Today, I attended the first day of the The FETC Executive Summit in Orlando, FL. The Future of Educational Technology Conference is one of my favorites to attend, and being invited to the Executive Summit that includes state- and district-level IT leaders, superintendents and administrators was a huge honor to me. This is the 2nd year FETC held an Executive Summit in hopes to bring these people together to gain new insights and knowledge about major societal and technology trends impacting their schools.
Listening to amazing Edu-Rock Stars George Couros, Dwight Clark, and Thomas Murray, brought me to the biggest theme I took away from today: Relationships Reign. There are so many issues debated in the the education world today: ed reform, school policy, technology trends, national standards, school safety, no child left behind–the list goes on and on. There is one topic that all educators can and should agree on: building strong and meaningful relationships and motivating our students will foster a positive and inviting classroom leading students wanting to succeed in the classroom. Dwight Clark notes, “no significant learning can occur without significant relationships.” When we create these meaningful relationships with our students AND teachers we can inspire innovative learning, come up with solutions instead of excuses, and not necessarily doing something new, but do something better. As educators, if we want meaningful change, we have to make a connection to the heart before we can make a connection to the mind.
Now, I’m not naive to think that this is the only thing that will help students or that it will even be an easy process. That being said, making this a priority in schools and classrooms will only help the process of improving many issues that may arise. If you’re a classroom teacher and think, “I’m tied to my classroom. I can’t do anything for the whole school.” Think again! Think big, believe big, act big, and the results will be big.
Positive relationships and motivation are contagious! In an education system where many of the educators on the front lines—the classroom teachers—are frustrated, motivation to stay the course is imperative. As soon as the drive to be the best at one’s craft starts to diminish, the quality of work and work ethic will quickly follow suit, and so will the students’ drive to succeed. We need to continually ask ourselves, “Would I want to spend the whole day learning in my own classroom?” If the answer is no, how can we viably ask our students to do the same thing? We don’t want our classrooms to suffer from “The Cemetery Effect” as Thomas Murray so eloquently coined. (I particularly like the tennis balls on the headstones to keep them quiet)
A sense of contagious optimism from administration and teachers will help motivate the students in a positive direction. It’s not always easy, but as the great Julius Erving once said, “being a professional is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don’t feel like doing them.” There will be days that are hard to handle, but handled with a sense of contagious optimism for students and colleagues, can help motivate that sense of drive to get the job done in an innovative and positive way. As George Couros said, “we need to make the positives so loud, that the negatives are almost impossible to hear.”
Use this positive relationship building and contagious optimism and take a stand to make education FUN! Make your classroom one that your students want to attend everyday! We want our students fighting to want to be at school. Make your students say, “NOOOOO!!!” when you tell them they will have a substitute the next day. Get your students to ask everyday, “What crazy awesome things are we going to do in class today?” Think of your class as a dance party, and you’re the DJ. Do you want your students sitting on the outside of the dance floor, arms crossed, just listening to the music? Of course not! Its your job to get them to dance! Get those students on the dance floor and rockin’ out to their learning! Find the “music” that innovates and motivates their learning and keeps them dancing and begging for more!