Saturday, December 13, 2014

Coming soon: planetary destruction or human transcendence. Is there a lesson plan for that?

By Sean Federbusch

Last week, all fifth-grade teachers from my district came together to create an assessment. With the effort we put in, one might have thought we were creating some sort of particle accelerator. How hard can it be?!

Living in this time of human evolution, teachers are faced with unprecedented opportunities in the mist of impossible and contradictory expectations.  My mind races with possibilities. At times, this can lead to paralysis.  

For years now, my PLC has been fueled with reading, watching and developing curriculum with the end in mind:  Our world is profoundly changing and technology must be a part of the solution. I keep waiting for my path as an educator to become clear; to see the technology, philosophy, policies, curriculum, and the society become aligned in such a way that I am able construct an eloquent and articulate post about the future of education, and know exactly how my classroom and student fit into that alignment.   

The main problem with waiting for this solution is that there is no one solution.  Education is a messy business, and in this culture, the modality of teaching is interlaced with contradictions and conflicting forces,  the main one being the discrepancy between the rich and poor.  Schools in the US are doing a great job, considering the amount of poverty we have to contend with.  The other main challenge we face is the disfunction of attempting to solve a social problem with a financial solution.  Our school systems have been designed to fit an outdated economic architecture.   

The disfunction of the antiquated structure of our school systems is accelerated exponentially as Moore's law applies itself to nanotechnology, robotics,  and bioengineering.  These transformative features of our technological landscape create a host of new requirements for people entering our work force, not to mention, a shift in the entire economy.  

As the need for awareness of the interconnection between cultures, nations and our warming planet grows, as the merging of our biological bodies evolve to incorporate the tools we develop, as our international social fabric develops with our social media, as our tools of learning transform the educational landscape to the point were the current educational system no longer seems relevant, what is the appropriate reaction for a fifth-grade teacher?  

With so many paradigm shifts happening, where is the best place to stand?

What I think I know

I know that the likelihood of human survival on our planet is precarious and I realize that the key to survival may require a profound change in our economic, military and national framework.  I know that the power of the Corporation will only decrease when we are unified as a world community, and realize the power of the collective is more important than the continued acquisition of wealth for a few.  I know I am not alone feeling the suffering of the all of members of our community, when our people of color are killed and enslaved by the current system of injustice and economic dis-opportunity.  

I know the constructs of human creation- the infrastructure, economic models and educational and religious systems- are the byproducts of human thought, awareness and wisdom, and that any cultural enlightenment we can produce will only manifest as a result of our collective personal transformation away from fear and towards wisdom, compassion and understanding.  

What I think I should do. 

  • Connect with my students

Because of these beliefs, I greet my fifth-grade students every day with an immediate need to educate them.  I look each one of them in the eye, and attempt to connect with them on a personal level. My intention is to recognize their inner strength of awareness and compassion and to see their power manifest in their writing, mathematics, understanding of our physical world, awareness of each other and their ability to use technology to transform their education.   

  • Find work / life / growth balance

Because of these beliefs I do my best to find the balance of work, play, meditation, family and professional development.  Each activity I engage in, I do so with a single point of focus, somehow keeping the background knowledge of our tenuous situation at bay- at least on the good days.  I wake each day making the wish that all beings find happiness, brew coffee, and sit down with my PLC of Twitter and Flipboard.  I drink in the knowledge, wisdom, best practices and teaching ideas share by progressive educators around the globe.   

  • Teach my students why things matter. 

I train my students in the vision I have; that my students will use technology to help them better understand their world, both personal and as a member of a world community, while (skillfully) communicating that their existence on this planet, as well as their own personal happiness, may depend on their ability think critically, work collectively and develop a profound sense of personal freedom and human justice.   

  • Reflect 
As I reflect on my ability to do these things, I realize the distance between my goal, and its application, is great.  That on most days, I grow frustrated, ill-tempered and unable to remember the long-term vision I have as a teacher.  But I do so with compassion for myself, understanding that all of us can only work from where we are.  

And in this way, education is slightly less messy.