If You Build It…

The one constant through all the years … has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past… It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. –Terence Mann, Field of Dreams

With no disrespect to the Mariners or the Athletics or to the Marlins or the Cardinals, but today is Opening Day.  Baseball season begins anew today.  When baseball season opens, fans across the country as filled with hope because just like the outfield grass or the chalk line down the base paths, everything is fresh.  Everything is new.  For these fans, there are no wins and losses, there’s only hope and dreams left to fulfill.  There’s promise.

The disappointments of seasons past are distant memories because every season starts with a blank slate.  Baseball, not just season to season, but from its nineteenth century origins has reinvented itself time and again, just like Mann’s “blackboard.”

This, of course, got me thinking about schools.

Like baseball, our concept of school is rooted in the nineteenth century, back to the days of the one room schoolhouse.  Students sitting in rows, eyes trained on the teacher who is firmly entrenched at the front of the room.  The teacher, master of content, disseminating information to eager students. The classroom begins and ends at the classroom door.  Baseball has been “rebuilt and erased again.”  Can schools?

Of course, they can.  I am hopeful because I believe in schools, I believe in teachers and I believe in students.  I believe schools can reinvent themselves to meet the challenge of our changing times.

In schools and districts, all over the country this reinvention, this shift, this revolution is happening.   Is it happening fast enough?  We live in a new and ever-changing world where the teacher no longer needs to control and disseminate information.  We live in a world where the classroom does not end at the door but rather at the limits of our students’ grasp and imagination. The information is out there for our students to harness its power.

Our schools can truly be “fields of dreams.”  Students and teachers are practicing skills needed for the twenty-first century.   Schools are fostering programs that allow students to be creative and to collaborate, to think critically to and solve problems.  These skills are not about technology, they’re about learning.

It’s not enough to through an iPad or a laptop at a student and claim that our students are twenty-first century grand slam hitters.  These high-tech tools must enhance learning while promoting these twenty-first century skills.  Whether students are using Google Docs to collaborate or blogging to be creative or Tweeting out their critical thoughts or connecting with minds around the world to solve problems, our schools are getting there.

Getting there quickly enough?  Well, that’s another matter.  After all, the twenty-first century is already into its twelfth year, so let’s keep building.  There’s promise, so much promise.

Play ball!

A Happy Accident

As a lifelong student of history, I am well-aware that the world is full of examples of well-intentioned folks searching for one thing initially and then uncovering something entirely different,  though impactful, nonetheless.

Whether it was Christopher Columbus or Alexander Fleming or Jamie Link, these potential misadventures have changed the world forever.

When I ventured into my Connected Coaching journey nine weeks ago, for me, it was all about the “coaching” piece.  I wanted to learn all I could about improving my coaching skills.  I knew that investment of time for coaching would be a challenge and I wanted to conquer that mountain.  Right away, I embraced with enthusiasm important concepts like appreciative inquiry and empathy, questioning and mindfulness.  I enjoyed many “wanderings” along the way.  I even managed to do some meaningful reflection.  I felt like I was well on my way to becoming a successful coach.

Victory.  But there was more…

As I took my first steps along my journey, I never gave “connected” a second thought.

Heck, I was already “connected.”

After all, I had a Twitter account.  I use Web 2.0 tools in my classroom all the time. I’ve dabbled in Diigo and Delicious.  I am a PLP Peep.  I have over 400 Facebook friends.  I use my Google Reader.  I place Skype calls.  I know how to smile at someone on Elluminate.  I have had meaningful conversations, both online and face-to-face, with the captains of connectivity, Sheryl Nussbaum Beach and Will Richardson. I read The Connected Educator by Sheryl (yes, I call her Sheryl because I’m “connected”) and Lani Ritter Hall. I attended EduCon.  Three times.  Once in a while, I even post on my blog, and, yes, it’s a pro account.

How much more connected can I get?

Much more, in fact.

Being connected goes beyond using the tools.  Being connected is also about relationships.  It’s about leveraging these relationships to enhance your learning and your deep reflections.  It’s about a baseball fan in Minnesota livingin China who gives who you an “a-ha” moment that makes you sit up straight in your bed in the middle of the night.  It’s about “happy grams” from Virginia and affirmations from Kansas.  It’s about celebrating successful students in Alabama.  It’s about garnering pearls of
wisdom from Texas to Norway to Denmark and points in between.  It’s about hearing the familiar echoes of parenting emanating from Canada.  It’s about a compassionate educator from Ohio who shared the tragedy that beset her community school and made you feel the hope in the healing.  It’s being stretched to places in your mind you never knew you could reach by supportive colleagues from across the globe.  It’s about knowing that your next Tuesday night will be drastically different than the nine that preceded it.

So, to my Tuesday night colleagues, thanks for sharing this journey with me.  Thanks for making mestretch, allowing me to grow, and allowing me to aspire toward this “happy accident” of connectivity.  You have changed my world forever.