April 7, 2013

Excuses, Excuses......Will a child's future wait?

"It is not hard to learn more.  What is hard is to unlearn when you discover yourself wrong."  - Martin H. Fischer 
You know, I'm actually getting tired of the excuse, "There's just not enough time." I get it....I understand the feeling, but guess what? It is just an excuse.  It's an excuse for not wanting to change.  An excuse for avoiding the time and thought needed to examine your practices, your curriculum, your schedule, your skills and knowledge base. It's an excuse to stay comfortable in that nice well worn rut we have developed by repeating our same actions.  Why stretch our muscles when they have become comfortable at doing what we do year after year.  I hear the rallying cries of, "we just keep adding and adding, but no one ever takes anything away.  There is no time to learn this new technology tool, this teaching strategy, or to implement this new initiative." Or the ever infamous yeah buts, such as, "yeah but that won't work in my school, or with my administrator, or in our town."

If our American way of life fails the child, it fails us all.  ~Pearl S. Buck

But you know what....that's just an excuse. Why? Because so many people have made those changes already. I have literally met hundreds of people on Twitter that are doing all of those things.  They are watching their students grow and develop new skills and gain greater insights while becoming more creative. So I had to ask. How?  Do you have an 28 hour day?  Do you get paid to work in the summer?  Do you teach for a half day, then a sub comes in during the afternoon while you work on creating lesson plans for PBL or get special training on iPads, SMARTBoards or just all of the great apps on the internet? Do the kids have to stay in from recess to blog, do you not have RTI, PBIS, or state mandated tests?

No, I am not talking about teachers from my school (although I am sure there are some that feel this way) I am talking about teachers from all over the place.  I'm not even talking about only teachers.  I have heard administrators from all over the place use this same rallying cry. And yes, I have even felt this same way.  As a matter of fact, I had succumb to that feeling last week during our weekly #atplc chat on Twitter.  I was frustrated with not being able to do all of things that I know are best to do.  A few of the other school leaders shared some of their own frustrations as well, but they also offered up ideas of how to overcome them. So, after the chat, I turned off the computer and TV and just reflected for a bit. A few weeks back I had the chance to attend the ASCD national convention in Chicago and while there I attended a session by Dave Burgess.  Dave is a teacher in San Diego. He is also the author of "Teach Like a Pirate." During his session he shared how it really bothers him when teachers say to him, "Well, teaching like that is easy for you, you're creative." He went on to share how that really diminishes all the effort and creativity he puts into his lessons. His presentation was focused on teachers, but I have found the medicine was good for me too. The simple fact is we all have the same 24 hours in a day, almost all of us have the same families to return home to (some bigger and some smaller) and we all are busy and work hard to meet the needs of our students. But the question is....are we?  Are we really meeting the needs of our students?  Or are we simply going through the motions of doing what we did the year before.

If I am truly trying to grow and focusing on the needs of my students and staff, then I need to find the time and make the commitment to change what I can to make that culture exist. I can rest on the comfortable couch of excuses, or I can find ways to make all that I need to do, and all that my staff needs to do a possibility. So I am done with the excuses. While I still don't have all the answers, I am positive of the vision I have for my school and I have a Professional Learning Network of over 2,800 people I can turn to for ideas. And actually my PLN may be larger than that. Because when I ask a question to my followers, they may retweet it out to their followers. In actuality, I am connecting to educators and leaders all over the world.  I am bound to have some incredible ideas come rolling in.

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.  ~Alvin Toffler

So as the quote above states, are you ready to unlearn what you have done for years? Are you enlightened enough and motivated enough to relearn how to be a teacher that is preparing students for 21st century skills? Can you readjust your vision for students, and help them become the creative, deep thinking, reflective, well read adults we need them to become? Because if you thought this would be hard for the students, guess how hard it will be for those that have developed a 10 to 20 year rut.  Not much has changed in education over the years. Sure we have added quite a bit and we have slowly raised the bar, but we still tend to stand in the front of the class and deliver lectures (heck our classrooms are even designed for that) and we still tend to teach from a book. We still tend to give a multiple choice test at the end of a unit. We still tend to mark students down for late work, we still tend to have them fill out worksheets that promote low level learning and recall instead of analysis or synthesis. What do you tend to do? Or are you ready to create new tendencies? Are you ready to break the mold? Then sit back and decide how you will do it without more money, without more support, without an aide, without more time. Just decide that it is the right thing to do, and that your students deserve your best. Not your best from 10 years ago, but your best from 10 years from NOW.  Because I am not sure that student in the back of your room....I'm not sure if they can afford to wait for you to find the time.


