In 2015, I wrote a post titled “4 Ways We Can Share Our Stories to Drive Innovation”, and I wanted to revisit some of the ideas shared in my podcast. I am often asked, “How do we share some of the great things we are doing beyond scores?” I know this is something schools will have to continue to share, but I feel it is something this standard does not limit us, and many schools go beyond merely sharing scores.
There is no more human profession in the world than education.
In fact, as content has become abundant, education has become more human. Fifty years ago, and fifty years from now, relationships will be the most important thing we do in schools. With information becoming abundant, I would actually argue that relationships will become more important than ever.
If I do not feel valued in the place that I come to every day, why would I continue to show up?
Yet, in some cases, we take this profession and reduce it to our most precious resource, our students, to merely letters and numbers. We have done this to teachers as well. Instead of hearing their stories, we rank and sort so many involved in education and lose the faces and humanity in our practice. Many people, whether in government or administrator positions, say that standardized tests are not valued, yet so much is still measured by these numbers, for both students and teachers. The emphasis should be on the people, not numbers. I have seen many schools and organizations do a great job of sharing the powerful everyday stories of our school communities. It tells me so much more about their work, from the viewpoint of an educator and as a parent.
This is not to say that accountability isn’t important in education, but ultimately, what (and who) are we truly accountable?
I shared this in a previous post:
I believe that teachers are working as hard as they are right now because they are accountable to the right things.
The needs, passions, and strengths of their students.
The needs of their families and the community.
The needs of their colleagues.
Yet the word “accountability” is often linked to scores and tests. But with those things being temporarily removed in many situations, you see a focus and energy put into areas that will have an impact on learners in more valuable ways, even in a challenging time.
We have to think of different ways that our stories can be shared and emphasize the qualitative data, not only the quantitative. Both have a place in education, but shared stories and observations need to be at the forefront.
Here are some ways that we can really start to share these stories on a continuous and ongoing basis.
1. Tapping into the power of visuals.
The most powerful camera in the world is the one that you have with you. Fortunately, most of us have one with us all of the time. When I first started at a school as a new principal, there were pictures of former principals on the wall. After being at the school site for a bit, I noticed that no one came in and looked at or even commented on the pictures until we made a change — we removed the principal pictures and replaced them with pictures of students at our school site. This shift told a story to anyone who walked into the front office — it told visitors and the community what we value and what we focus on — our learners.
These same stories can be told digitally, especially when so many schools are teaching in a hybrid or remote space.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is a video worth?
Check out this video that shows how adults can make a huge impact on students, and students have an amazing ability to impact adults.
This is a powerful reminder that the work being done in schools can greatly impact our world today. It is not something reserved only for the future.
There are so many incredible stories that happen in our schools every day that no one knows about. Schools have the power to change that.
2. A Year in Photos/Videos.
I remember seeing this Ted Talk from Cesar Kuriyama where he “shoots one second of video every day of his life, and edits them together into a montage that prompts him to think how he approaches each day.” Imagine what this project would have looked like for the year 2020? There is no time like the present to start this type of project for your school, or even through your student’s eyes.
3. Telling Your Own Story Through Digital Portfolios.
I am a big believer in the power of digital portfolios. Not only do they allow students to reflect, but they give them an opportunity to share their voice and story in a myriad of unique ways. Many schools have focused on “engagement,” yet I believe that we need to empower those that we serve by not only asking them to share assignments but tell their unique stories through these platforms. In a world where anyone can have a voice, are we working with our students to help them share their voice with people around the world, or contain them within our school walls, either physically or digitally.
(If you would like to learn more about portfolios, check out my “Digital Portfolio Master Course.”)
4. The Simplicity and Power of a Hashtag.
Having a hashtag for your school or class not only taps into the power of sharing but also helps drive innovation.
A hashtag is not just about communication, but it is about building community.
You can share through something like Twitter and Instagram, but you can curate through Wakelet for those that are not on any social media.
The human side of education is essential to me. Sharing those powerful stories not only paints a different narrative, but it can actually drive innovation. Seeing faces and hearing voices elicit a human connection to the work that we are doing. In an extremely human profession, we have to remember the power we have to tap into one another. The stories of our schools and our people tell more than any letter or number ever could.