The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.
Richard P. Feynman
I sometimes lurk in a twitter chat and my BS detector will start going off. It usually works like this: The moderator will ask a question – and everyone sort of ignores it for a little bit; they keep visiting and chatting about random things. Then one brave soul addresses the question. After that, there is a cascade of responses, each one an attempt by the author to sound smarter or more knowledgeable than the last person. Often some “expert” makes a comment that is then retweeted numerous times by adoring fans.
Do you ever look at the profile of many of these experts? Very often they show little indication of classroom experience. Do you ever wonder if they can actually “walk the walk?” Don’t misunderstand me – there are folks outside the classroom that are in fact experts and they do know what they are talking about. The issue is - how do we know the expert from someone that is only fake smart?
For me the answer lies in the willingness of the other person to share their failures as well as their successes. I have a number of digital friends that I have enormous respect for, because they share both their successes and failures. I follow them through times of great frustration. I see my teaching practice reflected in theirs, and I learn from them. Perhaps ironically, I trust them because they struggle and don’t know all the answers.
I consider myself to be a reasonably intelligent human. I feel like I work very hard at my job. I spend a ridiculous amount of time at school and at home working on school. I am a student myself, usually taking a class or reading a book about education. I make myself available to students before and after school. Teaching is a passion for me – not just a job. My point is I cannot imagine giving any more of myself than I already am – and I never feel like my class measures up against my vision. I know my class seems lame compared to the way many others describe theirs. This is what makes me wonder, are their classes really that great? Do many experts talk about what they wish their classes looked like, or what they actually look like?
I am in my second year of flipped instruction – but like someone on a diet, I slip back to my old ways occasionally. Yes, I sometimes give direct instruction – gasp –a lecture. I make my own videos – and they won’t win any awards. People love to hate Khan Academy videos – and that makes me want to hide some of mine. I am a huge fan of writing in the content area – but sometimes my students go too long without writing. I genuinely believe in a growth mindset – but I catch myself in fixed thinking about my students. I teach in a 1:1 school. I have been 1:1 for eight years – and I sometimes feel I don’t use technology effectively.
So, what’s the point? My point isn’t to criticize others. Rather, I think we must be very discerning about what we believe about our digital acquaintances. I think we have to be very careful not to fool ourselves about our own classrooms and how effective we are. I think we need to grow each day and strive to improve. I think we need to cut ourselves a break when we have trying experiences.
Feel free to leave a comment. I truly don’t mean this post to be an attack toward anyone, but rather a reflection about my own practice. Have you ever had any of these thoughts? How did you respond?