Confession: I skipped 'Day 17'. That prompt asked me to identify the most challenging issue in education today. For that I will simply refer you to some of my earlier posts. Not to mention there are too many at this moment to possible narrow down. And I simply don't have the energy.
So! On to something a bit more positive and, hopefully, energizing. (Fingers crossed.)
This past Tuesday I had the honor of being invited to speak at a UAlbany graduate class that had read an article I had co-authored (with the amazing Brigid Schmidt!) on assessment and the importance of teacher inquiry. Professor Kelly Wissman's course, Practitioner and Participatory Action Research, revolves around teacher research. She asked me to talk about my own inquiry experiences as well as my involvement in the Capital District Writing Project (CDWP). I, of course, was very nervous and not sure of what exactly I would say that afternoon to her students. But once our conversation got going, it allowed me to reflect on my teaching and philosophy in a public setting that reaffirmed why I do what I do.
In talking of CDWP, I explained that I would not be the teacher I am had it not been for my Writing Project colleagues. This organization teaches me how to be a reflective educator, encourages my teacher voice and helps me to truly know the importance of inquiry both for me and my students. I wondered what my classroom would be like had I not participated in their four-week Summer Institute in 2004. I encouraged all the graduate students, many who are full-time teachers and literacy specialists, to consider applying this summer. It was transformative for me...and I never hesitate to invite others to apply and let it transform them.
As the conversation shifted to my classroom, I spoke of the ways that technology and inquiry have shaped my pedagogy. We talked about the messiness of teaching and how one has to be comfortable with that messiness in order to improve and try to make it less messy the next time. I wanted them to know that I didn't have any "answers" to how to successfully center one's practice around inquiry; I only had experiences ripe with failures. But in thinking through those disappointments, I regrouped and adjusted for my next lesson, next unit, next year's group of 7th graders. I thrive in the examination of my teaching choices and how it can always be better...even when I feel something was successful.
I'm not sure if there is a good metaphor/simile/analogy that describes all of this. I'm not a chameleon. For the chameleon changes and camouflages in order to protect itself. That's not me. I change in order to meet the needs of my students. And while this constant change and revision of my craft makes me feel alive as a teacher, it is driven by what is best for them. My students.
I like the idea that there simply is no metaphor that would do my (and really it is so many teachers') teaching philosophy justice. I believe that, despite what you hear in the media and from politicians, this thing we call teaching is the most complex profession there is. It is not something you can package, bottle up, and market. There is no rubric that could cover the many facets of what we do in a day. And there certainly is no test that could measure the impact we have every day. It is, in fact, messy. When it becomes easy, straight forward and simple to predict, it isn't being done the way it needs to be. So if you happen to think of a metaphor, keep it to yourself. I'm not interested.