite another school or teacher as proof things are bad in the educational mainstream. While progressive pedagogy has yet to read critical mass, I don’t know that naming the handful of schools or teachers into which a person has come into contact as evidence of failure rules out optimism either.
Taking off the table the rest of the faculty of SLA, I can match any “failing” educator you’ve got with one who’s doing amazing things for kids.
Think of 5.
Meenoo Rami teaches kids English here in Philly and incorporates collaboration and student choice in all sorts of ways. Not content to settle for the regular schedule of professional development, Meenoo is co-founder of #ENGCHAT and a teacher-consultant for the Philadelphia Writing Project.
Meredith Stewart makes me think more deeply about what I do every time I interact with her. A teacher of middle and high school students in North Carolina, Meredith is certainly top-notch. Her recent posts about having her students teach their peers shows a commitment to building reflective student practice that could serve as a model for teachers at any level. Howard Rheingold summed up Meredith nicely:
She is willing to experiment with new tools, understands that facilitating student collaborative learning and fostering in each student a sense of individual agency as a learner, not technology for the sake of technology, are the important goals for technology-augmented classrooms.
Mirroring Meredith’s reflective practice, George Couros is a fine example of what learning as a principal can look like. His writing on teaching and learning works to push his own understanding of the topic as well as the understandings of his readers. You want to learn with George the way teachers want their students to learn with them.
Scott Bailey teaches students in juvenile halls in California. More than many teachers I know, Scott could excuse himself from the idea of progressive practice, citing the difficulties of building authentic learning experiences given the restrictions of working with adjudicated youth. Instead, Scott engages his students in public writing that helps them to work through whatever brought them to juvenile hall while giving them voice in the outside world. On days when I think my job is difficult, I read the work of Scott’s kids.
Sefakor Amaa is a force of nature. Teaching in the Dallas-Forth Worth, Sefakor once explained her choice to buy a home in one of the more dangerous neighborhoods of her school district. “It’s where my kids live,” she said, “I want them to see that I am there, and understand where they are coming from.” No teacher martyr, Sefakor teaches agency, empowerment and self-worth by constantly monitoring them for her students through her own words and actions.
I’ve hundreds more.
I’ve been looking for them over the last few years. That’s the thing, we have to be looking for them. You see, only a fraction of the great teachers are telling their stories. Only a handful are blogging and tweeting. The rest are doing what we came here to do – helping our students be the best versions of themselves.