I could not have spent my Saturday in two more different places. And yet, there was one big tip that I took away from both.
I spent the bulk of the day at EdCamp BOS. An unconference largely populated by K-12 educators from Massachusetts and neighboring states, it was refreshing to talk about the challenges at all levels of education with new people. I went to sessions about building grit and resiliency in students, on using Google apps to make educating easier, and on incorporating mindfulness meditation practices into the classroom. My final session of the day was spent in a group that discussed professional development measures for teachers.
One of my favorite suggestions from the session:
How often do you see other people do what you do? Visit classrooms/meetings/trainings to draw inspiration #edcampbos
— Amma Marfo (@ammamarfo) May 3, 2014
Ed pros want to see students succeed. Creativity can be as simple as seeing someone else facilitate that differently from you. #edcampbos
— Amma Marfo (@ammamarfo) May 3, 2014
Last month, I wrote about how one factor that makes recognition seem hollow is a lack of knowledge for what a colleague or direct report is doing. But endeavoring to spend more time with our colleagues on their home turf could change this dynamic. Visiting events or hall meetings, sitting in on classes or committee meetings, helping with interviews or retreats, going on trips or volunteering for initiatives- any or all of these activities can provide a better idea of projects they’re working on and challenges they face, and be able to give substantive praise or constructive criticism. Some areas lend themselves better to this principles than others; can’t pop in on an advising session or counseling appointment due to FERPA? Ask questions to learn more about what their day-to-day looks like. They could teach you something, and you could learn from them as well!
After my time at EdCamp, I went to MIT for a lecture with Mitchell Hurwitz (center, creator of Arrested Development) and Danny Zuker (left, executive producer of Modern Family). The hands-down highlight of the evening, I’ll say right off the bat, was being able to thank Mitch for the Gob Bluth chicken dance (complete with a brief performance). But aside from finally getting that out of my system, there was another audience question that really made me think.
In addition to serving as a showrunner for several FOX projects, Hurwitz appeared in a bit role on NBC’s Community this past season. The student asked about connections between Arrested Development and Community, a pair of shows with niche but fervent fans, and if he had advised beleaguered showrunner Dan Harmon during his time on the set. While Mitch said he hadn’t given advice, he did tell us about a compliment Dan shared with him- watching Mitch’s show showed him “it’s okay to write for your own sense of humor.”
(That could be a whole post unto itself, as could this whole event, and maybe I’ll get to those. Another time. But I digress.)
It was admiring the work of someone else that helped Dan find the perspective for his own successful (if controversial) program. An interesting hallmark of Community, in fact, is the frequency with which Dan provides other showrunners (e.g. Dino Stamatopoulos, Breaking Bad‘s Vince Gilligan) the opportunity to act. This is no less true when applied to the work that happens on our campuses each day. Watching the work of others and bringing them in specifically to learn from, seeing how they solve problems you might run into or handle situations you haven’t seen before, can be a wonderful experience.
It can inform your own practice.
It lets you see how they adapt their gifts in an environment you’re not accustomed to seeing them in.
It can help you take their perspective on days they might seem distant or unduly short with others.
And if you see things that aren’t working in their technique, it can give you ideas on how to shake things up for yourself.
What opportunities do you have to pop-in on something that will shake up your work?