Saturday, December 7, 2013

Education Selfies

A friend of mine's daughter took a picture of herself using his phone. She is 18 months old. He should be glad she didn't do something else with it. He captioned it, "Caden's first selfie." We call these pictures "selfies" because it's a picture taken of yourself, by ... yourself. I thought his daughter looked adorable with her big smile. I am not a fan of my own selfies because I think they bring out my worst qualities (too many to list).

As I thought about education today, I reflected on how selfies apply to education. We all know "education selfies." Education selfies have personal agendas. They may promote good learning and teaching strategies, and even have great ideas and concepts. But, the strategies and concepts they offer come at a price. The cost may be as little as an "atta boy," or personal recognition by a respected peer in their school district. Or it may cost more, like a solve-all education program they're peddling. In the end, education selfies are not team players. They may be on a team, but they're rooting for themselves to succeed. If their students do well, it's an opportunity for them to leverage this for their own benefit.

I also thought about those I know who are "education selfless." They share whatever resources they have and don't ask for anything in return. They don't keep score. Selfless educators give their time to those who need it: students who need help but can only come before school or during lunch, novice teachers in crisis mode, and parents who need reassurance. They're too focused on changing the world one student at a time to worry about putting themselves out there for personal gain. If they can make a student feel better about coming to school each day, support a peer, or help a parent reflect on their child's growth, then they've done their job.

Selfless educators put themselves out there in an opposite way. They share success stories, learn from the failures, and laugh at their follies. They are purposeful and model that. Their refrain is simple: "I want to help students and their families. I became an educator to make a difference and be a positive change agent." As Matt Hall, my school's science and technology supervisor says, "It's never about me. It's all about moving the rock. I just want to move the rock."

Matt is one of many educators I've met and learned from. My friend and New Jersey ASCD North Region Codirector Bill Krakower is another. When I think of who I want to be, who I strive to emulate, and who helps me "move the rock," Bill and Matt are just two of the people I think of. Everyone works with a Bill or Matt, too, just as we work with an education selfie. The best thing we can do is appreciate educators like Matt and Bill who will only take a selfie of their family, entire class, students' parents, peers, and more are in the picture. Because it's not about the selfie. It's about the selfless.