1. “Here’s the thing…You do not need to teach the way you were taught, and you certainly do not need to lead the way you were led.”

    These are good questions for any educator, especially for newer teachers who are still feeling out what teaching and learning means for them and their environment. I wonder if it’s something that takes time though…we all have to crawl before we walk so to speak. We start by mimicking others as a way for us to internalize processes and practices, but others are able to move beyond that earlier than others.

    The other thought that intrigues me is that of pushing someone like you away from a group during the typical ice breaker. We’ll always be risking pushing someone aside; as group activities necessitate the participation of a large number of people, it’s quite difficult to individualize the activity to the point where everyone will enjoy it. We always run the risk of alienating people when we engage in group work; do we place value on the particular members of the group, or the qualities of the group interaction? I care enough that I want to reach everyone in a group, but I’m pragmatic enough to know that I never will reach them all in the way I hope to.

    So perhaps the questions you ask, “Is this the best way to build team and camaraderie in our buildings? Are there other ways?” could be augmented to include “what kind of camaraderie and team do you want?” or “Are there ways that will lend themselves to being more inclusive, more playful, more focused on the types of people you want to have?” Perhaps I’ve read too much Jim Collins lately and am thinking about “getting the right people” on the bus. I spend time on either side of the fence when it comes to working with teams; do I spend time getting the right people on the team, and letting the others walk away, or do I work on building up the team I have? I’m not sure if either of those realities is ideal, especially considering how education differs from the traditional “business minded team.” But the thoughts stick with me nonetheless.

  2. Sherri Spelic

    Funny you should post this now. I just offered a workshop on The What, Why and How of Inclusion Activities today. And while planning the workshop I struggled with a couple of things: 1)NOT creating a one-and-done event where teachers get a few activities described, then practice them a little and then hustle on their merry way and 2) insuring that in the time we had together that I created a space that was inviting, engaging and worthy of their time and input.
    My solution was to put the intent first. I emphasized intent as the prerequisite for planning any kind of inclusion activity. I shared my intentions for the workshop and had them formulate their own at the outset. This set a very different tone than the usual ice breaker which often is there for the sake of having an ice breaker. So in the process of practicing some inclusion activities we had conversations that kept coming back to why and to what effect. These are precisely more of the conversations we need to be having and these conversations need to be inclusive and in order to be inclusive they need to be intentional, planned, well structured, and connected to a relevant goal that is clearly communicated. That’s my take away from this experience. We can’t give up on inclusion just because we keep going about it in the wrong way.

  3. Janet

    It is a strange concept to me that it is preached…not to preach. What I mean is that as educators, we are encouraged to offer various ways to learn in order that we meet the needs of various learning styles, yet when most in-services are held, the auditory learner is the only one really addressed.I’d like more people to enjoy the environment we have at my school because when our principal facilitates an staff training for any purpose, it is interactive, entertaining and engaging. It is varied in presentation….what it is, is an example of how he expects us to teach. We always start with the end in mind. I’m unclear as how to teach any other way. If you don’t have a clear understanding of what and how you are going to teach, how are the students to do their part and learn?
    That being said, we build teams by openly sharing what works and by having the time to troubleshoot what doesn’t in our Professional Learning Community meetings. We rely, trust, and learn from each other. That is what builds our teamwork.

  4. As an educator I think much of what is taught is incorrect. We do things because we had to do them. I have been reading Napoleon Hill`s outwitting the devil where he addresses the problems with education. He wrote this in 1930 and the same problems persist today.

  5. Hey George,
    I agree wholeheartedly with your premise that “You do not need to teach the way you were taught, and you certainly do not need to lead the way you were led.” I also agree ice breakers may not be the best way to build teams.

    You’ve got me thinking though — when does “uncomfortable” equal to cognitive dissonance? When does “uncomfortable” stretch us thinking outside the box?

    In our district, we recently asked our teachers to complete an exercise comparing their current 21st century skills enacted curriculum to an ideal. Through feedback forms, several stated how uncomfortable they felt due to the “messiness” of the activity. Isn’t this what we want as learners for adults and students?

  6. I can certainly appreciate the general intent in saying that we do not need to teach the way we were taught. However, there might be a few exceptions. For example, I absolutely do want to teach the way my physics teacher, Mr McKay, taught 30 years ago. He was brilliantly ferocious about causing me to think and question and challenge and love the messiness of not knowing but always looking for answers and possibilities. Respectfully, I do want to teach the way I was taught.

  7. But re the random icebreaker activity…indeed that might be a an idea worth ditching. If all we do is ‘break ice’ there’s nothing new created. But Sherri’s idea about inclusion is worth exploring along with the possibility to build teams, especially if it’s not just some people including others but all people belonging…and contributing. That’s a subtle but important shift we can consider. Belonging matters…it addresses a basic human need.

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