“You Don’t Need to Be Brilliant To Be Wise”

cc licensed flickr photo by photo.lady2000: http://flickr.com/photos/photolady2000/1520170557/

I have never been a big believer in having a ton of school rules. Often when we are confined to follow a ton of rules in school, they often are put in situations which lead to the wrong decisions.  I know that there is a large contingent of educators that use the following rule with their classroom: respect.  Everything that is right will ultimately fall under the category.

For example, I remember one school that I was a part of. The rule in the school was that students were not to eat in the classroom. I also remember one student that did not have the best home life and would come to school starving about two minutes before the bell rang. Now what? Follow the rules or break them to do what is right? The choice is obvious but the problem is that many are put into that type of situation.  The respectful and right thing for this teacher was to ensure that the student was probably nourished and cared for in the school.  I know my teachers will do what is right for each child.  No rule like this is needed.

Now take Internet guidelines in schools. Social media sites such as YouTube and Twitter are blocked in many schools (not mine nor my division) while educators know the positive effect these sites can have (when used properly) on the learning of students. What to do as a teacher? Serve your students in a relevant way and break the guidelines, or follow along with the guidelines set by your school/division.  Again, why are we put into this situation?

Yes there are a few instances where educators make the wrong choices purposely, but on the whole, it does not happen.  There are cases where students have looked up bad videos on YouTube, but does that mean we have to shut the entire site down for everyone?  Students also try many risky things on the playground, but you do not see crews taking down jungle gyms the day after a student breaks their arm. It is imperative that we give teachers the freedom to make the right decisions based on the best interest of the child, while also knowing that sometimes through these risks, some failure will occur.  What will we learn from closing opportunities to all of those around us?  Trusting those that you work with to make the right decisions (staff AND students) is worth more to the majority of educators than any incentive than you can provide.

Speaking specifically about closed Internet systems in education (I obviously not talking about the obvious x-rated sites that have no place in education), here is the great paradox of the situation.  By not extending trust to your staff, how will you expect them to extend trust to their students?  To say on one hand, “we want you to take risks in the classroom” or “let your students become risk takers in the classroom”, but on the other hand close down social media sites to schools and treating educators as they are not professional. Are we aligning what we do with what we say we want?

I was inspired to write this after watching a Ted Talk done by Barry Schwartz. His book, the Paradox of Choice is one of my favourites (here is the Ted Talk based on the same book). At one point he says, “As teachers, we are always teaching.  Someone is always watching.” Schools and divisions should really take note of that point.  If you are closing down social media sites in schools, it seems like that we do not trust the people that are there to educate students. If we don’t show our trust in them, why would a parent? I know my staff will be wise in how they work with students. Do you?

Although Barry Schwartz does not discuss what I am speaking about specifically in his talk, it has inspired my thoughts for this post.  It is definitely a video worth watching. Barry Schwartz not only talks about the importance of morals but also how incentives also lead us to the wrong decision.  It is a video based on business but these points can be easily applied to education.

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  • monika

    thank you George. hadn't seen these. absolutely love them.

    • George

      Some of my favourites! Barry Schwartz is brilliant!

  • https://primarypreoccupation.wordpress.com/ Kathy Cassidy

    I love your line, "If we don’t show our trust in them, why would a parent?"

    I am fortunate, like you, to work in a school division that does not block teachers from tools that can be useful in their classroom, and I am frustrated for those who are not as lucky.

    • George

      I hear you…I think at this point I would never move to a division that would not have these sites open. This would be a question that I would ask in an interview to a potential employer. Luckily I do not plan on going anywhere ;)

      Thanks for your comment!

  • http://www.goodrich.k12.mi.us/Oaktree/Staff/third/kalford/index.htm Kelly Alford

    What a great post! Those of us that teach where everything is blocked get so frustrated. I know some that say, "Why to I bother?"because there is no support! We need more leaders like you that trust their teachers to do what they need to do in their classroom! You have more wisdom than many of the veteran administrators I have worked with. Your staff is so lucky to have you!

    I so needed to read this post today! I needed to feel support for the things I want to try and you are always there with just the right message! Thanks for being my virtual administrator!! You have no idea how much your blog posts inspire and support me!

    • George

      Thanks Kelly! Anything that I can do to help you, let me know. Since we do not need to work in isolation anymore, it is important that administrators learn from others. There is no age limit on learning from others, ever. It is so essential to growth personally, professionally, as well as for your school.

      Keep your chin up and thanks for your comment!

  • http://avenue4learning.com Michelle Baldwin

    There are only two rules in my classroom: Respect others and respect the equipment/instruments in the room. Even my kindergartners know that we don't need anything beyond that.

    But that word, "respect," is so little understood anymore! Trusting the students, the teachers… that's also about respecting them. Internet filters that block nearly everything in schools show a huge lack of trust. When 5 year old students and 18 year old students are given the exact same internet filter, that is a lack of trust.

    I have never understood this: I am trusted with students everyday, for 7-8 hours a day, over 188 days a year. Their safety, their emotional well-being, their precious minds are in my hands… BUT am I trusted to use the internet appropriately with them, or is a filter that blocks YouTube, online games and social network sites necessary?

