What do you do? All of us answer this questtion with the short answer “Im a (you fill in the blank).” For me, that answer has changed many times over my career; I’m a rescue swimmer, I’m a Sergeant, I’m a manger, corporate coach, education consultant, sales manager, adertivising manager, business owner, and now teacher. I remember reading something long ago by someone I can’t remember, or maybe I saw it once, but whatever it was, the speaker asked the question, why do we always answer this question (What do you do?) with I’m? Like your carreer is at the center of your being. His idea was that we are not our jobs, we are fathers, sons, sisters, friends. If we feel the need to answer the question about what we do with the title of our job then perhaps simply answer, I work for…, or I work as a corporate coach for…I agreed with this idea until two years ago. It was at that time when I became a substitute teacher in Hawaii. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I didn’t identify with all of my other jobs, I loved and learned so much from all of them. The experiences I gained by fulfilling the roles and responsibilities of those positions are what made me who I am today, but I love to answer the question about what I do with the answer, I teach.
The role of the teacher in quickly changing. Check out Denise Browns article on Chron (http://work.chron.com/difference-between-facilitators-teachers-11510.html)
“Traditionally, teachers are the ones with knowledge and expertise in a particular field. They impart that knowledge through a variety of means to their students. Facilitators build on the knowledge base of the group of students to find the answers to questions.”
I think today’s teachers need to be both. As a corporate coach we never called ourselves teachers we were facilitators. The word facilitator come form the root facile or to make easy. As a corporate coach I had to make sure that the time I was asking my students to invest with me was well worth it. I choose the word invest purposefully. Every minute a sales rep spends in my training is a minute they are sacrificing the opportunity to make sales. They are losing money. When looked at this way they are investing their current sales opportunities in hope that my class will help them increase their chances of making sales in the future. This is a huge responsibility. One i took great pride in. I need to get to know them, I need to understand their stories. I must learn their strengths and areas of opportunity. I must build a rapport, a bridge of trust so that I can uncover what they need so I can facilitate improvements. Now I ask you, how is this any different in our classrooms. Better question, why is it different? Why do we tell kids what it is they need to know without finding out their stories, needs, struggles, successes, wants and desires. I have three days in a sales training to build a relationship of trust so the student will share their strengths and opportunities, share with them my perspective, work with them, help them come up with a plan, role play and send them on their way, with a follow up in a month to see how things are going. In school we get our kids for an entire year (9 months), ask yourself, have I done the work? Did I treat each students time as a precious opportunity to help them grow and by doing so grow myself? Did I respect their time and appreciate the fact them they came to my room today. Or, in Ggeorge Couros’ words did I “forget that if students leave school less curious than when they started, we have failed them.” (The Innovators Mindset: (https://www.amazon.com/Innovators-Mindset-Empower-Learning-Creativity/dp/0986155497/ref=la_B016Z06O5S_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1474251716&sr=1-1). These are the things that keep me up at night. They are also the ideas that make me proud to say “I’m a Teacher.”
Kids today learn differently then even just a few years ago. The internet has been around for a while. I was an Education Consultant for Sprint in the early 2000’s. That’s only 16 years ago. Not long. I just threw out a pair of Addidas Samba sneakers I bought in 2001, so really 2000 was not long ago. During my time at sprint I saw technology advance at a rate that was staggering. As the trainer it was my responsibility to help our sales accociates understand the technology rich features of every handset we carried so they, in turn could educate the customer. I launched Web Mail, Tect messaging, camera attachment, yes before the camera phone there was a Samsung camera that attached to phones. I launched music phones, color screens, phones that added a keyboard. Smart phones we called them. The market was a little slow to adopt the smart phone. At the time phones were getting smaller and smaller and smart phones were large and bulky. Of course all this changed when Apple got in the game and created the iPhone. We went nuts. Ask yourself, when was the last time you saw someone talking on a “flip phone.” I say all of this to bring up a point. It wasn’t until the internet was in our hands at speeds comparable and sometimes even faster then our computer at home, that I began to realize that the current education model is out dated. Students today can find the answer to anything in minutes just by asking Siri what she thinks. I was teaching percentages to a class last week and the student asked me why he needed to know how to figure out percentages when he can just ask Siri. Honestly, the nerve of this kid. Challenging me in front of my class. Doesn’t he know I am the teacher. Just joking. I asked the class, is it important to know this stuff, other than to pass a test, do you really need to remember how to figure out percentages? The typical kids raised their hands and said yes, and no. So I asked “how many say no, no shame, be honest”, and about half the class raised their hands. “Ok”, I said, “so can I assume the rest of you think it is important to learn how to do percentages?” Head nods. “Ok, lets pair off. One person who feels its important and one who does not. Each of you can state your case to the other but here are the rules. One of you will go first and the other person isn’t allowed to talk about their opinion until the person speaking is absolutely convinced that you understand their side of the argument. Once that is done, the second person will have the opportunity to speak and the first person can not add anything until the second person is convinced. In other words we are seeking first to understand before being understood. Ready go”. I’d like to tell you the result was amazing and that these kids should be running the government, but alas I can not. It was messy and unorganized. It was loud and sometime obnoxious, but there were moments when one student truly listened to the other and although they might not have agreed they found some understanding of the other’s perspective. Not a bad day in the classroom.
I teach at an Intermediate school where each kid has the opportunity to have an iPad through the generosity of Verizon’s Digital Promise initiative. I work with digital promise to help teachers leverage this tool in their classrooms. Many see the iPads as a distraction or as another thing that weights down their pile of things to do and learn (similar to the sales rep not wanting to come to class because of potential lost sales) no teacher wants that. I see the iPad not as a tool to implement (which always means more work) but to leverage their already awesome lessons. The iPad, or any other technology are tools. When we here the word technology we always think electronics, or something mechanical, but in reality technology is anything man made that helps solve a problem. So, a pencil is technology. So is Algebra (a man made process that helps solve a problem) We use technology everyday to leverage our time and effort. Our students are using Siri to find out what 42% of 840 is. We should to.