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Keystones of a Progressive Educator

In my undergrad education courses, I was taught to view education as a pendulum; while it may swing to one extreme, it almost always swings back in the other direction. Upon graduating and beginning my first job, I would often speak with veteran teachers on my team who seemed to also give this theory credibility. They extolled the virtues of saving everything, as almost all activities would be useful in a later time when current views would shift back on the continuum. As you can probably tell, the Progressive Education video impacted my views tremendously. The fact that leaders in education have been, many for over a hundred years, calling for the change that we continue to discuss today is extremely shocking. It allowed me to develop a new symbolism for education. This time, rather than education being a pendulum, I’m viewing education as a wall clock with a dead battery. Education, like time, is limitless. Those clock hands are going to spin and spin forever, without stopping. While it may pass by the same numbers, each pass is in a different context/time of day. Opportunities for learning surround us each and every minute of the day. However, without a functioning battery, we are doomed to stay in the same place. Why are we stuck? How do we continue to move and grow?

The answer to these questions lies in the blog post by Dr. Harapnuik. We must become “self-differentiated leaders”. We need to be strong enough to ignore the politics and the status quo, and we must be confident in and steadfast in our pursuit of an education for all learners that provides them with opportunities to grow in new, creative ways. One of my favorite quotes is by Mahandas Gandhi. It is painted on the wall above my whiteboard in my classroom, and it reads “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” This quote serves as a reminder to both my students and myself throughout the year. It is not simply enough to want to be a progressive educator. We have to take action. Sometimes, that action may feel bold or illicit responses that you may not like. However, being a leader means being able to take the risks necessary to set change in motion. Aligning ourselves with other “self-differentiated” learners within our organization increases the odds of positive, influential change. As Dewey says, our role for educators is to prepare students “not for our world, but for the world of the future.” Traditional methods are preparing our students for our present world; not the world that we know is possible with a progressive approach.

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