"Creativity is contagious, pass it on." ~Albert Einstein

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"This Class Stinks!"

A couple of weeks ago my school district hosted our annual Technology Day.  We had a great day for our staff with lots of learning opportunities and some really great conversations.  I have been doing a lot of thinking about a statement that was made in one of the sessions that I attended.  The session was hosted by my good friend Brent Catlett aka @catlett1 called "Rocks or Sucks."  Yes, it's a brutal name, but after you have attended one of these sessions you will look forward to the next.  Read here for an article by @billselak about the "Rocks or Sucks" session.

There were some really great conversations happening on the topics that Brent was throwing at us.  We talked about homework, professional dress, testing, then the topic of social media in schools was thrown on the table.  After the participants divided themselves, each side (and middle) were asked to give their point(s) of view.  There were only about 2-3 teachers on the Rocks side of the room and one of those teachers volunteered their opinion on why they favor social media in education. This particular teacher had some really good points in regards to the value of social media in education, but there is one thing that they said that stands out.  I can't recall what they said verbatim but it went something like this, "I want to know if a kid is tweeting about my class.  If that kid tweets that my class sucks, then I guess I need to do a better job of teaching."  It might not seem like that big of a deal to you, but the teacher that made this comment is only in their second year.  I never imagined I would hear this from a second year teacher.

I wonder how a veteran teacher would react to this situation?  Would they send the kid to the office? Would they blame social media?  I hope not.  I hope that they would have the gumption to take a look at what they were doing and make changes in their classroom for the better.  I would hope that they would have a conversation with the student about using social media in a proper way and about being a good digital citizen. I would hope that they would have a conversation with that student (or class) and ask them for some feedback on what they could do differently in their classes.

I had some of those conversations with my students after my third year of teaching. I didn't have to read a tweet or Facebook post to know that my class was boring.  I was teaching like I was taught. Overhead projector, transparencies that I covered up with a blank sheet of paper. I was having my students set and get.  I was doing all the talking.  Luckily, I had a Principal that challenged and encouraged me to ask my students for some feedback about my classes.  He told me that if I did ask for feedback, that I had better be prepared to change some of the things I was doing. I did it.  I asked my students what I could do differently. I empowered them.  They gave me honest feedback.

It made me a better teacher.

Maybe it's time you asked your students for some feedback.  Trust me, they will be honest.


  1. Great post. We just ran a number of "Things that Suck" sessions with our faculty the past few months, and they were great opportunities fro shared dialogue, openness, and learning from divergent perspectives. (http://drewfrank.edublogs.org/2014/01/16/another-pd-gem-mined-from-my-pln/) We followed this up with a parent session, and I know a number of teachers are using this in their classes (though it is being presented as things that rock and things that don't for the elementary years). My favorite piece of the exercise is that it requires we take a black or white stance on subjects that are inherently grey. Thanks for sharing, and I look forward to passing on to my team.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment Drew!

  2. Great reflection on the session Craig. I would agree that this can be an empowering and powerful conversation and one that is beneficial to both teacher and student. I also acknowledge that this would be very difficult for many teachers. Once they start, however, it can profoundly change what they do in a classroom and the relationships they develop with their students.

    1. Thanks, Greg! It is amazing how doing one little thing can make a huge difference.



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