I may have misinterpreted the purpose of an observation during those formative years. I wanted to impress and dazzle my supervisors. I never wanted them to think I needed help. I wanted them to think I was their star. You see, that's where my "youthful" pride got the best of me: I didn't look for opportunities to learn and improve. Instead, I desired to go straight to the head of the class.
There was a natural ability in me, however, that allowed some of that desire to come true. I was quickly accepted into training-of-the-trainer programs and conducted professional development for the school district. Oklahoma City Schools even recruited me to accompany two other teachers to a training in Baltimore, Maryland, for a couple of days. In his book, The Innovator's Mindset, George Couros says the following:
If you compare your first few years in this profession to now, you may not initially notice how radically your teaching and learning styles have changed...[b]ut if you stop to really consider what you've learned, you might shake your head at some of your past practices - and be thankful for, maybe even impressed by, your progress and growth...My encouragement to you is to share your learning every step of the way, so others can benefit from your experience.
Part of that may be because of a burnout and rebirth in my personal experiences in this field. It may be because of my experiences with the Oklahoma City bombing and the EF5 tornado that swept through Joplin, both events that touched me and my schools deeply. Perhaps my revelations are due to the changes in education that have allowed teachers to be empowered with professional processes. I've worked hard to bring these changes into my own classroom and for others in my school. Current practices in our district are catching up to my preferred methods.
Even professional development has changed. We now realize that teachers can be trusted to know their strengths and develop specialized knowledge and strategies. At the same time, we realize, with the advent of smart technologies, that we have more at our fingertips than ever before. That information, in the right hands, can be powerful. In the hands of a creative teacher that information can come to life in a classroom.
Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown explain in their book, Multipliers, "It isn't how much you know that matters. What matters is how much access you have to what other people know. It isn't just how intelligent your team members are; it is how much of that intelligence you can draw out and put to use."
...[A]lthough much of the writing posted on the Internet each day through social media and email (the equivalent of 36 million books a day...) is not Shakespeare quality, the mere fact that we are writing more has changed the way we think and is "accelerating the creation of new ideas and the advancement of global knowledge." What really pushes out thinking is not consuming information, but reflecting, creating, and sharing our ideas with the understanding that others will read it. The more we connect, the more opportunities will come out way.
I think I started out too competitive. I drew upon my personal talents and visions and didn't look for the fruit dangling from the trees of other educators. How much faster could I have developed as a teacher if I had lifted my eyes from my basket to see what was there? And how much could I have affected other teachers by sharing my own creations?
Creating an open culture promotes both collaboration and competition. Alone, these concepts may be detrimental - too much collaboration does not necessarily bring out the best in us, and too much competition can isolate us - but competitive collaboration in an open environment can accelerate information.