As I settle down to sleep after a long day of conversation, reunions and inspiration at Educon, there is a recurring theme: Big Ideas. While sitting at dinner with friends, it was brought up that many teachers attend conferences to get practical information. They want the 5 tips or the handouts that they can then go back to their classroom and use.

We wondered: would the average teacher find value in Educon?

One of the things I love about the conversations that I had today is that I was able to step back and look at the big picture and discuss vision, mindset, and philosophy. Did these conversations move to more practical applications, sure? But mostly as illustrations of big ideas in practice.

In my morning session I had powerful discussions about valuing teacher time for collaboration, of democratic leadership and distributed leadership that helps build a positive and strong school culture.

In the mid-day session about self-guided professional development through social media we discussed the fact that many educators are not well versed in educational research for a variety of reasons. The presenters offered to help facilitate an action research project with educators all over the Internet. At a time when the teaching profession is often under attack, this was really exciting for me. As teachers, we should be looking at big ideas and applying them to our practice. In addition, we should be creating our own big ideas as we reflect on our practice. Thinking deeply about what we do and making that process transparent is a powerful way to show the public that we are intelligent, informed professionals.

At the end of the day was a passionate and inspiring conversation about what discipline looks like in a culture of caring. The question was asked: should our educational philosophy match our discipline practices? An important question and something I have always struggled with since there has always been a disconnect between my educational philosophy and the discipline policy of the school I work in.

Another recurring theme, especially during the lunch time Encienda session, was professional development. Teachers are obviously craving something new and different in their learning opportunities and the time is ripe for big changes in how teachers learn and the opportunities provided to them.

While I did not necessarily take any tools or processes away from today that I will use in my classroom on Monday, what I did take away was thoughtfulness about structures within schools, philosophies, value systems and attitudes that guide pedagogy.

Are we giving teachers the chance to engage in big ideas? What would happen if big ideas were a standard part of conversations in our schools?


  1. Reply

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments after a long day. I agree: it is about the big picture, not the many tools available that can make one dizzy to no end. In fact, we hear about trends like iPads, BYOD, etc., but what about the big picture? What is our real philosophy of teaching? What do we value? Yes, teachers are craving professional development, but a one-hour workshop on how to use a Web 2.0, as sometimes happens, is not real professional development. Just some quick thoughts for now. Have been following Educon all day online, but perhaps we also need to be talking about how one can initiate and sustain one’s own professional development if some school systems are not doing enough to provide such to teachers. Well, you might not agree with my comments, but thanks for sharing yours.

  2. Reply

    Mary Beth,

    The chance to immerse ourselves in big ideas and actually take time to question and reflect on those ideas are so rare for educators. And I think that’s why “average” educators are so quick to look for the practical when it comes to the PD that they are used to. When 99% of the time in which they are supposed to be learning is spent doling out messages about paperwork, filing out that paperwork, or being talked at, most want to find something of benefit in the experience. The question becomes: how do we leverage the conversations about big ideas at places like Educon so that they become the norm? I know that in big districts like mine big idea conversation happen in pockets, but we haven’t gotten to a point where it happens across school/district wide.

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  4. Reply

    Great point. Many people complain about educators and their lack of vision, but these are also some of the same folks that bog educators down with a prescriptive list of tasks that are so far removed from what they need to be doing with kids that it’s is ridiculous. We need to make time for teachers to re-vision and discuss exciting changes that we/they can make in their classrooms or schools that they know will make a difference for their students. We need to lead conversations back in our schools the way we see them led here at Educon.

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