There is no more human profession in the world than education.
In fact, as content has become abundant, education has become more human. Fifty years ago, and fifty years from now, relationships will be the most important thing we do in schools. In fact, with information becoming plentiful, I would actually argue that relationships will become more important than ever. If I do not feel valued to the place that I come every day, why would I continue to show up?
Yet in some cases, we take this human profession, and reduce our most precious resource, our students, to letters and numbers. We have done this to teachers as well. Instead of hearing their stories, we rank and sort so many involved in education, and lose the faces and humanity in our practice. So many people, whether in government or administrator positions, say that standardized tests are not valued, yet so much is still measured by these numbers, both students and teachers. The emphasis should be on the people, not numbers.
This is not to say that accountability isn’t important in education. Nobody wants bad teachers in the profession, including teachers, yet there is so much more to a story to a person than a letter or grade. We have to think of different ways that our stories can be shared though and put more of an emphasis on the qualitative data, not the quantitative. Both have a place in education, but the stories and observations that are shared need to be put in the forefront.
Here are some ways that we can really start to share these stories in a continuous and ongoing basis.
1. Tapping into the power of visuals. – The most powerful camera in the world, is the one that you have with you. Fortunately, most of us have one with us all of the time. People like Tim Lauer, sharing pictures of his school on Instagram, or Tony Sinanis using YouTube to highlight his students in school newsletters, actually elicits emotional responses when I see what they share. The old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”, is totally true. So then what is a video worth? These accounts are something that not only tell a lot about the happenings in the school, but they also encourage growth in their own school communities, as well as others around the world. I know many have started Instagram accounts based on Tim’s work, while others have started school YouTube newsletters based on seeing Tony’s account. I am not even sure where they got the idea, but I know that their sharing has probably made am impact both locally and globally, while sharing their story.
2. A Year in Photos/Videos – As many schools in North America are either done or winding down their school year, I love the “montage” idea of sharing what has happened in school. I have seen this happen at end of the year assemblies, but they are not often shared publicly. Dean Shareski does a “year in review” video every year, that shows so much of what has happened in his year and tells a powerful story. I would love to see more schools doing this.
3. Telling Your Own Story Through Digital Portfolios – I am a big believer in the power of digital portfolios. Not only do they give students the opportunity to reflect, but they give them an opportunity to share their voice and story in a plethora of unique ways. Many schools have focused on “engagement”, yet I believe that we need to empower those that we serve by not only asking them to share assignments, but tell their unique stories through these platforms. In a world where anyone can have a voice, are we working with our students to help them share their voice with people around the world, or just contain them within the walls of our school, either physically or digitally. One of my favourite quotes is from Shelley Wright, when she stated, “Kids often defy expectations when you give them the opportunity.” Do we encourage them to share their stories with the world in meaningful ways, or are we simply focusing on “doing school”. (Here are some resources on blogs as digital portfolios.)
4. The Simplicity and Power of a Hashtag – Simply having a hashtag for your school or class, not only taps into the power of sharing, but also helps drive innovation. A hashtag is not just about communication, but it can be about culture. You may not have your community all on Twitter, so we have used things like Storify to curate and share our learning and ideas with our community. Having a Twitter account for your school empowers one voice, but having a hashtag, can empower all. There is a lot you can tell to a community in 140 characters.
The human side of education is something that is extremely important to me. Sharing those powerful stories not only paints a different narrative, but it can actually drive innovation. Seeing faces, and hearing voices, elicits a human connection to the work that we are doing. In a profession that is extremely human, we have to remember the power we have to tap into one another, when we share these stories that tell more than any letter or number ever could.