Being Professional

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The past few days I’ve been thinking about what it means to be professional and what it means to be a digital citizen.

As a teacher and administrator, I always considered myself a professional, trying to always stay attuned on what was happening in educational research and what new developments were taking place. I tried to remember that others who didn’t agree with me needed to be respected and that there were those who weren’t always up on “what was new” but they were still incredible teachers. Yes, I slipped and did some “parking lot talking” but I learned, the hard way, that this wasn’t how professionals acted. Really, there is no safe place to talk about others in a negative way – so I learned to try to see how I could change what I was doing. It has been a very long process – one that is still ongoing. I’m still learning and developing, growing and maturing. I’ve learned to take the criticisms as an oyster uses sand – it’s an irritant but eventually the oyster makes it into a beautiful pearl.

Learning Over Time

When I first became a teacher,  it was a bit easier to stay current. New ideas and new thoughts about teaching and learning weren’t coming across my twitter feed and into my mailbox every day. I didn’t have a RSS feed delivering me new items and the number of “experts” was considerably smaller. That’s all changed – completely changed. Not that I’d go back but it was a bit easier to manage. The next issue of Educational Leadership or whatever your favourite ed magazine happened to be was a month away, books weren’t published overnight, there was a video for everything and the cacophony of people with ideas about how to teach was actually just a few voices. But what we have learned about teaching, learning, students, connecting, sharing, ….. has been so wonderful and transformative, liberating and freeing that I wouldn’t want to change it. Although there are many uncertainties and new challenges, the opportunities for learning are so incredible as students can direct their own learning, seek insights from multiple sources and constantly be learning.

So what does it mean to be professional?

Basically, I was thinking of this after reading a few posts where people made references to others within the profession of teaching, people they knew but didn’t name, and how they didn’t agree with them or their “old” views of teacher,  basically saying, because they weren’t up to speed about technology and social media, they were the problem in education and that those who were “evangelizing” needed to stay strong and not let these other people get the upper hand, to prevail to victory and not let the “luddites” and their ways drain them. To gather with other such evangelists and, together, go forth to make things right! Well, maybe it wasn’t exactly that way but it was very we/them.

When did it become professional to talk about other teachers like this?

I know that it has  been okay to make fun of “those” teachers, you know, the ones who want to discuss “what are we going to do about the hat rule?” or “We all need to have the same expectations for the playground equipment!” at every meeting or those concerned about “the photocopying quota”. How often have you heard these type of people mocked at a presentation? I know I have been at a number of large presentations and conventions where this has been the way to introduce a topic. It really sets a tone because these teachers are set up as being a certain type while “good teachers” do something else.  It seems okay because, well, “We’ve always done it that way.”

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But, hold the phone, isn’t that what I’ve seen in so many places – something about these being the most destructive words we can use? Why is mocking what other people say, even if we don’t agree with it, okay? Why are posts about people who aren’t “technocrats” okay? Or why can we mock people who we think won’t see what we write online because “they won’t read it, they aren’t online”? When did it become okay to bring the parking lot conversations online? Even if we change the tone and use it as an example of how we don’t want people to act, I wouldn’t want to be “one of those teachers.” that gets used in the example.

Being Professional

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This is a great poster. I think it could/should be used to remind staff of their roles in the schools – not just teachers but support staff and anyone who is involved in education. I think it helps remind us that, whatever our stage in our career, we need to be continuously learning and trying to improve. However, we can’t hold this above people and shame them. Yes we need high standards for teachers. This is achieved through a supportive system where personal journeys are supported as people continuously learn and grow. It’s not about beating them or ridiculing them, creating a caste system among teachers of “them and us”.

No where does it say “Ridicule and Mock – point out the failings of others to make yourself feel better” or “Condemn Others Actions – Slight them because they don’t see things in education the same way as you.” or “Publicly Berate – Use others mistakes as ideas for posts to demonstrate their weaknesses and the problems with education.”

Digital Citizenship

I’m currently involved in the #dcmooc  which is discussing/exploring/studying/questioning/researching digital citizenship. One of the questions for reflection/thought was

What professional learning strategies can be used by teachers to model appropriate use of digital technologies for students?

One of them, from what I can see is that, if we are going to “Talk the talk then we need to walk the walk”.  If educators see fit to make fun of those who “aren’t the same or don’t think the same”, what’s the message? One can explain/excuse the behaviour in a number of different ways – many people will do just that. But is it right?

A great quote I read many years ago about character was:

“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” ― John Wooden

As I sat wondering about the above image and some of the discussion that took place around it, I wasn’t necessarily pleased with what I had said – not that it was cruel but it implied that there were those teachers who, because they weren’t as tech savvy or whatever, were somehow not as good as those who were which isn’t true at all. Somehow, technology is creating, I believe, a digital divide among educators that is very negative.

It’s more about what we do than what we say

As parents, many have witnessed that it’s not what they say but how they act that has a huge influence on children. My oldest daughter sent me this link about the influence of actions by fathers on their daughters. I have four daughters. They are are pursuing non-traditional careers. Is there a link?

Being a positive citizen means we need to be aware of how we act and interact wherever we may be and with whomever we might be with at that time and respect them and what they say, even if we don’t agree with it. Maybe, according to our way of thinking, what they said can be seen as part of some problem but then deal with the problem. We have to be aware of our hegemonic thinking and how ideology impacts our pedagogical decisions as educators and how this impacts our particular worldview.

Being professional includes helping others within our profession, sharing and discussing things with them. As an educational leader, there is a huge difference between someone who says “I won’t change what I’m doing” and “I can’t/don’t know how to change what I’m doing”. One is defiance and there are ways to deal with this that are professionally respectful. The other is a need for support and assistance where sharing and caring are important to helping the person move from the “can’t/don’t know” position.

It’s tough sometimes to see how anyone could not see the advantages of some of the changes that technology brings to learning. But, I also know first hand that the approach I’ve described will not work. Belittling, ridicule, finger-wagging, snide comments, exasperated sighs and all the rest aren’t solutions – they’re signs of frustration and aren’t professional. They don’t send a positive message to anyone who sees/reads them but they do have an impact “If she/he does that, then it must be okay.” is the message.

Citizenship encompasses our actions and interactions in all places. Our youth will learn about how to navigate and act from the examples they see. How do you act as a citizen? What are you’re actions/comments? Do they match?

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I am a husband, father, son.... I am currently working on my PhD in Education - Curriculum and Instruction. My focus is teacher professional development and social media integration. I have a beautiful, supportive wife who has been my partner for 28 years. We have 8 wonderful children who are amazing individuals. Together, we are exploring the world around us, sharing our stories, and enjoying the journey!