Thursday, May 7, 2015

Which side are you on?

I was listening to a sports talk show on the radio a few days ago, and the talk show host stated that sports is the last topic where people with differing opinions can disagree without taking it personally. Unfortunately, too many topics are now seen as opportunities to make judgments about a person's soul!  Republican or Democrat.  Vegan or Meat-lover.  Working moms or stay-at-home moms.  Pretty much everything that has more than one perspective does more than cause people to choose a side.  Instead, folks choose sides, then judge the folks on the other side.  Except for maybe sports???

When I think about this in education, there are definitely a few topics that have caused a bit of side-choosing over the last 20 years.  Whole language or phonics.  Do we teach spelling or not?  When do we teach the traditional algorithms in math, as soon as possible or after the child understand the concept of the math function?

For some of these, research has proven certain things to be best practices.  For example, I rarely hear of a straight-
out disagreement between whole language and phonics because a balanced approach has been proven to work.  When something is proven to work, time and time again with increasing success, it can be considered a best practice and typically educators will agree on it.  For example, I don't know any educators who say that a worksheet is the best way to learn something.  There are so many better ways to learn!

For so many other educational topics, there is still a battle between sides.  Occasionally, feelings get hurt when opinions differ.  When teams of educators are synergistic, they have built excellent relationships and are able to put these topics on the table for professional discussion.  High-performing teams may have different opinions, but they can work together in a productive manner that will benefit all students.  These educators learn from each other and often find a third alternative that was better than the originals.

When educators agree on a common goal and make that goal the major focus of everything they do, synergy begins.  When educators with differing opinions see each disagreement as a learning opportunity, success for students grows.  When educators value the differences, then look in the mirror to see what needs to be changed, improvement can be guaranteed!

When we talk about education like we talk about sports, our kids win!