My “One Thing”

Recently, I had the chance to be on an episode of OnEdMentors on VoicEd Radio. I was joined this particular night by Sarah Anne Lalonde (who you might remember from Episode 17 of Planning Period Podcast) and Stephen Hurley (who will one day not be so busy that he can’t be on my show…).

In case you don’t follow me religiously on twitter and chomp at the bit to find the next time you can hear my sultry voice, OnEdMentors is a weekly show on VoicEd Radio (Thursday nights at 9 PM EST), that was originally intended as a show to provide tips and advice to Ontario Educators beginning their career. I didn’t know this when I first appeared on the show, instead, thinking that we were Mentors who had conversations On Education. I have since pushed for the n to be lower case to embrace my misconception, because I’m the pushy, ignorant American, and Canadians are as nice as stereotypes would tell me (at least those on VoicEd).

Anyways, the focus of OnEdMentors this week was a clip from the movie City Slickers, in which one of the iconic characters, Curly, explains that the point of life is to find “that one thing.” Stephen asked us what our One Thing was, so I had to come up with something.

First of all, it’s really hard to come up with “one thing” that doesn’t sound cliche or platitudinal. Trying to boil down my passion for education, or my obsession with furthering discussions on the profession, to a single concept, ultimately lends itself to buzz words and quips. “I’m in it for the kids” or “I want to make a difference” came to mind, for example. Gag.

What I settled on was “change”. I know, just as sappy and meaningless. However, to at least feel a little better about myself, I explained further. To me, change isn’t the same as iteration, innovation, addition, or improvement. Those are all necessary, but ultimately build from the pre-existing base of what I believe to be a broken and crumbling foundation.

The reality, as you probably know I feel at this point, is that education is broken at the simplest levels, and to me, “change” is akin to throwing everything out and seeing what we can do from there. Sure, some things might get to stay, but if we throw it all out, then we can let back in the things that work.

Change is taking everything we do and asking “Why do we do this?” If we can’t answer with concrete, data-based reasons why that practice is best, then it goes. Grades? Gone. We all know they suck, all the research says it sucks, and yet we keep doing it.

Homework? Good bye. Acceleration? You’d be hard pressed to convince me it is in the best interest of students to grow up faster. Direct instruction? Hasta la vista. Worksheets? Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Change. That’s my one thing. When I wake up in the morning, I think about what I’m going to do that day and how it will lead to that kind of change. The best days at my job are those in which I feel like someone heard me, someone listened. If it isn’t a teacher, then I will convince a student that this whole thing is a sham. One decent sneeze, and this house of cards will fall. All I want is to be the feather that tickles the nose.