Mind Shift at researchED - 10/31/16

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending researchED in Washington D.C. For those of you who aren't aware of researchED, it is a tremendous resource for educators in terms of connecting with great folks as well as linking research with practice. Read more about it and how you can participate here.

In addition to my love of nerding out and being inspired by amazing educators from all over the globe, researchED reminds me that the world is a good place. Being with all these folks who donate their time for free and everyone who comes out on a Saturday just to learn more so they can be better for kids, so education can be better - it restores one's faith in the world, I think. At least, it restored mine.

It goes without saying that our country is going through a tumultuous time right now. Time with educators who are thinking deeply about how we can improve education and seeing the camaraderie among so many from all over - it, again, reminds me that the forces of good are still strong and thriving in our world. 

Whether it was Stephen Dykstra's demand that we know what works in reading instruction and we must implement with fidelity and urgency, Robert Pondiscio's proposal that the purpose of public education is to build our students' knowledge of civics, Seth Andrew's presentation on Rapid Evaluation Cycles and the tool he created to ensure teachers can do random control trials on the most granular levels to determine what works best in real time, Tom Bennett's presentation on positive and effective classroom management, or TNTP's findings about teacher growth and development in schools (just to name a few of the sessions) - everyone is pushing for us to raise the bar. And as an audience, it was evident that we all cared very much to consider how we can be better as a result of all this learning. 

In Pondiscio's session, he presented the idea (not his) that perhaps our focus on diversity is having the reverse impact than what we want for ourselves in this country. Continuing to honor the differences among everyone and everything, while noble, may be creating a fractured existence that creates chaos. If we want to be a united country, with shared values and become a more perfect union - maybe we need to focus on what is the sameabout us instead, he posited.

This point made me wonder about the direction of education on a larger scale. What are the aspects of education that we can all agree upon? With all of our differences in needs, opinions, resources, access, etc. - what can we all say is the same about us? 

As Tom Bennett says, "Everyone cares about education. Nobody is going to say they don't." But, what is it that we can get everyone in education to agree upon? What's the thing that is the same for all of us? Though we were all knowledgeable, educated people at researchED this weekend - there was clearly a wealth of differences and varied opinions in the room. That's wonderful, yes. But sometimes all the disagreement leaves us locked in conflict. And, instead it seems we spend a lot of time still fighting over who is right instead of fighting over what is right. Meanwhile, our progress remains stunted.

Unfortunately, this blog post isn't going to end with an answer to my question. But, researchED has got me thinking. I'm inspired by the power of diversity at this weekend's conference (and in education at large) and the notion of focusing on sameness to help create a more perfect union. Can we do both, though? They always say the proverbial pendulum swings in education from one fad to the next. Perhaps, that's what we're getting it wrong; it's not about focusing on just diversity or just our sameness. It's about holding both true at the same time and focusing on the value of each in equal measure. 

Before we shift anything again in education, whether research-based or not, I think we need to consider that we may just need a mind shift first. It's not about either/or anymore - it needs to be about both/and. Diversity and sameness. 

What do you think?