Working alone …

I like to work alone.

Is that a surprise to you? It might seem odd considering I spend almost every waking minute connecting with someone via twitter, edmodo, facebook, email and my blog … and if I’m not connecting with them I’m thinking about something I want to say or someone I want to connect with.

But when it comes down to it, I’m pretty possessive about my ideas. I like to steer my own ship. I like to see things through solo and (quite probably) get the glory for myself. If the end product is worth glorifying, of course. But usually even if it’s not – even if it is a supreme failure – I still wanna own that. I want it to be ‘my’ failure. I know I’m like this. But I haven’t really ever thought critically about the consequences of this attitude towards learning and working.

Showing off the ‘Belonging Assessment’ to a couple of people … most likely in order to have my ego stroked … I discovered a confronting flaw in my working style. New mate Glen asked me if I had undertaken some random new-age psych test (I’m sure it’s 100% reliable but those self-assessment questionnaires make me nervous regarding self-bias etc) to see what type of personality-type I am … or was that worker-type? Anyway, the crux of the matter is that he hypothesised that I may be of the type that gets a little too carried away with my own ideas. A little excitable. One who may inadvertently overwhelm and scare off colleagues.

I get that. Kinda sad that I’ve ‘known’ him for a week and a bit and just from chatting casually about teaching – especially the Belonging Assessment – he’s labelled me … and quite accurately I’m sure.

But it wasn’t just Glen, one of my dearest friends, the wise Dr Kelli McGraw, gave me feedback on the Belonging Assessment as well … and whilst her feedback was more pragmatic, it does touch on similar issues raised by Glen.

Feedback from Kelli:

In the self-assessment for the second task though, there is one criteria that would catch teachers up in my old school:
“Did you use the features of your form effectively to represent your ideas about belonging?”
Because there are so many forms on offer, in a school where the students are very competitive, they (and their teachers) would be really worried about being sure of what features are “effective”.Β  This might not pose a problem for you guys…I don’t know?

See the point she’s raising is practical – make sure that the teachers know the features of each text form so they can confidently support their students in their representing of belonging – but underlying this is an awareness that this task was not created as a team. It isn’t the result (entirely) of faculty collaboration. It was me running ahead overly excited and keen to make the bestest assessment task ever. Me putting my hand up to do it all myself. I don’t know what compels me to move at the pace I do. It is some bloody demon, I am sure of it. I guess we’d call it the ego-demon.

But what is the impact of this demon-drive? Well obviously I’m rushing ahead at a dangerous speed, failing to look back at those being left behind … ignorant of the need to slow down and wait. To take the journey with my colleagues to ensure that the destination is owned by us all, enriched by varied talents. Bugger.

Dinner tonight upset me. The convergence of my ‘online’ colleagues (in the form of twitter colleague Glen) and my real-world colleagues (in the form of fellow Davo teacher, Eleana) was uncomfortable. A comment about me preferring to do things on my own gutted me. I don’t know why. I guess what hurt was the dawning of the truth – I don’t like criticism and if I don’t share IRL then I don’t need to face negative feedback. It’s might come as a surprise but I haven’t shared this blog with anyone at my school and most of the things I do in my classroom stay in my classroom. How self-indulgent and egotistical would I sound saying, ‘Have you read my latest blog post?’ … um, no thank you. My colleagues are wonderful teachers and don’t need an ear-bashing from me. Some things I’ve done that I think others might like to try or might find value in I share via edmodo … or I show my HT and he may introduce it faculty-wide, but most stay in my classroom and with my thousand or so virtual colleagues.

Urgh … this post is such a whinge. I dunno … I’m going to work harder on my next project to invite some ‘real’ colleagues to share in the experience. Even if they say I’m mental and it’s an impossible, unnecessary activity.

Do you work ahead and alone, driven by a nameless demon?

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20 thoughts on “Working alone …

  1. Yes I like to work on my own too but I think that’s partly to do with the fact that I grew up as an only child. I’ve kind of always had to fall back on my own resources. And yes I’ve done my share of scaring off colleagues as well. But you know what I reckon you can “mend” things by just being as open face-2-face as you’ve been in your blog. And it’s a good thing that you’re reflecting on what drives you. Wouldn’t be good to see ourselves as others see us (sometimes)?

    • Hey Lee πŸ™‚

      Well I grew up in a family of 4, so I don’t have that excuse – maybe it’s because I’m the baby? πŸ˜‰

      I think I’d be scared of me if I saw me coming … you know if it was someone obsessive and over-committed like me with some other issue, like ESL or literacy.
      Yeah, I gotta start thinking about how to bridge the divide …

    • Hey Shani πŸ™‚

      Yeah, you’re right about forming ideas … I think I just use my PLN for the forming of ideas because it’s full of like-minded people. If I tried to brainstorm with ppl who didn’t think similarly I would sound like a freak!

      But I do need to get better at planning with my colleagues cos there’s always going be issues with a project/task that I fail to identify.

  2. I guess I do a bit of both at different times Bianca. We share stage responsibilities in our Faculty and that means that two people often work on an assessment task in English. If one has an idea we discuss it and build it together so that those teaching it have that common understanding and expectation. This is partly the beauty of a smaller school , smaller team. That said , we all design learning experiences ourselves too and even in a small team it takes a concerted effort to make sure there is time to discuss and share them. We have a fortnightly school meeting where we have TPL and share practice or ideas but the risk of “scaring off ‘ colleagues is there and we try to counter it by a participatory culture.It’s a curly one….
    I think we all need to share changed practice more and Pip Cleaves just wrote a great post on that.
    My demon is more Mr Self Doubt and he drives me crazy !

