The summertime has me thinking about enrichment.
As a teacher, summer was always a magical space of exploration for me. During the summer, I was able to reflect on my teaching like no other time in the year, to step out of the rat-race of busy tasks see my teaching, my students, my classroom, and my purpose from a different perspective.
A good friend of mine, a great teacher and one of my mentors, liked to make a list in the summer. She called it her “If I Were A Better Teacher” list (which always gave us a good laugh in light of how hard we worked each day to do just that). I still love this process, and I still love this creative space.
Today, I’m exploring some old thoughts, ones that I’d pushed aside in the heat of an inferno semester. A question that was posed in my first semester has really stuck with me: Does education, as a profession, have a regulating body?- that is, are we able to critique and provide feedback to the educational research that we produce in such a way that it regulates itself for relevancy, practicality and applicability?
After some discussion, the resounding answer to that question was “yes”. We do have a self-regulating body because we have people like me. A recent teacher, I spend my days poring over the issues of education with a fine tooth comb, and trying to evaluate those issues for their usefulness to the pursuit of a better education for all. However, it is exactly this fact which bothers me. Clearly, I do not have every perspective that I need, not nearly every experience to shed light, nor do I posses the collective creativity of mind that I valued so highly as a professional educator. Not to mention that I am a recent teacher, and no longer a part of the profession which I represent everyday. This may seem small, but to me, it looms large- in our current climate, there is no year of teaching which experiences the same demands, the same expectations, the same pressures as any other year. To have even one foot out the door means that you are one foot shy of the ability to understand the teaching perspective. And, it is this perspective that our current research so sorely needs.
We need more than the regulation that I can provide. We need teachers in the field to join in the fold, but the question is: how? How do you require more of a group of people already asked to provide well beyond their means? We can’t ask teachers to read academic journals, which are written by academics, for academics. We already ask them to continuously learn new curricula, re-design their environments for each new set of student needs, differentiate their instruction to support each individual, only to name a few.
Do we have a culture of feedback for educational innovation in the teaching profession? I would say “yes, we do.” But, it’s a dormant one, one that has not been given the proper support to grow. For academia’s part they have made some efforts, and for those of you who have found that summer-born creative explorer, here are a few places to start:
- Journals Geared Towards Research-To-Practice: These typically charge a subscription, but they can have reasonable services (free sample copies, podcasts, webinars, or deep discounts for educators)
- Web-Based Enrichment: Typically in the form of modules or webcasts, these can be full of current research findings, clips of interviews with lead researchers, and great resources. Be warned- they will cover material that typical special educators already know by heart, but can offer a well-needed review and/or food for thought on mastered subjects.
- Quick Reference Data-bases: A wonderful way to quickly see what is deemed as a research-based (evidence-based) practice.
While I continue to search for a way to be the middle-man between educators in the field and the researchers so desperately trying to support them, I hope that you all have found your own way to grow and explore this summer. Best wishes for a magical space between the years 🙂