Monday, January 19, 2015

If Learning was a Currency, What's Your Tax Bracket?

EdCamp San Diego, Circa 2014

Walking in I was greeted by excitement, enthusiasm, and a clear desire to learn. It’s the feeling I get at the beginning of each EdCamp I’ve attended. The session board fills and you select, which is powerful. Sometimes though it’s the conversation, with other passionate educators, in the hallways that inspires the most progress in my classroom. This time it happened to be in the lounge/lunch area.

Wrapped closely around the circular lunch tables, I sat with Karl Lindgren-Streicher and Laura Spencer looking for a different conversation than any of the second session topics offered. Listening to two such passionate educators sent me a drift in thought. We discussed successful and unsuccessful teaching strategies through the sharing of experiences in our lives. In my head, I kept coming back to the question, how do we assign value to learning as educators? I started to share. Below are the questions that spun in my head from that conversation as well as a few of the ways I answered. I’d would have loved to have you there with us, since that time has past, join the conversation now, how would you answer these questions.

If learning was a currency…

We often avoid a public discussion on the topic of defining quality teaching or we spend a disproportionate amount of time criticizing poor teaching strategies without being able to truly pinpoint what makes a quality educator. The Gates Foundation has spent years and vast amounts of money trying to identify this very thing. Ultimately, the issue falls back to how do we identify what is success. I believe it is the relationships you create and the learning happening in a classroom.

As teachers, I believe we would want to be judged on the relationships we build that lead to learning, but what if learning was a literal currency? Where would each of us find ourselves financially Rich? or Poor? or Middle Class? Would we strive to be part of the wealthy class, or be satisfied with being in the middle class? (Vacations once a year, enough to feel satisfied and that you have it better than most.) Does our current education system have too large of a "middle class?" Have we become comfortable in the amount of "learning currency" we're earning in our lessons and lectures or have we become so far in debt trying to avoid leaving any children behind that we are just trying to survive. Is the learning "wealthy class" expanding at a rapid rate or is it shrinking? Do we have so much learning "currency" we should start donating the extra to others who find themselves in a less fortunate situation? Would our investments in learning "currency" be getting double digit returns or less then 1% interest?  Are we hoarding vast amounts of knowledge on investment strategies that lead to high returns in learning "currency?" Have we stopped taking the time to follow wise investment strategies? What is each of our "learning currency" tax bracket?

There were so many questions that played out in my head with regards to imagining learning as a currency, questions that eventually ended up in the conversations we had at that table. It's a thought I couldn't leave behind at EdCampSD. I'll leave you with this thought to hopefully inspire your reflection in this area. Since learning isn't a limited resource, why can't we continue to expand the "wealthy class" and shrink the "middle class" down to nothing. I really believe reflecting on the learning that goes on in our classrooms, truly taking the time to ask the question "How much learning is really taking place in my classroom?" can only push us to strive to a part of the "wealthiest 1%" and add a few zero's to that 1%.  Thanks for reading.

Check out my other posts on such topics as Optional Homework, Un-Maker Space, and more.