    • George

      Filtering sites like this make it really tough to connect our students to what is relevant to the world. I have used YouTube since I knew it existed but there are definite bad videos on here. This is part of the learning process. How do we navigate the Internet and be safe with students and use resources that are rich in value? It is funny that this post inspired me to reflect and connect on my own learning through a YouTube video that I watched. Those same opportunities need to be there for our students!

      Thanks for your comment :)

  • http://maistec.posterous.com/ Melissa Smith

    I agree 100%. We teach children safety rules about crossing the street, trick or treating safely, don't talk to strangers, etc. We do not stop these kids from doing these things, instead teach them the skills to participate and live wisely and safely. Now we need to teach how to live and work through Cyberspace wisely, safely and responsibly. Blocking all possible sites that may contain something inappropriately, or lead them to a site like that is not teaching life skills to the digital generation. This is a disservice to all students. It also limits fantastic lessons that could engage the students in a way that they have never experienced learning.

    • George

      Melissa…you hit the nail on the head. I think it is so important we continue to work on this. It is so essential to what we are doing. If we shut down sites at school and do not have to teach digital citizenship, what do you think that they are doing at home when they have the chance? Education and knowledge helps to solve problems but we need the opportunity to walk along with the students on this journey.

      Thanks for your comment!

  • http://www.alan-stange.ca Alan Stange

    "Often when we are confined to follow a ton of rules in school, they often are put in situations which lead to the wrong decisions." It is wonderful that you understand this and it sounds like for the most part you work with a team that shares your view. It can be problematic when colleagues advocate elaborate codes of conduct replete with ridged consequences.

    • George

      I do have a great team surrounding me which makes a huge different Alan. We have "site-based decision making" in our school division. We are trusted to do the right thing since as a school and our division office is always there to support us in whatever we need. I seriously have learned so much from my superintendents and central office; they are there when we need them but they really show us how much they trust us in operating our schools.

      Thanks for your comment!

  • Hannah Gray

    Thanks for a great post George! Lots to think about. It's interesting that our society (which of course is magnified in school settings) has stopped relying on the wisdom of the individual and instead has set up so many rules and stopgaps that we end up behaving badly and making decisions that are sometimes ridiculous in the name of following the rules.

    People seem to place more value in intelligence than in wisdom. Have we (or the "rule-makers") forgotten what wisdom is? Does anyone ever think about it? Intelligence is simply a measure of our capacity for learning, which is great, but wisdom is the sum of what we have chosen to learn; what our life experience has taught us, and (in my opinion) is far more valuable. Kids need to be given the tools to make good decisions early in life, to weigh what is right or wrong and choose the best option without having to work within a restrictive framework of rules (which, let's be honest, is just a set of someone else's opinions).

    Here's the problem though: most people have forgotten how to think for themselves. We are told every day how to live, how to work, how to drive, when to eat, sleep, etc. etc. etc. and the majority of us just do it without thinking – we spend our lives on autopilot and don't learn much. Is it a chicken and egg problem that we have created? Do children go through the school system like zombies, following the rules because they are told to, or do we shut down as adults and accept the agenda that is foisted upon us? I'd like to think that my children will finish school having learned to think critically and love learning.

    When I started my first 'real' job where I had to manage a large staff, one of the first things that my boss told me was 'sense ain't so common anymore.' It's great to see that there are educators out there who are willing to dig a little deeper and teach children to evaluate situations for themselves and trust that they make the right decisions – that's how wisdom is accrued. There's my two cents!

    • George

      Thanks for your comment Hannah! I love when you pop your head onto my blog and share your thoughts. I am kind of thinking that you need to start a blog of your own. Maybe from a parent's perspective on education? Here is an example of one that I stumbled upon recently: http://www.ourschool.ca/

      Do it!

  • http://jfb57.wordpress.com TheHeadsOffice

    Really interesting post. i agree that it should be about trusting staff who know their pupils. In my son's school (he's deputy) they cannot access WordPress! That means although I have written some 'school' posts, he is not able to read them at school or share with his pupils! Daft!

    • George

      Hmmm…I am really wondering about WordPress and why that would be blocked? Do you know of any specific reasons? I think that we really need to encourage students to use blogs and comment with authors so that they can get different viewpoints on subjects. One of the critical aspects of education is that students will need to decipher what is opinion and what is fact, and how they respond to it. Blogs are all about opinions and we need to learn how to respond to different viewpoints in a respectful manner even when we disagree with them.

  • http://cwilkeson.wordpress.com/ Chrystal Wilkeson

    What a great and timely post! During our faculty meeting on Thursday, we were given a 2-page list of rules to cover from the handbook with our advisor-advisee groups on Monday. It was just a list of selected rules to highlight–two pages worth of page/rule references! The teacher next to me pointed out the second page, wide-eyed, jaw dropped. After that meeting, I asked a colleague to join me in my classroom to check out Twitter and my blog only to find that access to both were blocked. You've inspired me to write a new post…this is quite a can of worms!

    • George

      Thanks for your comment Chrystal :) I loved your blog post today and thought you hit the nail on the head!

