Teacher: "I am feeling so overwhelmed lately. We just have so much going on at school."
Me: "Oh? What's up?"
Teacher: "Well, we're doing Shelley Moore."
Me (in my head): Wait, what?!
Me (out loud): "I'm unclear. What do you mean?"
Teacher: "Well, you know, Shelley Moore."
And so on. By the end of the conversation I was no clearer on what they were actually doing (although I was pretty sure it wasn't Shelley Moore, herself, thankfully) and I don't think this poor teacher was either.
Please don't misunderstand, I am not blaming this teacher or her administration. They were attempting to adopt practices that are best for kids, I have no doubt about that. But we have a bad habit in education of adopting practices without necessarily adopting the philosophy behind them. Without really looking at the habits of mind that led someone to these practices in the first place. This comes from a well-meaning place, on the part of both teachers and administrators; we want what's best for kids, so we jump on the latest and greatest bandwagon, without taking the time to unpack the "why" of the bandwagon. We're busy and time-crunched and want to get started bringing the awesomeness to the kiddos, so we jump in to practice. While we may adopt the practices, and some of them might even stick, we don't ever start driving the bandwagon until the philosophy that led someone to start the bandwagon in the first place settles in to our soul as something we know to be true, something we need to be true.
It's a bit of a catch-22, really. Some people readily adopt the philosophy, while others need to toe-dip in to the practices and see what a difference they can make before they are convinced. I think the key, though, is to ensure that the why behind the whole shebang is clearly articulated and continuously reinforced. And it has to be detailed; wanting success for all students is something every educator would say they espouse, but believing, unequivocally, that every student can be successful is something we, as a society, have been trained to disbelieve. We live in a world of averages, where comparison to the norm tells us how smart we are, how capable, how likely to succeed (for more on this read Todd Rose's book The End of Average). This thinking is ingrained in our education system; we test kids against benchmarks all the time and send the outliers to a special teacher for special help. We expect the bell curve to exist, so we unintentionally create a self-fulfilling prophecy; the bulk of the kids will be average, a handful will be the outliers. And outliers are difficult to reach, or so we've been taught.
This, my friends, is where Shelley Moore, and others like her, enter the picture. Shelley (hopefully she doesn't mind being on a first name basis) is a funny, engaging speaker with a great deal of experience teaching the outliers. With entertaining anecdotes and great analogies (see the bowling video here), Shelley is working hard to show the "average" teacher that you can successfully reach all your students, even those pesky outliers. And this is how you end up doing Shelley Moore; great ideas + great salesmanship = lots of people jumping on your bandwagon. Yay! Fantastic, right? Well, yes, except some people get so caught up in the excitement they jump on the bandwagon without knowing where the bandwagon is headed, others get dragged on to the bandwagon whether they want to or not and still others are happy to ride the bandwagon until it gets to where they're going. Point is, not everyone is there because they are ready and willing to drive the bandwagon. So let's celebrate that they are on the bandwagon and then let's work our butts off to make sure that they know, deep down in the centre of their being, that this is the right bandwagon to be on.
If we're lucky, they might just create a bandwagon of their own.
I'm Bryn, teacher, mom, book lover, athlete. I am passionate about literacy, collaborative teaching and finding new and innovative ways to engage & motivate all kids. I hope you find something that speaks to you here on my blog and would love to hear from you too!