I was quite moved by this TedTalk presentation, particularly the implications it has in the realm of education. Here, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warns of "how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly as children." When there's only one single story, one side of a story, or one element of a culture told in a story, the story is incomplete. From this singularity, stereotypes are born and, even worse, those stereotypes are perpetuated in the retelling of these single stories. The experiences of the reader and of the characters in the stories are flattened, the subjects whose stories have been reduced down to one single story are robbed of their dignity. In this way, there is "no possibility of a connection as human equals."
There are so many parallels between the dangers of a single story she warns us of and the effects this has on our students and our education system. For starters, the point she made of connecting as human equals. Our students represent a diverse population of cultures, identities and beliefs. Day after day, elements of this diversity are reduced to a single story due to lack of validation in the education system. For example, the latino student sitting in an English class reading literature that does not include them. What message are we sending to them about their culture, and to the other students in the class that aren't familiar with their culture? With entire stories being ignored or left out of the conversation, how can we expect our students to connect with each other and recognize the value of every relationship? As Chimamanda tells us, the single story emphasizes our differences rather than our similarities; an unfortunate truth that takes away so much opportunity for learning both inside and outside of school.
When I pause to evaluate how I have been influenced by the telling of single stories, I start to get a clear picture of the source of many biases I've inherited through this system. Thankfully, in today's community of connectivity, we all have the opportunity to research not just one but dozens of stories, broadening our cultural voices and deepening our understanding of cultures all over the world. As a teacher, I can help my students discover their ability to access stories that will open new doors.
If I wasn't determined to make my classroom a community where all students can feel safe to be themselves and grow and connect with their peers via open communication before, I most certainly am now. Not only is it our responsibility to reject the single story, it is part of our legacy to teach those around us to do the same.
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. "The Danger of a Single Story." YouTube. TED Talks, 7 Oct. 2009. Web. 5 Oct. 2015. <https://youtu.be/D9Ihs241zeg?list=PLbRLdW37G3oMquOaC-HeUIt6CWk-FzaGp>.
Listen, Google. I've got a whole lot of love for you. I use all of your stuff, I hear you're a great place to work, you've certainly got a good thing going. But I don't know if I'm loving the message you're sending about getting a job at Google.
In his article "How to Get a Job at Google," Thomas L. Friedman gets some great insight from the hiring guy at Google, Laszlo Bock. According to Bock, the foundation of what they're looking for at Google isn't necessarily about what you can do; it's about how you act while you're doing it. There are five hiring attributes they look for at Google: cognitive ability, humility, ownership, leadership and the least important, expertise. For each of those attributes, there are specific qualities that they want to see potential employees embody.
Of these, humility and ownership are my favorite. Where humility is concerned, it’s intellectual humility that matters. Friedman points out that, to deliver what Google is looking for, “you need a big ego and small ego in the same person at the same time.” I like that idea. Stand up and shine when it’s your time to do so, but understand that when it isn’t your time, or when someone may have more to contribute than you, you’ve got to suck it up and step back. This double ego concept it valuable not only to be successful at Google, it’ll create greater success anywhere.
So, here’s my beef with where Google stands on hiring. It all lies in this paragraph right here:
“Google attracts so much talent it can afford to look beyond traditional metrics, like G.P.A. For most young people, though, going to college and doing well is still the best way to master the tools needed for many careers. But Bock is saying something important to them, too: Beware. Your degree is not a proxy for your ability to do any job. The world only cares about — and pays off on — what you can do with what you know (and it doesn’t care how you learned it). And in an age when innovation is increasingly a group endeavor, it also cares about a lot of soft skills — leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and re-learn. This will be true no matter where you go to work.”
Ok, I get it. The perfect employee may not always come from a four-year college. They may not fit the traditional mold. And I’m good with that. But what if they do? I don’t think Bock telling students who have worked hard at college to “beware” is necessary. If what Google cares about most is “leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and re-learn,” who’s to say that isn’t someone with a great education? I went to college, worked hard and learned a lot, and I think I could make a strong argument that I would be a valuable employee at Google (aside from the whole technical ability part). It was through college that I learned 90% of my most valuable skills in collaborating, adapting, leading and learning, so I don’t think Google should knock the value of a college education.
If I were a high school student reading this article, or an adult for that matter considering going to college to further my education, I might think that I could get a glamorous job at Google without putting in the work at college, and I think that’s a dangerous message to send. True, college isn’t for everybody, but neither is a job at Google.
Friedman, Thomas L. "How to Get a Job at Google." The New York Times. The New York Times, 22 Feb. 2014. Web. 27 Sept. 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/23/opinion/sunday/friedman-how-to-get-a-job-at-google.html?_r=1>.
In the first part of this MindShift article, the future for the teaching profession, and my role in it, feels pretty bleak. Becoming a teacher doesn't offer the same thrills as working for a cutting edge corporation, and the history of teaching and education is laden with conflicting opinions on the "right" way to teach and assess learning. Something has to give.
MindShift asserts that we are at a time of great transformation worldwide, and I certainly agree with that statement. Take this opportunity of transformation and add teachers in to the equation, and we could be on the verge of a change in the field of education greater than has ever happened in the history of teaching. According to the article, "the future will be invented - and you will be a part of it." It's a bit overwhelming, to look at the troubled past of education and realize that I will join in the responsibility of making the future brighter, starting now. To do this, MindShift points to a few strategies we teachers can embody:
"Contribute to a global vision." I am totally on board here. I got chills when I read the next part, "know that a significant shift has taken place world-wide: The concerns of teachers everywhere have converged, and every forward-focused teacher can be not just a local teacher, but part of connected network of educators trying to rally the world on behalf of youth." I mean, really, wow. It's not just my classroom I can rally, the opportunity is here to join forces with educators globally and impact life and learning worldwide.
