TED hosts 1500+ talks on its website and TEDx about a million-billion more, all intended to inspire audiences around the world. Each day, I enter my classroom and am charged with inspiring my students. In leadership, I am challenged to inspire those who are on my team. Pinterest pins accost me with inspiring quotes and Twitter chats ask how I can be inspirational in leadership. My barista asks me if I am inspired by the weather…
Everybody is saying it. But I’m not buying it. AND I am a TEDx Organizer.
True inspiration is a rare occurrence, the hair standing on end, the lump in your throat, the heat in your face, the tears brimming at lids, the feeling that you MUST go out and take action, that you can be a better person, that you are connected, creative and fabulous in every way. The feeling of awe, of being little- but capable, of being empowered and well, divine.
True, some of us are suckers for inspirational goosebumps and run at every idea or notion we have. Some of us don’t sleep, and have overwhelming amounts of projects to complete, some of us have no lives, some of us… well, I’m not naming names. But, some of us -are not all of us- and in my 14 years of teaching I can count on my hands the amount of teachers I have simply been able to inspire.
But don’t worry this is not a moan and groan fest, oh no- this is a 2014 challenge.
You see, for two years, Jeff and I have worked on the Action component of the Primary Years Program. We wrote and published a paper on it, created a website, wrote and published a children’s book, held staff meetings, shared resources, and created a curriculum supplement. The final stage was taken when the PYPC and I created an 'Action Wall' at our school for teachers to put up posters of student action in order to celebrate the amazing learning journeys taking place in their classrooms.
We put out a call for submissions. The director and principal were photographed in front of the wall for marketing… this was going to be great!! (rubs hands gleefully)
Finally, I ended up making posters of the kids who had spoken at TEDxYouth@BIS 2012 & 2013 so the wall didn't stay bare. I was totally bummed out.
It doesn’t stop there, as a tech-head, I have been promoting and advocating for the use of Twitter as a PLN and for professional development. I send out links, resources, tips, and offer help. Most teachers resist taking any of it on.
At the end of 2013, I created my third blog entirely to celebrate teachers I have worked with, or met over my years teaching. It is devoted entirely to showcasing the amazing teaching and learning happening in classrooms. I put out a call for submissions. Blerg. Two takers, in as many months.
Sadly, it goes on. GlobalEd Conference, flat classroom projects, Skype classroom.. no one seems to be picking up what I am putting down. Darn, it! So much fail.
Where did I go wrong? How had I not inspired others? Why did no one want to contribute, connect, create, and collaborate? Years ago, I remember fretting to a principal at our school, a wise older gentleman. His response, “I have been in leadership for a long, long time Tosca, and I am still trying to figure that out.”
I had to go back. Waay back. 1989 back. Back to reflection, back to life, back to reality.
The truth is, teachers are damn busy people. I know that because I am one. And for most teachers inspiration alone doesn’t make the grade. The awe, the goosebumps, those are nice- but there needs to be logistical motivation to take on something new, something ‘more’.
You want in on a little known secret of teachers? We love ‘more time’.
If you could stuff our stockings with time we would prance like little reindeer at a reindeer festival
(I know the analogy is weak, it's waaay after Christmas, but it’s 3AM and I am tired!). Teachers have so much to do, and the number one concern is, “I just don’t have the time.”
Back to that reality check. As a leader it is not enough for me to hope that I simply inspire others. All the TED talks in the world won’t write reports, or design units, or make awesome resources. Nope, but time will.
So this is my challenge. How do I inspire AND provide the time for teachers to act on that inspiration? This is what I have come up with to take to my next leadership meeting:
1. 5-7 mins during staff meetings could be devoted to sharing Action that is happening in classrooms. As an essential part of the PYP, this is not a tack-on, but is already being produced from the teaching and learning cycle. This would be a great way to verbally celebrate authentic student action, as a community. The minute-taker would transcribe these actions, the PYP coordinator and I could collate the information and create posters for the Action wall.
2. Twitter PD infused within the team meetings. I will save my dusty ole' housekeeping for emails and instead every second week provide 20mins of time for teachers to spend on Twitter. I would provide support, tips, and people to follow. I would invite teachers to share-out their interests, and the learning that is happening within their classrooms, as well as gather ideas and resources. I would encourage them to grow their PLN and use Twitter as a source of professional development.
That’s where I’m starting, small. Give a little bit of time and support for inspiration to be able to flourish.
Do you have any ideas of how to not only inspire others, but provide the logistical motivation for teachers to act on that inspiration? Why not throw down some ideas? I will keep you posted as to how it goes.
& a shout out to @josefinor who, over a great conversation in Madrid, shared the idea of Twitter staff meetings
Some images by Tosca Killoran
Pinterest screen shot
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