Unplugd12: Rigor & Silence

Learning Relationships Crew
My “Glamping” accoms

My office

James editing my letter

The view whilst we worked
Groups in action

How we connect
There are numerous opportunities in an educator’s career for professional development. Depending on who you are and the quality of said opportunities, you can often feel underwhelmed – either due to the content, the delivery, or the atmosphere. I often feel that the atmosphere at many PD events is filled by a sense of malaise and toxicity that prevents the creation or furthering of knowledge amongst educators. And then there is Unplug’d.
For those of you who are not aware, Unplug’d is a pretty unique event whereby a bunch of educators, who are generally innovative and connected, are asked to disengage from the world and come together in an effort to further our understanding of what matters in terms of education. The event takes place annually at The Northern Edge Algonquin Retreat & Adventures venue, just outside of Algonquin Park in “northern” Ontario. 40 of us were asked to bring our stories to the weekend in an effort to create an eBook that would hopefully attack a variety of themes and elements that encompass good pedagogy, good learning, and immense passions for teaching. Unplug’d is not PD. It is not a top ten list of top ten ipads apps that create top ten lists. It is something unique that should be experienced by all educators who are passionate about teaching. Uplug’d, as my new friend Jess McCulloch suggests, “does not celebrate mediocrity.”
Although I can be quite cynical, I was greatly impressed by my experience at “The Edge” and took away two really important nuggets, if you will. The first deals with the notion of silence. Every year, I try to tackle some sort of conceptual analysis of something we take for granted within education. Over the past few years, I have tried to deconstruct concepts like “learning,” “teaching,” and “knowledge.” This year, I was planning to look at the concept of rigor. So often do we talk about rigor (and most complex ideas) without really fully understanding what we are considering. Following this weekend and dealing with my silent nature in large groups, I think that I need to explore the idea of silence within my classroom. Do I provide enough silence for my students and their voices? Do I allow for wait time or am I always performing and filling what I perceive as vacuums of silence?  Do I practice silence in the classroom? Furthermore, I need to explore why I am quiet in large groups and whether or not I am comfortable with it.
The second item that I will take away from this experience is the knowledge that I am not alone.  I realize that I have an impressive network of innovative, caring, and unbelievably knowledgeable teachers who just happen to live across the globe. Throughout my career, I have often felt isolated, as my methodologies have been deemed odd or threatening. My confidence has been renewed and I feel even more empowered and pushed.
For the parents and students, please know that there are countless educators who think education is serious business, who are not satisfied with teaching from the textbook, and are determined to inspire and engage their students. As parents and students, you should not demand any less.