    • Hey Carla πŸ™‚

      I like that your faculty has a structured approach like that … means everyone has a responsibility and input. We kinda have that but it’s not really followed through.

      You don’t need to self-conscious, cos you’re a teacher working in private – just do what ever you want and no-one will know πŸ˜‰

  3. Coming from someone who knows your faculty, I understand why you like to work alone. They are fantastic! But they are all so busy with things like year advisor roles, SOPA etc etc., whereas you like to devote most of YOUR time to improving classroom practice. It’s not just an ego thing, it’s practicality.

    • Hey Lauren πŸ™‚

      They are a fantastic faculty but yes, very busy. I guess I like to spend heaps of time on my classroom practice … I do think I need to make a more conscious effort to share/show some of the things I’m doing ONLY because what I’m doing is impacting the styles of assessments I’m trying to integrate into the programs.

    • I agree Lauren, even though I haven’t visited Davo specifically. Teachers are very busy with their workload, and everyone has their own passion. It’s practical for teachers to take leadership in areas they are most strong in, and if we waited around for every new idea to gain complete consensus, there’s still no guarantee the result will be any good.
      Bianca, has the task run yet? Don’t be too hard on yourself until you see the student work and get feedback from them too! I’ve heard that teachers can overthink things, sometimes πŸ˜‰

      • I think the issue for me is that I feel guilty that haven’t collaborated enough on this task. I get the feeling that my colleagues see it as ‘my’ task and therefore I am the one to make the final decisions on things. That’s OK to a point but I think as we move through the task with Year 12 (which we are doing now) each teacher needs to develop an connection to the task – some sense of ownership of it as a faculty task, not the imaginings of a mad woman, lol.

        But to be fair they are all really cool about it and keen to give it ago to help us step away from essays that are regurgitated teacher ideas and representations that are just essay-prep.

  4. Alone is good. Right now, until the bug is fixed, teaching is a solo act. My view is that it only matters that you are sufficiently savvy to know where and how to access networks that help you get to where you need to be. I have never been a fan of ‘outing’ students online, as often they have little choice in the matter. But I think that it shines though when I see a teacher who can operate both in their own right and effectively in a crowd when they need to. There are plenty of people talking it up on the interwebz the individual will always stand out. Change to me is not changing the system – which is an inert object – changing minds is so much more fun. Appears that’s what you do, and in your class you are clearly kicking goals.

    • Yes, Dean … changing minds is much more fun. Been having a blast helping some young minds rethink their experience of education. Might be tough for them next year, we’ll see.
      Been teaching solo all year in an attempt to refine my art, getting there slowly. Prefer to share journey here. More reflective, less defensive.
      Cheers.

  5. Do you think that from the craziness of your mind, you feel that no one else will understand your vision…. So you takeover, knowing the perfect way of doing it??

    I think I have the same think happening in my head often….
    So if you are crazy… So am I.
    But instead of fearing this- I am proud of all the hard work that I do.
    Bianca…. We share our visions- the stuff in between are our own personal successes or failures.
    Don’t ever doubt yourself….
    When I grow up, I want to be like you! Haha

    • Amen, Jess. It is crazy in my mind. Best not think about sharing all of that chaos. As of you wanna be me … that’s crazy talk indeed – you are best at being you! xx

      • Haha! Being me is OK I guess…. Haha! Same same but different to you!?

        But I do love your infectious passion….. You stick to what you believe in no matter what! That is a good thing! Xx

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  7. I’m still reading- do I still count as a colleague? It all seems so far off BUT, you are a GREAT teacher. If more people reflected on their work maybe they would be more effective.
    I only like to share if I know my stuff is good!!
    Keep on doing the good stuff Bianca. You are an inspiration.

    • Naaawww, thanks Kate!

      It’s nice to know you’re still reading my blog … still the ONLY face2face colleague who does (I certainly don’t encourage/invite/expect others to follow suit, lol) and I hope it’s helping you feel as though you’re still in the classroom!

      My problem is I share everything even if it’s crap – such an over-sharer πŸ˜‰

      But thanks again for the kind words, you’re too sweet.

      • Bianca, you have a coworker that reads your blog?? You are such a lucky girl…HELLO Kate!
        I used to invite other teachers at school to read my blog – sometimes I would even send a direct post URL around if I thought a particular topic would interest them. The only teachers who really engage are @jangreen31 and @imeldajudge and in both cases it’s because they became interested in online life and started building their own profiles and PLNs. Then, because we shared an affinity space, we felt freer to connect, share and reflect authentically.

  8. Hey Bianca πŸ™‚ I’m not convinced that my comments about your task uncovered a lack of consultation with your colleagues. Certainly, that is something that you have identified here as a troublesome area for you, but remember that NO TASK is perfect the first time around!

    Had you collaborated more with your colleagues, there is no guarantee that anyone would have picked up on the same thing I did. I wonder – what has the reaction at school been to the task so far? Is it just that you can see there was potential for more collaboration (isn’t there always?), or are other people coming up with ideas now that they wish had been incorporated? Because those ideas can be incorporated next time – the HSC isn’t going anywhere!

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