Friday, February 18, 2011


You don’t get harmony when everyone sings the same note
This quote is from George Couros, writing on the Connected Principals blog last week.  Please   click here to read George's full post which calls for teachers to be given the opportunity to work and create an environment where students are able to pursue their passions.

Teachers too have passions.  Recently I was discussing the professional development cycle at my last school which was on a 3 year cycle.  In one year you were expected to do PD related to your subject, in the second year you were expected to do PD related to the programme you were teaching (PYP, MYP or DP) and in the final year you got "personal" professional development, to go and develop your own, education related, passion.

In my time as an international educator I've done a couple of "personal" PDs that may, at the time, not have seemed very related to the subject I was teaching.  For example I once did a course in photography.  At the time I was a high school Geography/Social Studies teacher so perhaps it didn't seem particularly relevant to my teaching.  However later I went on to use these skills as I was responsible for the school yearbook for 2 years and now I teach those same rules of composition, light, texture and so on to my students when we do digital photography.  Another time I took piano lessons.  I learned to read music and to play different lines of music with different hands - it was incredibly difficult!  At that point I really appreciated what it was like to be a student in one of my own classes struggling to master a skill that seemed beyond them.  I think I became a more understanding teacher as a result of struggling through this myself.  When I became and IT teacher and started working with students composing their own music on the computer using GarageBand, I was able to use the musical skills I'd developed by learning the piano.  This is also where I became aware of harmony and how different instruments needed to work together to create a whole.  The bass line, for example, might not be very exciting but without it the music is incomplete.

I think George's quote goes deeper, however, than us just finding and developing our passions and those of our students.  This quote reminds me that diversity of opinion is good and healthy.  It's not good to be in the echo chamber all the time - we need other people, other ideas, other "notes" in order to create something that sounds good to us all.

Last week I wrote about a team of teachers at our school who had gone through this experience as they changed the central idea of their upcoming unit of inquiry.  Some of the early planning meetings were not very harmonious at all - there were some tough conversations.  However at the final planning meeting it seemed the team had moved onto a new level of understanding - everyone's opinions had been discussed and considered and there was true collaboration as different people in the team were bringing different strengths and ideas in order to create a new unit of inquiry that was much better than the one done in previous years.  It's fine for everyone to be singing different notes, but I think it's also important to put all those notes together.  In true harmony, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Photo Credit:  Pollen Sticks by Fabio Gismondi

1 comment:

  1. Harmony is such a wonderful metaphore for learning. We must allow for room for customization, passion, and individual gifts and talents. But we also must provide opportunities for collaboration, where students and teachers come thogether and the sum of the whole is greater than the individual parts.