  1. WoW! Rabble Rouser YOU!

    I think the "yes, but" people are the most annoying for me to deal with. I mean really, you just admitted that you need to change! However, the reason that you cannot change is some external factor that you cannot control. Get over it!

    As you said, we all have the same amount of hours in the day! But do you really use EVERY single minute of your work day wisely? REALLY? Reallocate 5 simple minutes to do something that will move you and your students forward with a learning target that will make a difference!

    Admit to yourself, FEAR is holding you back! It's time to "get over it!"

    Tom, your post is a rallying cry! GREAT job!

    Fellow readers, what are YOU going to do differently tomorrow for students and learning?

    1. Thanks Fran! I have truly enjoyed connecting with you via Twitter.

      I know that building a culture where fear of failure is greatly diminished will help, but if you are truly to be courageous and desire what is best for kids, can you afford to wait for that. Besides if you can't passionately defend your teaching, is it really best practice?

  2. I smiled when I read the comment about "busy". Show me someone that isn't busy. We all have the choice to grow and learn, but more importantly we all control our own attitudes. Attitude is everything! Thanks for sharing this post, I'll be sure to include it in my next post.

    1. Thanks Ben! I knew you would be on target with this.

  3. Well said Tom, as these reminders need to be "out there". Choosing what one does with their time is about prioritizing. Teachers need help sifting through the busyness of teaching to focus on "what matters" and "why does it matter". And "why might I need to change what I do?". Too much precious learning time is wasted with our kids doing "activities" that always has been done, without any thought about "why it matters?" I hope your comments lead to some active discussions, unlearning and re-learning.

  4. Very well said Tom. Keeping the focus on the children and on learning can help with all these excuses. I love what Rick DuFour says "Don't tell me you believe all children can learn. Tell me what you are going to do about the kids who aren't learning."

  5. Very well said Tom. Keeping the focus on the children and on learning can help with all these excuses. I love what Rick DuFour says "Don't tell me you believe all children can learn. Tell me what you are going to do about the kids who aren't learning."

  6. Wonderful Monday morning read, it is so much easier to say I don't have time. But I think some of it it also stems from not wanting to devote time to things deemed unessential to teaching, and let's face it; social media, connecting or learning about new things are still deemed unnecessary to teaching by many. And that will be the topic of my next blog post. Great post Tom!

  7. Tom, it was great to read your piece here. I recall seeing your name badge at some of the ASCD13 sessions, and some of your blog comments resonate strongly with the messages and views shared by the educational leaders at the conference. You have also mixed in your own flavour.

    Your comments about time, creativity and energy are duly noted- as is your quotation on 21st century illiteracy. As for some of those who select not to get onboard with the positive and "what makes sense" trends in our field, such as that with Dave Burgess, I share one more item. "Letting go means to come to the realization that some people are a part of your history, but not a part of your destiny." (Steve Maraboli)

    Continue with your destiny, friend.

    1. Thanks Shaune! That was very well put. While I believe it is my duty as an Instructional Leader and Instructional Coach (I get to wear both hats in my school) to bring up those with skills that need improving or even just updating, I do struggle with the same excuses used over and over. That being said, I am also listening to "Switch" by the Heath brothers and they share some great ideas that also resonate. Am I doing all I can to support teachers in this change and growth process, so that comfort levels are supported as we grow together. I will be posting my thoughts on that soon. I will be using that Quote you shared.

    2. Growth Mindset at its finest. I could hear the motivational, pump-up, "Rocky" type music playing in the background as I read! Your honesty is clear, poignant, and timely.
      "Every day, you get better or you get worse-- there's no such thing as staying the same." (Tom Keating)
      Thank you! @KellyJoSimon

    3. Thank you so much for having the courage to write about this topic. It is one that I have struggled with for many years during my time as a learning technologies coordinator for a very large district. You have encouraged me to get my own thoughts on this topic out in my blog.

      Thanks again

  8. Tom,
    Great job. Keynes once said:"The difficulty lies not in the new ideas, but escaping the old ones" We need to encourage risk taking and that it's ok to fail. Keep up the great work

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Great post!!! It's also very informative. Thanks for sharing this blog.

    Please visit my website: http://huelinks.com/