What’s the rest of us to do?

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the EduCon conference in Philly at Science Leadership Academy where Chris Lehman  is principal. In my PLN there are a number of people making the trip to take part in this great conference and I know there will be a host of live Ustream events and people blogging about the event. This is a wonderful chance for people to see an example of education that is much different from the regular education model. I commend Chris on his work, effort and what he has accomplished and what is happening at Educon.  

However, there is one nagging thing that keeps gnawing away at me. You see, no matter how hard we try, almost all schools I know will not be able to do what is being done at SLA. They don’t have the resources, they don’t have the mandate and they don’t get to choose their students. I am in a rural school where our K – 12 population is less than 250 students. There is no way we can: attract the teachers; select students; diversify our staff – to be able to create soemthing even remotely close. Don’t get me wrong, I think that if you have all the right pieces, then go for it. Heck I would.

In my reality, this is not possible. We can chin wag all we want about so many things but, when the rubber hits the pavement, we aren’t going to be able to follow the model no matter how motivated the teachers or how deep the desire because of too many things that just aren’t part of the equation. So if we can’t follow that model, what’s the alternative? For schools where all students must be taught and our goal is to have every child learn to their greatest potential, where differentiation is often so varied in a classroom and students have all sorts of learning disabilities, where teachers are often teaching in their area of specialty plus teaching a few other things that need to be covered, where our technology, although better than in many areas, will not be able to grow and evolve with the students growth as we would like it, where socio-economics does play a part and students are involved in so many things, how can that model fit?  Just looking at my own teaching load this year, it has changed twice since the year began because that’s the reality of our school.

I know that there will be those who are thinking “Well, if you just tried harder.” or “You need a more positive attitude.” or “Not all schools will fit one model”. Maybe I can try harder and be more positive. As for the model thing, being someone who has been deeply following the growth of edtech and school development over the last 10 years, the hype that this conference is getting and the wonder produced by those who attend would make it seem that isn’t necessarily true.

To tell you the truth, as much as it is a great thing, it is so far from my reality that it really doesn’t interest me. The gap between the Science Leadership Academy and our school is just too large. It’s kind of like some of the things I hear from people who haven’t been near teaching or in a school every day for 15 years. Kids have changed and they aren’t the same. All the theory in the world isn’t going to fill empty stomachs, mend hurt feelings, solve arguements or provide a safe place for those students who need it. I get a bit frustrated with people who toss out ways to solve educational problems without having the experience of seeing what is happening in schools firsthand. We do need to take a look at education and there needs to be changes. However, the variables have changed and it just isn’t that we have the technology to get information so we really don’t need to despense it any more. It goes much deeper than that, much more to the worldview of the students, the way of seeing a world that, for them, isn’t the same as it is for adults and continues to change at a rate that boggles the minds of most people.

I don’t know, maybe I’m just frustrated or, deep down, jealous. It could be it’s really cold here and I’m tired with a pile of work left. Maybe it’s just the fact I’m not getting enough sun. I’m not really sure but there just seems to be something missing in all the discussions and writings I’m reading regarding schools, education and the future.  I can’t put my finger on it but it just isn’t fitting right. Call it a hunch but there is something about what is being said that isn’t quite jiving with what I get from going to class each day and doing my best to move student learning along in some fashion.

Or maybe it’s just that extra piece of garlic bread.


  1. Reply

    I disagree! I work in a school where the first year I integrated with one teacher computer in the classroom. I did it, so I KNOW it can be done. I buy most of my own equipment, school lacks funds. I feel it it THAT important to engage learners and prepare today’s students for their tomorrow. Admin has rules against all that I do and I do it anyway (and tell them I do it) because it is THAT important ! So I totally disagree and now I must go get ready to drive to that conference where I will bump shoulders with others who think it is THAT important. (Hope to see you watching online!)

  2. Paul R Wood


    I respectfully understand your frustration and truly think that there is more to this than meets the eye. Being from Texas I usually blame my frustrations on too much sun. I am a Director of Technology at a 6-12 private, Catholic School. Now, before you think private with lots of money, we are an inner city school with 675 students and 48% of them would qualify for free and reduced lunch if we were part of that program. I have been there 32 years because I see it as my vocation. I have seen the numbers drop from 1000 at the high to 242 at the low. We have re-made ourselves into a relevant educational facility that produces quality students who care for the world and other people. While technology is a big part of that I think it is more about what we do with the tech that is important. Check out http://www.bdhs.org/gis for a start. It also starts with a vision and sometimes you have to either slowly help convert people to the vision or ask them to find a place to exist outside the walls of your school. It is not easy, it is frustrating, but it is very worthwhile. I have brought 2 other faculty members here for Educon as it is important that I am not the only one talking about this type of learning environment. It must be heard from multiple voices, multiple times before people start to get it. I go to continually learn and if I model nothing else for my faculty and students I would hope that see that we all need to continue to learn. Hang in there and try to get a little more sun, visit with people who are like minded and if necessary come to Texas and visit. We would be more than happy to have you see what we do and what we try to do.

  3. Reply

    I also must disagree. The cost of technology has dramatically decreased and with the onset of Web 2.0 tools and more open source products, it is possible for every district to make progress toward teaching 21st century schools. Your small population opens the doors for collaboration and cross grade cooperation with authentic projects. There is definitely a way.

  4. Reply

    While I can agree with you — about being envious that people are going to this conference.

    I have to wonder if perhaps you are confusing the conference location with the conference content???

    Yes, SLA is a remarkable place. It is unique and I know that my campus of 1,200 will never even come close. Mostly because we don’t have the leadership that is in place or the teachers in place…….

    but I cannot let that continually discourage me. And though it might sound pious, I keep doing my best with what I have to do my best with.

    What I am envious with what is going on at SLA this weekend is the conversations, the reinforcement, the ideas, the laughs, and the possibilities.

    That is what I am jealous of missing. But I am also glad that they will be ustreaming or mogulousing it — because in a way, I will get to be there.


  5. Reply

    If we don’t or can’t imagine the impossible, it will never be possible. Seeing SLA allows me to recognize what I wish to strive toward. Will I get my whole district, school, even grade level there? Not anytime soon? But does that mean I can’t even attempt a bit in my own world?

    I watch shows with great mansions. Rich people going on extravagant trips to spas. Will I ever be like them? No. But I can afford a high thread count sheet and at least pretend while I am sleeping. Every little bit helps.

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