Did you watch Lost? The show had a lot in common with teaching.
You find yourself thrown on an island. You feel disoriented, confused, and overwhelmed. You go into survival mode – what do I need to do to at a bare minimum to keep my heart beating and my lungs breathing?
Then you notice them. The others. They are a mysterious bunch, and they now must be included in the survival plan. You aren’t sure if they are friends or foes. Some of them are still trying to figure that out. But it becomes quickly apparent that you need to work together to survive. What do they know about survival that they can teach me? What do I know that I can teach them? You learn more about each other, and as time passes, things settle down. Life on the island begins to make more sense. You learn how to build a fire. You learn where to find food and how to build a basic shelter. (And, unlike Lost, there are no polar bears, time travel, cryptic numbers, or button that makes the world go round.)
And that’s the problem. Teachers spend the first year or two of teaching in “survival mode”, and unfortunately, some get stuck there. They continue to teach as though they are on an island, isolated from other teachers, working hard to do their job as best they can, reinventing the wheel every semester. It’s tiring. It’s discouraging. There’s no one to bounce ideas off, no one to borrow things from, no one to tell you you’re doing a good job, no one to share your frustrations with, no one to problem solve with. Some teachers left on the island too long become bitter, disfigured memories of a teacher who was once optimistic and eager to teach. Now they just throw coconuts at you if you try to show them a way off the island. (I think they’re resentful of all the time they spent alone, and intimidated by a world they were cut off from for so long).
Sharing with our colleagues is critical. Without sharing, we risk becoming overworked, lonely, irrelevant, bitter, or coconut-flingers. And the great thing about teaching nowadays is that you don’t have to eat lunch in the staff room and hope you find a colleague to connect with (although that’s good too). You can connect and share using Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest or any number of other sites, or take part in learning experiences like #etmooc. (For anyone who might be feeling overwhelmed or uncertain of where to start, here’s a helpful infographic.)
So, with sharing in mind, here are some reflections from the “Sharing is Accountability” #etmooc session tonight:
– just because I shared it doesn’t mean I’ll think like that forever. Allow people freedom to change their mind and message.
– lather before you shave. It’s an old lesson, but a good one. If you have constructive criticism to share, it sure doesn’t hurt to point out what was done well first. We do it for our students, so why wouldn’t we do it for each other?
– filter. There is a lot of information out there, and there is no shame in filtering it. “Don’t feel guilty if you don’t do everything, feel guilty if you don’t do anything” – Shareski
– comment. Sharing can be a vulnerable experience, so it’s nice to know there’s someone out there. And comments can start conversations that lead to connections and more sharing.
– we are on the same team! – so stop throwing coconuts.