  • http://www.mrmacnology.com Jeremy M.

    Some one on #edchat the other day made a similar comment (may have been @tomwhitby, or at least a RT by him), "Did schools ban paper and pens when students began passing notes?" We can easily apply this to classroom technology, including cell phones or other mobile devices. So many of our students walk around with more technology in their pockets than a lot of teachers have in their classroom. Why are we blocking this? Why are we discouraging social interaction, that in most cases, can lead to more authentic learning? Yes, kids (and teachers) make dumb choices. Texting during a state assessment is not a good thing (had three students do this 2 years ago), but that doesn't mean all of the students in the lab were. Handle the issues as they arise. This "blanket" banning of social media and educational technology has become a major issue for many schools.

    This is where communication becomes even more vital. Open house, conferences, whatever, can all be used to discuss the appropriate use of tech in the school; to discuss they "why" behind the tools; to break down barriers; to clear up misconceptions and fears. Then go public. Invite families, business, local leaders, local news outlets, to come see what is being done. Let them participate. Let students do the talking. Don't plan ahead, just do what you do, and let effective, authentic learning happen.

    Technology is another tool; another means to, not an end, but to a continued process. Life is social. Web 2.0 tools and social media (in a number of forms) have helped make learning more social too. Life is about learning. Why aren't we teaching students that? Students want to be social. Make "being social" a learning opportunity and not a reason for detention.

    • George

      Jeremy…you hit the nail on the head. Chris Lehmann discusses in one of his talks how it is unrealistic that we get kids to shut down the things they use at all hours of the day for when they are in school. We need to adapt. Thanks for your thoughts on this topic. Your students are going to have a great year under your leadership.

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  • http://blogmrsoong.wordpress.com bernard soong

    Another great post George! It goes with your other one about whether to block social media or to educate our students about how to use it responsibly, and effectively…."knowledge is power." The talk at the beginning of this post about rules makes me think of speed limits. I have always felt that speed limits (or rules) should be "guidelines" and not black and white. Rules that are black and white are almost like walls that can limit the space we have to deal with learning opportunities, or as some like to say "mistakes." Back to the speed limit thing, if someone goes over the speed limit, should it be absolute that the driver is to have their vehicle taken away? On my daily drive to work, I rarely ever see a car that doesn't break the speed limit! Thanks for another thought provoking blog entry. @bsoong on Twitter

    • George

      Thanks Bernard! I appreciate you reading and commenting :)

  • Christine Presley

    I'd like to comment on a situation I have found myself in with my daughter's elementary school.

    I read Mr. Allan Stange's comment above – "It can be problematic when colleagues advocate elaborate codes of conduct replete with ridged consequences."

    My daughter, in grade one, has been pushed on a number of occasions from another peer. I've overheard the teacher dealing with other problematic occasions and expressing her concerns to the father, who found it entertaining.

    This boy has now gone from pushing my daughter to punching her in the face. The only thing written in the schools Code of Conduct in regards to bulling is "When students display inappropriate behaviour, staff will respond in a manner that is appropriate to the particular student and behaviour. The range of consequences includes verbal warnings, thinking paper, written citations, loss of privileges, and suspension."

    How many incidents does the teacher have to deal with before someone does something so others don't continue to get assaulted?

    I feel for this little boy as I don't think the parents are putting any time or effort into teaching him morals and respect, and will soon lose friends and have severe social struggles in school. I feel it's being labeled as "Child's Play" by the parents.

    I have talked with the father who turned the assault back on my daughter by asking her what she did to cause it.

    In the previous school, my son was bullied in grade one as well. The Code of Conduct for this school was elaborate, to the point, and very specific. The situation was taken care of immediately and the boy soon tried befriending my son.

    I feel this Code of Conduct was an important tool in helping to prevent any future abuse. I'm thinking of requesting this school to reconsider their Code of Contact and perhaps use the previous school's example to do a more elaborate one of their own.

    Your thoughts ??

    • George

      I am sorry that you have found yourself in that situation. My belief is that we always need to deal with the behaviour of the child and not make general based on one person's behaviour. The truth of the matter is that even with rigid rules and consequences, that does not stop people from breaking them.

      Personally when I deal with a student, my number one goal is to stop the behaviour. That helps both the victim and the child that is causing the issue. We want to ensure that bullying behaviour does not turn into bullying. There are many schools that have rigid rules and consequences and that does not mean they do not deal with issues of bullying. It is essential that we work with our students to do what is needed to help with the behaviour. Many think that it is not that we do not have consequences for the child which is totally false. Our school does have consequences, including up to five day suspensions (the most severe we are allowed to do at a school site based on the school act).

      Every child, person, is different and we need to be able to do our best to help them while ensuring the safety of our students.

      Sorry if that was not much help.

  • http://cinesourcemagazine.com/index.php?/member/71697 Riki

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  • http://sfgttttwesdddsdsdadad23.net Jeane Gauron

    or maybe u can get her banned from tv, even better, but still she diserves at least one fat slap for how she reduced BS to tears and then broadcasted it for money to name just one of the nasty things she s been well paid for