"Redefine smart." Here's the big challenge; what we teach cannot be limited to the curriculum alone. "No one really knows how to design a system that leads to ‘better’ people—and yet that’s the task." We are the teachers, the motivators, the cheerleaders that must inspire the very best in each of our students. And that's asking a lot, especially when not every student is ready to meet you there.
"Live the collaborative reality." Now here is a strategy where we are totally in control of our own success. Instead of carrying this great weight of education alone, we can connect with each other to no end. And I intend to do so. "Think of yourself as living in a peer-driven world, in which ideas and change come from within and below, not from the top, and you can make the difference." I'm a tweeting machine these days, and I plan to keep it that way and further develop my understanding of how to grow my PLN.
Overall, I get what MindShift is saying here, and I like it. I'm aware that what we're saying here leans towards the idealistic side of things, but I think it's better to be there than anywhere else. We have to believe that we can get there to inspire the changes that we need to live as teachers.
Markham, Thom. "Redefining Teachers with a 21st Century Education ‘Story’." MindShift. MindShift, 15 Feb. 2011. Web. 26 Sept. 2015. <http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/02/11/redefining-teachers-with-a-21st-century-education-story/>.
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In shadowing two of her students in an effort to gain more insight into their daily routines at school, the anonymous author of this article learned much more than she bargained for. The key points she took away from her time shadowing the students are eye opening, so much so that I would like to try this exercise for myself to internalize the lessons learned.
In "key takeaway #1," the author notes that "students sit all day, and sitting is exhausting." At my school site, I spend my work periods sitting at a student desk for hours at a time, focused on nothing else than getting my work done. Thankfully I don't do this every day, but when I do my body is seriously sore. Not only is it uncomfortable to sit for that long, it's unhealthy. If students are to be engaged in learning, shouldn't their bodies also have the opportunity to be engaged in movement through out their day?
Her second Key Takeaway is that "High School students are sitting passively and listening during approximately 90% of their classes." For me, this seems to connect in a profound way with the first takeaway. Not only are students sitting all day in their classes, they are expected to sit and listen 90% of the time. And we wonder why the present model of the majority of education isn't working. How in the world can anyone be expected to stay awake, let alone learn and feel challenged, in this kind of system? If the goal of education for students is to think deeper and more critically, certainly sitting passively for 90% of their day in school is the exact opposite way of bringing about this kind of engagement.
How can we address the issues presented in these first two takeaways? Get students moving! Motivate their bodies, motivate their brains. I'm dreaming of lessons where students must move about the room, interact with each other, and direct their own learning. In her writing, and example of this takes place when students "come in to class and write [their essential questions from the previous night's homework] all on the board, and then, as a group, ask them to choose which one we start with and which ones need to be addressed."
The final takeaway is certainly the most heartbreaking, "you feel a little bit like a nuisance all day long." Here's a system in which we're sitting students behind desks all day and making them listen passively 90% of the time, and to top it off we're making them feel unwanted. Like they're inconveniencing us with their presence in our class. And that's just wrong. Of course they won't do their homework, challenge themselves on that essay, or feel motivated to graduate when they feel reduced to a nuisance 5 out of 7 days a week at minimum.
The moral of this story explains using real experiences what we've been talking about all along: we can't keep doing it this way. Let's get them up, get them moving and get them excited about learning.
Wiggins, G. (2014, October, 10). A veteran teacher turned coach shadows 2 students for 2 days – a sobering lesson learned [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2014/10/10/a-veteran-teacher-turned-coach-shadows-2-students-for-2-days-a-sobering-lesson-learned/
In his Tedx Talk presentation, Michael Wesch delivers an inspiring message of just how much potential we have as users of technology to truly change the world. He starts us on this journey of discovery by saying that "a good question is something that leads people on a quest," that we need to move beyond focusing education on our students simply knowing things to challenging them to find, sort, analyze, criticize and create. As I sat here watching this nearly 20 minute video, I found myself nodding my head throughout the whole thing, silently agreeing with the powerful message Mr. Wesch delivered.
Today, media is not simply a one-way conversation or set of tools or deliverer of communication. In fact, it is not even simply a conversation anymore. Technology can create and mediate relationships that were not possible even just a handful of years ago. I had to smile when he used the example of the "Free Hugs" video as one of the first ever to go viral on YouTube. My eyes still well with tears when I see that video, a testament to its lasting effect on people all over the world. That video did not nearly "go viral," it went global, connecting and sharing communities and people in a snowball of spin-offs.
When I think of this video, of this message, of this ever-growing presence of media and technology in our lives, I am inspired. Together, we can achieve the three things Michael Wesch uses in his classroom: embracing real (unanswered) problems with our students by harnessing and leveraging the tools available to us through technology. I can't wait to get started.
Tedx Talks (2010, Oct 5). TECxKC - Michael Wesch - From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-ABLE. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/LeaAHv4UTI8
In the Visitor/Resident video lesson, Dr. Dave White outlines the principle of people’s presence and motivation on the Internet. Whereas visitors drop by and are concerned with leaving no trace of their visit and no social persona, residents carve out a space to “live” online and are social, visible and communal in their use of the Internet. I found this video and the principle it details very interesting, and could not help but start to sort my friends and family members into either the visitor or resident label. Not surprisingly, most people I could think of are those I would label as Internet residents.