Monday, February 01, 2010

Thoughts about EduCon

Purposefully refrained from blogging during EduCon this year.

Instead, I spent my time in Philadelphia doing lots of one-on-one conversation, listening to a lot of conversations, and thinking about a lot of conversations.

In a way, engaging with such a big group of educators gives one a unique opportunity to reflect on one's own practice.

And these are the three things I reflected upon the most:

1) We can't just teach kids. We've got to liberate and empower communities.

We can't just 'think' beyond the classroom walls; we've got to 'go' beyond the classroom walls. We can't just invite parents into our schools; we've got to go directly into the homes of those we serve in our communities.

We have (or could have) the mobile capabilities. We don't need the kids (or their parents) to meet us in one central location.

And schools should not be the 'safe' place for kids to go -- that concept is nearly cynical. We need to help empower the residents of communities to make their neighborhoods 'safe' places; and part of the solution -- just like neighborhood cops walking the beat and chatting with folks in their communities and on-call health providers who go into the communities that need help to make house calls -- part of the solution is us teachers being a routine and understanding part of the web of the community on a street-by-street, farm-by-farm, cul-de-sac by cul-de-sac basis.

We've got to walk the beat.

This, of course, suggests a complete change in the physical and temporal concept of what school is. As usual, I'm always following the most practical route.

2) Teachers are not waiting for the 'okay'. Teachers are just doing it.

Will this cause problems? Yes. Will this change the world? Yes. Am I a totally naive idealist? Probably. Does that change the answers to either of the former questions? Not in the least.

EduCon gave me a burst of faith in the performative and instinctual goodness of people who love humanity so much that they are willing to give their lives to the service of its children.

3) From a purely personal perspective, I went to EduCon with an experiment: to see how this particular group of progressive teachers would respond to free improvisational music. I left EduCon feeling like I've finally come to understand the one unique thing that I can bring to the community: namely, using free improvisation to help people more closely pay attention to one another, help each other, collaborate, reflect, and build meaning and habits of mind that they can then take out into the work of their lives.

I want to pursue this.

I want to meet more teachers, more thinkers, more folks who are willing to sit down for a bit and enter into a deeper experience of collaboration. More on this forthcoming as I wrap my own brain around it.

So, thanks to Chris and all the teachers and kids at SLA. And peace to all of you who I met there. This community is real, vibrant, alive, and changing the world one school, one kid, one life at a time.

Far out.


  1. Reflecting on one's own practice seems to be the most important thing to come out of these sorts of conferences. As you may recognize, I went to NECC in DC this past summer expecting to have a lot more conversations. Instead, I spent a lot of time feeling like a deer in the headlights about to be struck by an oncoming truck — the oncoming truck of digital change.

    It's amazing to me that almost any and all moments of communication with other teachers, directly or indirectly, can help us reform and reinvigorate our practice. I wish we all took the time to sit down and have coffee together, have lunch together, have dinner together more often — especially the teachers in the same general knowledge areas but different schools, who are strangers to one another.

    Glad that philadelphia was such a positive eye-opener!

  2. I couldn't resist the temptation and even though I don't feel comfortable writing in English (improving my writing is still in my "to do list" in my process of learning English...), I wanted to tell you how important your words are when you say: "I want to meet more teachers, more thinkers, more folks who are willing to sit down for a bit and enter into a deeper experience of collaboration". I really think the future will be or must be built in these terms of collaboration.

    Thank you very much for all your articles in this blog. They are all inspiring in some way.

    (Somebody from Spain)

  3. If we really want to do this, why are we still working in schools whose basic model is hierarchial and controlling and essentially antathema to collaboration, sharing, exploration and experimentation? Why don't we just quit and start doing these things other than a lack of backbone and the fear that we are wrong? Schools destroy us as we try to re-invent them.

  4. Norman's comment strikes a chord with me. Can't tell you how many times this past weekend I thought, "Screw it, let's all just start over." From the ground up, not only re-think every aspect of school, but then actually do it. The will is clearly there; the rest is details, no? I often feel it's likelier I'll see Godot before I see significant, meaningful, sustained change in our current educational system.


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