Friday, June 1, 2018

The need to be "pushy" in education #EdChat

I was having a conversation with my friend and colleague Mike Medvinsky. We were talking about how important it is for teachers to expand their thinking and I said something like, "I get so annoyed when you push my thinking." Mike is my friend for a number of years and there is some humor in that statement because few people actively explore outside their comfort zone and push their own thinking. I know I do not do it enough. I think lots of people are open to new ideas, but do not necessarily search out ideas the push up against their current beliefs. Mike is great at challenging why I believe what I believe and it forces me to explore why I do believe it so I can articulate it back to him. I don't always change what I'm thinking, but I always have a better understanding of my side and his side.

There are things I believe in and push others about, but there are some things that I'm still old school about and I know that I need people to push me on my beliefs. My friend Starr Sackstein is great example of this. She has pushed me to explore my ideas on grading and what it should look like. I respect her as a teacher and a friend, but "no grades" was just not something I was going to buy into. However, her pushing forced me to stop and think about my position and try and articulate why I believed what I believed. That alone is so important because we should always self-assess our beliefs in education. Why do we do what we do? If the answer is, "because we have always done it that way", then there is a huge problem.

On Twitter, it is important that everyone has a chance to share their ideas and push back against those ideas that do not understand or are not a best practice. Challenging an idea is not the same as challenging a person. There is a distinction between the two, but many attach who they are to ideas, so they can't separate them. I'm an advocate for Project Based Learning and Makerspaces. There are people that do not think my views of both of those ideals are good for students or teachers. That's cool. I support things that work for me and my students and others are welcome to push my thinking and ask questions. I always felt it was part of my job as an educator to teach students to push their thinking and feel comfortable to respectfully challenge what is being shared. There is not harm in asking someone, "why" or, "can you go a little bit deeper into your reasoning".

How do we expect students and adults to challenge misinformation online if we are not comfortable challenging information that is being shared. We all should be able to push more more information. If you are on Twitter to just share one-liners without any substance, that's cute and people will surely give a like or an RT, but deeper conversations are better when there is an opportunity for deeper discussion, reflection, and growth. Maybe Twitter is just not the place for these things.

Being challenged on your thinking can be tough and might feel personal, bit if we are to grow as educators, we need to be able to explain are practices and help others understand why we do what we do. You don't have to change your position when discussing with others, but by at least listening and articulating your position, you can come out with a better understanding of what the other side is thinking. This, of course, should not be contained to educational conversations. This is an approach all people need to take when it comes to having a better understanding of other people and what they believe.

Thanks to all of my friend and strangers that push my thinking, make me uncomfortable, and help me grow as an educator.

Hugs and High Fives,

NP