Being asked to consider my five year plan makes me feel like I should outline steps for personal career advancement. Truthfully, I could return from my formal leadership role or to the classroom as a teacher and be completely satisfied as long as I also feel I am working with fellow educators to innovate and improve educational experiences and opportunities for students. Admittedly, being able to influence my peers can be more challenging when removed from formal leadership, as I would not be in a position to direct professional development and support towards goals I consider worthwhile, but I even as a teacher I can (and would) take steps to open collaborative conversations around high quality instruction.
This fellowship has pushed me to constantly consider what high quality instruction really means. I believe high quality education means equipping students with skills they need to explore, think critically, and innovate in an ever-changing world. I reflected more deeply about what instruction and our expectations for students should consider previously (here), but the gist of it is that instruction should focus on conceptual understanding, be student-centered, integrate technology, but most importantly, be relevant to students’ lives outside of the classroom and their futures. Instruction should focus on teaching skills that transfer multiple disciplines, careers, and their ability to process information in their personal lives. My goal moving forward is to engage with teachers, administrators, and the public about what instructional moves are most valuable to students and for an increasingly complex and changing world and to use these connections to continually push thinking and reflection about best practice. This engagement will occur through conversations with colleagues within my school and through professional learning networks (PLNs), my participation in instructional leadership roles that include administration, and my constantly seeking out opportunities to partner with universities, businesses, and the community to seek their perspective on what is working and what needs to be improved in education.
My PLN will consist of professionals I have met through a variety of educationally based venues as well as university personnel, business leaders, and members of the community interested in education. My immediate colleagues, other math teachers that I work with through CPS’s Teacher Leadership Institutes, fellow Illinois IB educators that I collaborate with through Illinois Association of IB Schools, and previous colleagues will be the bedrock of my PLN. I will complement these relationships by connecting digitally through Twitter, sites like MindShift and Edmodo, and hopefully through a growing community of like-minded educators in my app.
Moving forward, I am willing to abandon the belief that education as I know it is what education should be. This is not an easy task. The educational system in the United States values the traditional structures that have existed for centuries. When I first started to hear about families in Silicon Valley who choose to homeschool their students or start their own schools because they felt the traditional system was not addressing current needs, I was skeptical while simultaneously had to wonder if these hyper-educated and hyper successful parents had a point. They probably do and my next steps will be working to shift the structure of education towards learning that is more relevant, tech focused, and innovative.
Check out my Blendspace to see a list of websites, funding opportunities, and other resources to support my work.