What if the Hokey Pokey is All it Really is About?

Maybe it’s all too simple
For our brains to figure it out
What if the hokey pokey
Is all it really is about

Jimmy Buffett

Jimmy Buffett struck again the other night. His song, “What if the Hokey Pokey is All it Really is About”, came up on my iPhone as I drove home. Not his biggest hit, but the chorus, which I’ve quoted above, really hit home with respect to education. I can’t help think that in some ways we have gone too academic in our pursuit to perfect the learning process. Is it possible in our current context to make education as simple as putting your left leg in, putting your left leg out, and then shaking it all about?

At our school, we spend the last 20 minutes of our professional development days in a circle to give each staff a chance to reflect on the day, or any aspect of their practice. One of my teacher’s reflection was expressing gratitude for the time that is given to the staff to actually work on “teaching and learning”. She was grateful that although there is paperwork and bureaucracy that goes with our profession, that is not the priority. I was glad to hear that, because it is a focus of mine this year. I stress with my leadership team that we need to spend as little time as possible in the talking head role during professional development. We need to maximize professional development time so that staff can “work on the work”; because at the end of the day, the people doing are the people learning. It however makes our jobs as leaders much harder because we need to balance the time we have for professional development between directly controlling direction for professional development while allowing staff the time to experience professional growth. A hard balance when there doesn’t seem to be enough time for one, let alone both of these processes.

Earlier this week I was visiting with a couple of our new teachers that are also new to the profession. When asked what was the most difficult part of their job so far, it wasn’t the planning, the teaching, or even the students that were testing boundaries. The part of the job that was most overwhelming are all of the peripheral tasks and procedures outside of the context of teaching and learning in the classroom. How do I use the phone? How do I check my voicemail? How do I log in to book a sub? Where are the field trip and bus forms? All of these things are important, but are they vital to the fundamental process of learning? Even on the topic of assessment and reporting, the process of creating and grading assessments, although time consuming, they are accepted. The act of setting up grade books to accurately reflect the assessment data is what creates the bulk of the stress.

I guess what frustrates me, is that we work in a profession where everything we do is important and valuable, especially when we truly do the things we do for the sake of the kids we teach. But with that said, there are not enough hours in the day to do all of these things. Is there a simple answer out there? With our collective brainpower are we over thinking our profession? I’m not advocating for a moratorium on educational research and professional development, but is it possible to have some kind of out of body experience, step back and really evaluate our practice and really ask the question: “Why am I doing this?” Establish true purpose distinguish between important, valuable, essential and vital so we can prioritize our practice to buy hours in our day and quality in our lives.

I’d love to hear comments on this one.

Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.

Charles Mingus


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