Before Educon started, I believe that it was Jen Wagner who reminded me that SLA was not a place in which processes could be lifted from their school and automatically duplicated in another. She reminded me via tweets to choose some small piece that I liked and find a way to make it work in my own practice. Although I knew this, I was glad for this reminder from someone who had experienced Educon along with the community of individuals who have attempted to “take it all in”, place it in their schools and fail miserably. That will not be me and it doesn’t have to be you either.
Drinking the Koolaid
We all attend events where we are so engulfed in the ideas presented that we get so pumped that we want to do EVERYTHING when we get home. That’s what “drinking the koolaid” is about which is why many that attend events like Educon experience the “downward spiral” upon returning home. You can’t do that. SLA is a unique experience that is specific to SLA. However, there are pieces of what SLA does that can certainly be done in any school that is open to it. (Student choice and PBL are great starts.) I have to believe that sharing “how students learn” at SLA is one of the reasons that its doors are open to the world for this event. That does not mean that every idea needs to be duplicated. I’ve had a blast soaking up the awesomeness that is SLA while at the same time thinking about some small change that I can borrow and reconfigure in my own environment. One small shift in thinking can spark big change. It’s important that we understand that…one small change.
Post-Conversational Change on Privilege
My final conversation at SLA was the conversation about privilege as led by Audrey Watters and Jose Vilson. In hindsight, it seems only fitting that this was the conversation that ended my Educon experience. I sat there in that session quietly listening and thinking. It occurred to me how much I had not really dealt with in terms of race in privilege in my own life. We never talk about it and frankly, who can I talk about it with? In that room, it was refreshing and fulfilling to hear how others are affected whether that be race, gender, class or even from the standpoint of self-reflection. We all will experience both sides of privilege at some point in time in our lives. It’s what we do with or without our privilege that matters. There has to be some understanding on both sides. We needed to have this discussion and I’m glad that we did.
It’s odd that as much as I tweet, I could not bring myself to leave the moments in that room to post. I wanted to listen without distraction. I found that interesting. I will say that finally getting out one of my experiences on the topic felt like lifting a weight from my shoulders. I also felt empowered to discuss it beyond the room but with several parties…specifically within the very white male dominated edtech world. We are represented by women and people of color as well. It’s time that we see more of that. It’s time that we feature more of that.
After a few days of Educon, what I learned more than anything was that every voice matters and that includes students and parents. To be fair, I knew this but now I get it with a vengeance! After all, it was an SLA student who said, “we want to be viewed as intelligent opinionated human beings.” In other words, if your intent is to fix things within your schools, include your students in the process. Their voices deserve a platform to be heard. When those voices are speaking, whether it be students, parents or the quiet teacher down the hall…consider their thoughts as viable ideas.
I felt that I left Educon with a charge to speak louder, support more and help teachers give students more choice & voice. The koolaid is not quite gone yet but even when it is…big changes are yet to come.