I spent the weekend at a meeting of educators from around the country in Tucson, Arizona. The meeting was organized by the School Reform Initiative, a national organization that “creates transformational learning communities fiercely committed to educational equity and excellence.” It is hard to explain to people who are used to conferences and workshops how the experience of educators at Winter Meeting is essentially different from those types of professional development. The essential structure of our two and a half days together is a group of 10 to 12 professionals who represent a diverse range of age, experience, ethnicity and roles in our education system. I happened to be in a group of 11 with educators from Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia, New York, and Massachusetts.
In addition to the time spent in this group, I heard from two keynote speakers at the open and close of the meeting and spent Friday morning visiting City High School and learning about how they use Community Day to connect students to the city around them and encourage students to collaborate across grade levels outside of the usual classroom structure. What’s further remarkable about the Winter Meeting is that the scheduled time to meet is not nearly enough to contain the questions and conversation that my colleagues and I wanted to have. An apparently innocuous question to someone I’ve just met like, “how did you become a teacher?” lead to a pretty significant conversation about school culture and expectations for our students.
As our small group finished our last session together we each took turns sharing how our weekend has affected or changed us. My response:
I used to think that because I worked with fantastic colleagues who shared my vision of serving students through empathy, innovation, and collaboration I did not needed a wider network of support during the year. Now I think that connecting with individuals from other parts of the country has the potential to push my thinking in a way that will make me a more effective classroom teacher and instructional leader. I think there is an opportunity to use technology and social media to make this much more likely.
So my first action based off this closing thought is to write about my learning and my commitment to share it. My second action is to invite more people to visit this site and continue the conversation. My hope is that as I try to regularly highlight the questions and answers that my job raises for me there will be a positive ripple that moves out from me, to the students and teachers at my school, to educators around the country who can be renewed and excited by conversations about equity and excellence in education.
Websites about teaching and learning that are good and powerful have the following traits I aspire for Complementarity to develop. They give an honest description of what happens in the school or classroom and the emotions that those events evoke, and yet, do not violate anyone’s right to privacy. All of the writing is infused with a sense of joy about being paid to spend time with students and learning new things about the world together. Finally there is a space for a community to have conversations and for people to give and receive critical feedback. Feel free to share my writing and leave comments in any way that furthers the conversation about teaching and learning. I hope that this site can become a useful addition to the many conversations taking place online.