Yesterday as I scrolled through my twitter feed one tweet led me to a blog post by Gino Bondi, “What Questions are You Asking?” In this post he writes,”The real work, the elbows deep in learning stuff, is in leading the potentially difficult conversations around what learning should look like.” This struck me as a truism I wanted to hold onto. “Difficult conversations” is the piece that really resonated. Changing education ultimately is about each of us changing ourselves – our beliefs, our assumptions, our practices. That is what makes the process so daunting, so slow, so dang hard. And yet, there’s hope. There’s action. There’s movement.
On the same evening, I began reading Pernille Ripp’s recent response to the huge reaction to her post suggesting that public behavior charts are not effective in the classroom and should be removed in favor of emphasizing strong relationship and community building. If you follow her blog, you’ll know that she is a 5th grade classroom teacher who shares a whole spectrum of experiences – great, lousy, and in-between – of teaching, learning and being. Through her writing I have come to appreciate her as an honest, passionate and humble educator. And brave.
With Pernille’s original post about getting rid of behavior charts she ignited a hefty debate and received some very emotionally charged responses to her suggestion. She included some of the negative responses in the more recent post. There are some strong feelings out there for sure which also demonstrate that the concrete stuff (i.e., behavior charts) often carries more weight in people’s minds than the abstractions of re-envisioning school (i.e., innovation). In the comment section, Angela Watson provides some excellent insights as to why some teachers may be reacting so fiercely. She encourages those who can relate to some of the reasons she offers to read Pernille’s new book which explains the process behind the behavior chart suggestion and others.
The conversation is happening. Thank you, Pernille Ripp, for taking a stand and taking the heat after the fact. I greatly admire your willingness to start and continue the conversation. For those educators who felt offended and misunderstood, I appreciate the fact that 1) you are connected and reading views which do not mirror your own. And 2) that you are brave and engaged enough to let your dissenting opinion be known to a wider public. Dissent is vitally important to doing this work of changing education and ourselves in the process. Conflict is uncomfortable and difficult and often our feelings are at risk of getting hurt. And yet, when we are willing to listen, take others’ perspectives and look for the opportunity to learn – THAT is when the real change, the real transformation can begin. It is when we bring our whole selves to the table – our beliefs, our assumptions, our practices – that we can make the changes within to bring about the needed changes in our classrooms, schools and systems.
Let’s have those conversations. We’ll all be better for it.