Motion Without Movement

Blogging gives us the feeling of motion but without much movement. The ‘echo chamber’ reprises the same themes endlessly. No matter how passionate the blogger or the blogoshere, the slow pace of systemic change in our schools moves forward at a snail’s pace. Would things move just as quickly if we weren’t blogging? Would natural societal forces be moving us along at the same speed?

Does blogging change things? Is it useful? Does it have a real impact?…

Is blogging merely the safest form of activisim? …done from the comfort of one’s living room.

I see that the recurring themes, the need for change and voicing of our frustration because it is so slow in coming, can be a positive thing. I see it as educator/bloggers ‘owning the conversation’. The more educators who pick up their electronic pens, create blogs, and post in protest; mean more folks are vested in the outcome. Greater numbers of educators writing for change may reach a ‘tipping point’ that begins to bring about the change.

On the other hand, perhaps blogging isn’t in the same category as true ‘activism’. If writing does not produce the desired outcomes, an ‘activist’ will abandon the strategy or add other actions to it. If writing about change doesn’t bring about change, and we do nothing but continue to complain about the lack of change; then are we really committed?

It’s certainly easy to sit back in the comfort of ones home and rail against the machine. I wonder what would happen if every reform minded blogger got up from the computer and ran for the school board in their home district? What kind of change might occur? If you aren’t the type to run for office, how about organizing a group to solicit, support, and elect a candidate that will work for the type of educational change we advocate? What would happen if every educational blogger in the U.S. committed to that one action?

What would happen if we put stepped from behind the safety of our computer screens and started organizing groups to attend our local Board meetings to speak about the changes we want to see? What if every educational blogger in America set out to run for or elect like-minded candidates to the highest offices of the local Teachers Association/Union? What if we began to use the power of our local professional organizations to advocate for transformational change?

What if we stopped professing the need for leadership and risk taking and did some leading and risk taking ourselves? What if every blogger in the country entered his or her classroom or office tomorrow and began doing what they say ought to be done? …Began making the changes that need to be made?

What if reform-minded edubloggers organized and delivered “teach-ins” that laid out the case for change to staff, students, and parents. What if we took even more radical steps like organizing “walk outs” or “sick outs” on NCLB testing days?

What if we put less energy into our blogs and more into sparking our students to understand how under-served they are in the present system? What if we could get our students to ‘own’ the transformation of their schools, so that they felt the compelled to do something on their own behalf? How powerful would it be to have students joining us in our “campaign for change”.

I don’t know. Like I said, it’s easier for me to write this than to actually get out of this comfortable chair and do it. No illusions. Activism has its costs. Maybe we care…but not enough to risk our jobs, and our livelihoods.Maybe behind all these words is the hope that somebody else will get things started. It always seems to fall to somebody else to ‘light the fire’.

I think about those that have gone before us, those who stood for the great causes of our times, women’s rights, civil rights, the union movement….some lost more than their jobs…



6 thoughts on “Motion Without Movement

  1. Hi Pete,
    Students are finishing up the FSE, the Final Summative Evaluation in many classes in my school. This component is about 10% of their final mark. If properly designed it allows students to apply the concepts learned all semester and to make applications within new contexts. I have been empowered over the years by the student product of many FSE’s. Real learning takes place and it’s apparent in the presentations that students are empowered by the project.

    However, I have also seen rather ill designed projects which compromise the potential for student learning and excitement.

    A key element of the transformation of learning takes place in individual contexts, lessons, and units. It comes down to teachers who create the chemistry and to students who are given some ownership in which direction the learning will go.

    Thoughtful post as always.

  2. Hi Pete,

    What I’ve been getting out of blogging and the blogosphere has been all about the conversations. All of you have been part of my education – showing me other viewpoints, sharing your experiences, providing me with perspective that I wouldn’t otherwise have had!

    I think there is a danger in rushing out to lobby School Boards and politicians, etc… I think that so many of our efforts fall on deaf ears or, even when implemented, don’t have the effect that we hoped for because we haven’t changed the fundamental system.

    I’m not talking about throwing the whole thing away, though. I recently posted a comment on my superintendent’s blog – which I’m going to repost here (just so I dont’ have to rewrite my thoughts!):

    First of all, I believe that we often find excellence happening “in spite of the system” rather than “because of the system”. Parent involvement sometimes fits that mould – it happens as a result of the passionate administrators, teachers and parent volunteers that come together because we all care about the kids above all else! So we push through the politics and government mandates and anything else that might stand in our way – and forge relationships for the good of our children.

    I believe we can come together, based on that shared passion, to find and put in place the systems that support amazing learning communities in all of our schools. Can you imagine if the bureaucracy created a foundation for creativity and excellence – instead of being the wall that we have to get through??

    So what kinds of things do we need to have in our foundation?

    We need to build supportive relationships between parents and teachers, so that we can feel safe as we take the risks necessary for growth in this changing world. I believe that trust often comes from understanding each others’ needs and by having open, honest communication. How does that best happen in a busy world, particularly when parents can’t always pick up/drop off their kids at school – but also be respectful of teachers’ time and availability? That’s the kind of stuff we have to talk about!

    We have to bring every conversation back to a common understanding of our reason for being here. We care about our children, this new generation – and we want to raise them to be thoughtful, joyous, creative , passionate and caring citizens of this world. Our decisions are never really about money or mandates or politics or resources – they are always about whether we are supporting or detracting from our vision for our children!

    We all need to understand our own and each others’ roles and contributions within this system. When we have clear expectations of each other, disputes are less personal and more about finding solutions.

    And finally, we need to remember to celebrate all of our accomplishments. That’s the good stuff that reminds to enjoy all of the little moments, in spite of the chaotic and busy lives that we live!

    I firmly believe that “it takes a village to raise a child” and we are all a part of that village! Most often, there is no “one size fits all” answer – so we find the best solutions by working together. It all starts with open, honest conversations!

    Pete – the action I’m taking, as I step out from behind my computer screen, is:
    – instigating these conversations in my own District;
    – bringing together many different perspectives on my ThinkingSchools group blog ( – to have these kinds of conversations in a larger context (watch for the kick off in August!);
    – putting together a grant proposal that will fund projects to actually DO the work necessary to create a foundation of systemic changes, with an end goal of having a model that can be replicated in any District.

    And if I don’t get this grant – I’m going to find this funding elsewhere!!

    I believe that with a clear vision of what success looks like, and a solid and supportive foundation in place, the pedagogy will come clear in each situation. That’s the stained glass windows and spires of our cathedral – they will look different based on the teacher, on the students, on the needs of the community.

    It’s exactly what we keep saying about the students and their learning – set the end goal and let them use their strengths and creativity in finding the way to get there!

    Let’s do the same thing for our teachers!

    Thanks for bearing with my long comment!!

  3. Paul,
    Your last paragraph rings true with me. Fundamental to success in the classroom is the relationship between student and teacher. Without a healthy relationship not much is possible.

  4. I know that occasionally those of us stuck in the front of the classroom/building struggle to put into place what we know we should do. However, some students have used blogging as a form of activism that emerged from a school project (see Twenty-five days to make a difference).
    So perhaps we come back again to learning from our students.

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