Spring time. It is such a great time of the year. It’s a time for tulips, pussy willows, and getting the garden ready for summer. Excitement abounds as plans to end the school year are set and summer vacations are scheduled. What I like most is that a feeling of rebirth, reinvention, and re-invigoration are in the air. At home and work, it is time to do a thorough spring cleaning. Around now, most of my favourite magazines inevitably find their way to friends, the faculty room for some gentle re-use, or my blue box for the requisite recycling. But I also find time to enjoy parts of them one last time before sending them off to a new home.
In DWELL, I recently re-read an interesting article about William McDonough‘s work as an architect, designer, sustainability guru, and founder of Cradle to Cradle design. Reflecting on his work, McDonough spoke of an important lesson that he learned from one of his mentors, Walker Evans. Evans was a noted large format photographer, who at seventy, took to using a simple Polaroid camera for much of his work. Why did he do this? Simply, he recognized that …
“…you need to learn that every ten years, you put down your tools and pick up new ones; otherwise, you only have one life.”
So, I have found myself thinking about Walker Evans’ words of wisdom and William McDonough’s example. I have always enjoyed and valued the change that teaching internationally has afforded me. Over the years, I have gained valuable experiences in a diverse range of international schools in Europe, Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East. I have worked as an elementary classroom and middle school subject area teacher. I am certainly richer for the experiences that the constant change has provided.
Maybe it is because it is spring. Maybe it is because I am approaching the end of my eighteenth year as an educator. Or maybe it is because I feel the need to make room for something new by getting rid of the old; but I keep asking myself …
What can I do to live more than one life?
What tools will I put down next year?
What new ones will I pick up?
As a life long learner, I need to practice what I am not good at. What do I need to practice?
As I confirm my summer plans, I am also considering what old tools will I put down and what new ones will I pick up? What disruptive technology can I adopt next year to help me live more than one life? I have started my list and am excited by the possibilities. I do believe that some of the characteristics of great educators is that they continuously reflect on their work. They seek to stretch themselves, and are comfortable being out of their element.
But I also find myself considering how can I encourage my colleagues to live more than one life? As a learning leader, principal, or headmaster, what are you doing to help your colleagues put down their old tools and pick up some new ones? Are you embarking on a 1:1 iPad pilot program? Implementing a new standardized assessment like the ISA? Beginning to explore different forms of running records? Reconsidering the idea of literacy in today’s ever changing world? Offering alternative sources of professional development like a COETAIL course, instructional coaches, or the use of agendas and protocols to enhance collaboration? What part does identifying disruptive technologies play in your end of year reviews or goals meetings?
What are the old tools that you might put down? What new ones might you pick up?