The scope of our conversation revolved around three big topics: The online textbook created by our (Garth and mine) students, helping students leave a positive legacy through technology and education, and collaboration/self-reflection of Garth and myself.
The online textbook is a (going on) five year project in which students have been creating digital content based on the world history standards in Ohio. The idea of the legacy students leave, fascinated me. It was the first time that I had heard someone refer to students' work as their legacy. It struck me and really put into perspective what we, teachers, do everyday. Garth and I have written several blogs about the connections we create with students, the skills we teach them that are beyond any government regulated standards and the impact teachers have on the world. But hearing the word legacy gave me a new perspective on how I teach. As a teacher, I want to leave my legacy both on my students and on the institution of education. Allowing students to understand that they too are leaving a legacy helps connect me with my students. Tomorrow, when we finally return from our two snow days, I plan on starting class talking about this idea. I want students to understand that we share the same goals, that my class is a journey that I am taking with them; sometimes as the leader, sometimes just as a passenger.
The third point that we discussed with Alan, reflection and long-term planning is something that I took for granted. Garth has always been a long-range thinker. He understands the scope of what we do and sees the need to be prepared for the future. Both of us have always been very reflective about every aspect of our lives. Almost to the point of depression. Teachers that are not reflective do not change. They do not advance themselves, they do not take risks and they do a dis-service to their students by being complacent. Reflective teachers are never happy with what they do, they are constantly questioning their methodology, philosophical beliefs and choices. Even when what they are doing may be great...there is always a better way!
Speaking with inspirational people like Alan helps me keep in perspective just how much growing I still have to do. there is always some new technology, new methodology or new way to approach the issue of teaching. Always change, always grow and always take risks. Sometimes you will fail, sometimes you will succeed; but all the time students will respect your honesty, courage and empathy. At after standardized tests are taken, diplomas are handed out and students go out into the "real world", they won't remember the capital of Djibouti, Newton's 3 laws, or Pi. They will remember the connections you made with them, what you taught them about digital footprints, how you showed them what empathy really is and how you never judged them based on spelling ability or background. Be the best you can be...if not for you, then for them.