Never a Prophet in Your Own Town

Never a Prophet in Your Own Town

Many edubloggers (only the most recent one I have found) and podcasters have noticed this phenomenon that it is terribly difficult to receive recognition for doing great work outside your most logical sphere of influence: your own school. This tendency leads to less willingness to collaborate with the teachers that are geographically close to you. As Paul Allison describes, it can have some pretty heavy consequences (i.e., losing your job).

This phenomenon, although real and slightly annoying, is not what I want to concentrate on. I don’t want to plumb the depths of why it is that people around the world will comment on your blog and give you feedback on your work, but it is maddening to just get a coworker to check out a great resource. I’m not interested in figuring out why the parents of your students are less inspired than the parents of other teachers’ students. In fact, I really don’t care that the recognition for doing online presentations and creating learning objects that are widely held as groundbreaking is seen in local circles as an affront to the organization from which you hail.

All hyperbole aside, what I would like to focus on is creating collaborative opportunities in your “own town.” How can we go about making sure that the great types of conversation and feedback described above are going on in the hallways in between classes?

Well, I think I have come up with three things that will help:

  1. Wear your passion on your sleeve.
  2. Reach out on a consistent basis.
  3. Find a way to incorporate what others are doing already into your vision.

I have been e-mailing quite a bit about my podcast on this topic. There are a few teachers out there that are wrestling with the use of technology in their teaching. One such teacher, Jason Hando, said that he worked with a “flat world” project initially without applying all of the technology. After he had worn his passion on his sleeve for a while, he applied some web 2.0 technology in the form of a blog and received positive feedback from his school administration, including his principal.

This is not the only kind of passion that I think we can wear on our sleeve. We can be constantly talking about the great resources that we have found in our feed readers. We can be showing off the authentic products that our students are creating daily. Eventually other teachers will start to ask us how we are doing this. We can let our students and their parents become the advocates for the kind of learning experiences that are abundant in our classrooms. They will start wearing our passion on their sleeves too.

We should also be sending feelers out every once in a while for anyone who is ready to incorporate School 2.0, even to the smallest degree. Hold a class on blogging in the classroom even if you know only 5 people will show up. Send an e-mail tell others what you are doing that you know will only be read and trashed by the majority of your staff. Pull other people into a project that you are working on if they are on the outside looking in at your technology realization. Be the one teacher that “gets it,” but isn’t angry that others don’t.

The last thing that I have found for working collaboration with the people around you into your hectic global collaboration schedule is to honor what the teachers in your school are already doing. I am a big fan of looking at a project that is already in place and just making it 2.0. A great example of this was when my team decided that we were going to go on a field trip to Denver. Most of the other teams in the school were having the kids to a scavenger hunt of key places in the downtown area and answering questions on a sheet of paper, which was to be turned in and never to be heard from again. My way of making this trip into a “2.0” experience was to use Mapwing so that my students could make interactive tours of downtown which could be looked at by anyone from around the world to find out more about our fine city.

Each teacher on our team was able to contribute their expertise to the project, but we were showing the kids how to collaborate and create in an authentic way. My hope is that more of these types of cross-curriculum projects start to happen organically because we have opened up the door by using what was already in existence.

What do you think? Are there other ways to create collaboration in our own towns and become, if not prophets, at least teachers with advice and experience worth sharing?


  1. kcayan

    Your article really made me think about my own district and school. We attempt to do new things and some are much quicker at grasping new concepts than others. I am one that tends to be slow and steady. I enjoy learning about new technology but for those of us who are older, it can be a bit intimidating. Working with a small group of colleagues seems less intimidating and is also a great support group for each other.

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