Coming of Age

10/29/2006 03:57:00 pm

Mark Ahlness wrote a post about a week ago called Riding a bubble and watching my back. I started writing a comment ... it turned into this post ...

Mark articulated something I've been struggling with for a while now ... for me it's the tension between sharing what I've learned and the positive impact it has had on me and the consequent phenomenon of being regarded, by some, as a leader.

This is a very difficult role within the building that I work ... I measure what I say, when I say it and who I say it to. Questions rattle around in my head: "Will this be the object of another conversation in the staff room (which I do not frequent)? Will this be regarded as arrogant and overbearing ... the listener thinking I'm imposing my views on them? With this be viewed (again) through a lens that regards my offer of help or the sharing of my enthusiasm as really just another(?) attempt at self-aggrandizement?"

Here's a thought I shared with my wife (probably be a blog post soon) along the lines Mark articulated:

A year ago there were many fewer educational bloggers. The community was small. Passionate, enthusiastic, motivated, sharing people. Anyone who put forth an idea, or even better, a resource to share had their work/idea accepted in the sharing spirit it was given. I can remember the first workshop I gave just after I started blogging. The night before I sent out an email thanking the people who had shared their thinking and resources, unknowingly, with me.

There are a lot more educational bloggers now. The community has ballooned and continues to grow. The camaraderie that came from the sharing spirit (which still dominates most discussions) is being questioned. And while maybe that's a good thing, it hurts those that are just doing what they've always done; trying to share what they've learned. Perhaps selfishly -- in the hope that someone will reciprocate that sharing -- but essentially following the collaborative ethos that has permeated educational blogging.

It's not about groups and networks (the definitions of which should not be made by a single person and accepted without question) -- it's about community. The community continues to share and grow -- and in that growth we have arrived at an uncomfortable coming of age.

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  1. Anonymous7/11/06 20:09

    Darren one cannot say thank you enough to a person whose tireless energy has made the last two weeks great.

    Darren your posts are always thoughtful and make us think. I hope that anytime you have any doubts, about anything you say remember the lives you are impacting inside your classroom. The tools you are giving your students and all the positive aspects of your character,your passion and enthusiasm that are evident in their posts is a clear indicator to me that you speak with experience on your side.

    People are listening because they can see your heartfelt feelings coming through the words in your posts. You plant seeds that people can choose to water or to let go. This is your greatest influence. Never let the perception of others creep into your thoughts. Let your imagination and creativity flow as you find new and innovative ways to stimulate students and adults.

    Thanks for inspiring me to become an avid user and promoter of all that is good in 2.0. I can't remember a time without it now.

    Wow that was just a year ago.

    Chris Harbeck
    Sargent Park School

  2. Anonymous8/11/06 09:48

    As communities grow, we welcome all people into them, for positive and negative effects. Those who wish to be a part of the community will adjust to its standards and expectations, those who do not (who will show themselves over time) will stand outside and complain about what is being done "over there." That being said, critical examination of our practices and a questioning attitude should always be welcomed to push ourselves ahead should they not?

  3. I have questioned myself about my enthusiasm and if it is boring or inspiring. I decided that if I make myself available to help others, giving up my time, then they will be more willing to listen to me.
    The other day I had someone in the lunchroom ask about presentation sites other than PPT. I told them that I has seen a couple and would forward the sites. That person is more comfortable with me now asking for help and listening to me talk about Web 2.0.

    I think we have to be willing to put our ideas out there and hope that we have some willing listeners. We are excited and our kids are learning.
    The rest needs to slide like water off a duck's back. ;)

  4. Anonymous8/11/06 13:23

    Thank you all for your encouraging comments. I have been feeling a little down about the some of the recent ebb and flow of converstaion in the educational blogging community. In my view there has been a shift from serious discussion about issues and ideas on their merits to personal attacks.

    Personal attacks are always unjustified ... particularly in an online community where all we really know of each other is what we write. While this may be a disadvantage in some contexts, it is my view that this in one of the great strengths of our online community ... when we actually meet face-to-face (if ever) relationships are already formed and established based on each other's intellect as opposed to visual first impressions. In other words, we are first impressed by each other's thoughts and ideas; affiliations are formed based on each other's thinking. When the conversation shifts to observations based on what cannot be seen, or through a lens of negativity, then we really have nothing to talk about any more.

    So bring on the critical analysis of our practices and thinking! It is through those conversations that we learn and grow. Let us also leave behind the dim coloured lenses that obscure each others thinking and ideas. If that's where the conversation is headed, then I'm not prepared to participate in it.

  5. Anonymous9/11/06 19:37

    I belong to the Teacher Leaders Network and it is one of the most passionate collection of people with whom I have ever exchanged ideas.

    Wait.. maybe collections are based on passion and I missed the memo. (wink) Groups, networks, collections, is all so confusing.

    As one who will always dance when I make a touch down-- I want you to know your enthusiasm is contagious, your post are insprirational and your actions are commendable. You are indeed a mensch.

    Thanks for making sacrifice such a pleasant experience! I would join your group or community any day of the week.

  6. Darren,
    Thank you so much for all you do, for the lantern you hold out front for the brave few...

    It is indeed surprising there are still so few of us. In the summer of 2005 I remember telling a skeptical friend that there were thousands of other teachers out there blogging with their kids, and that I would be coming desperately late to that dance - but that I was incredibly excited to jump in.

    But the truth was, there were very few. And over a year later our numbers have not grown much. At least not fast enough for me. But this is the beginning of a blog post that I have in my head, as you do in yours...

    Take care, and thanks again - Mark

  7. Darren, this post had my brain buzzing so much, I had to go and write a post about it that you can see linked below in your trackbacks. This whole concept of community and what it means to be part of it really fascinates me - mainly because I am not sure what it means. I try and explore that more in the post. You are a person who clearly fits into the works-tirelessly-for-the-benefit-of-others category and maybe you draw strength from others who share that purpose as well. What you achieved with the K-12 Online Conference was phenomenal (together with Sheryl, Wes and Lani) and showcased all that is good about being online and involved in education.

    You mention critics and then personal attacks in your comments. Sure, critics can be hurtful but sometimes it could well be that it is only our perceptions that make them critics. At the end of your post, you referenced Stephen Downes' "That Group Feeling" post as one person's view of things when discussing the concepts of groups, networks and communities. I could be interpreting this wrongly (so correct me if I'm wrong) but you seemed to be dismissive of that entry - what do you hear when you read that post? When I look through the comments, there are bloggers (interestingly, nearly all Australians or New Zealanders) who are nodding their virtual heads in agreement. It obviously agrees with their world view or their life experience - I actually thought it was one of Stephen's best even if I didn't have the guts to leave a comment. So, in a roundabout way, I'm just saying that perspective has a lot to done with the words we choose, the metaphors with which we describe events or feelings with and one person's villain can be another's hero.