Dr. John C. Bullion has 21 years of experience in education as a Special Education Teacher, Licensed Professional Counselor, Campus Administrator and Special Education Director for a Special Education Shared Services Arrangement in Central Texas. With the belief that each and every child can reach his or her potential with the support of compassionate, courageous educators and communities, his mission has been to move from a compliance-based educational system to one that embraces the unique individuality and differing abilities in children. As the Region 12 Education Service Center Special Education Liaison to the Texas Education Agency, Dr. Bullion has spent the past few years developing resources and solutions for the efficient dissemination of special education resources across the state of Texas.
The World is changing. Education is changing too. A growing tension exists between two schools of thought: between teaching and learning, lessons and experiences. Although some believe schools should be places of wonder and excitement in which students engage in passion-based problem solving and strength-focused pedagogies, many others insist on preserving a more traditional view of education; one in which teachers are viewed as the keepers of knowledge and controllers of concepts. Many believe these dueling dichotomies to be derivatives of the polarizing rhetoric pushed by pundits of American political parties; however, these opposing views and competing factions may not be such a new phenomenon in the collective psyche of American society.
According to Craft (1984), there are two different Latin roots of the English word education. They are educare, which means to train or to mold, and educere, meaning to lead out. Although the two meanings are quite different, they are both represented in the word education. One root suggests a process of preserving and passing down knowledge and shaping youths in the image of their parents. The other root suggests a process of preparing a new generation for the changes that are to come, readying them to create solutions to problems yet unknown. Although this clash of ideals and practices continues to play out in classrooms and campuses across the countryside, some believe both are achievable—that we can both honor the lessons learned and paths paved by the generational teachings that came before while also forging ahead into new innovative practices and educational destinations yet to be discovered. I am from this latter group of thinkers. Craft (1984) contended that striking the right
balance in educational aims is a valid focus for educators; however, this requires changing organizational structures and how decisions are made.
Educators are changing. Evidence of this can be found in every classroom, on every campus, and all across our state and country. Emerging research into neurology, mindsets, perseverance, and habits is reshaping the collective psyche of our profession. Ideas about pedagogy once believed to be fringe are being embraced by innovative educators employing kid-centric practices in collaborative learning spaces. Educators must stand together despite generational differences and pedagogical preferences and speak with one voice, stand as one profession, and rise with one purpose. All kids—each and everyone—need caring and positive adult role models who prioritize the needs of children above their own. When we pair these characteristics with growth-minded individuals dedicated to studying their standards and mastering their craft in the classroom, children thrive. In the recipe for creating a high performing classroom, campus, and culture, these are the basic ingredients required to help the general education student, special education student, gifted student, English language learner, and all the rest. When educators realize that differences do not divide us – beliefs and blind spots do – the needs of all children become quite visible.
Each needs an understanding of curricular standards and alignment, high yield instructional practices, differentiation and accommodations, and positive behavioral supports. Each needs competent/attentive school-based administrators prepared to evaluate and support professional growth and maintain quality control regarding curricular and instructional practices. Each needs opportunities to collaborate in support of students of differing abilities.
Each needs opportunities to continue learning and refining pedagogical knowledge and application. Each needs an understanding of the difference between Lag data (STAAR results) and Lead Data (daily work, formative assessments, interim exams, and other forms of student feedback). Each needs to understand how to collect, analyze, and utilize student-generated data in making determinations with respect to daily instruction (pivot or persevere). Each needs to cultivate the ability to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk through pedagogical eclecticism and experience-rich learning environments.
Each needs to become proficient at personalizing learning experiences for themselves and the children they support through the cultivation of becoming expert learners. Each needs to understand how to implement concepts such as growing grit, encouraging effort, supporting sustained struggle, and failing forward. Each needs to understand how to engineer passion, purpose, and potential in self and others. Each needs to facilitate strength searching, engineered passion, defined deficit digs, interest investigations, controlled chaotic cultures, and comfortably challenging
classrooms and campuses.
Each needs to understand and implement the least dangerous assumption when planning lessons, engaging student discussions, and organizing classroom settings for optimal student learning. Each needs to understand the jaggedness profile of each child by learning their interests, beliefs, micro-motives, and propensities. Each needs to understand the potential detriment to a relationship that overly punitive settings and practices create with an illusion of control. Each needs to feel safe to take chances when facilitating the learning of students through pedagogical variations, creative curricular implementations, and innovative instructional practices.
Each needs to remain keenly aware of personal attitudes, behaviors, interactions, and tendencies ensuring that strengths and solutions permeate the conscious. Each needs to cultivate positive, supportive interactions with students, colleagues, and families to maximize learning, relationships, and communication. Each needs to understand the other’s role and responsibilities in connection to that of their own in an effort towards shared responsibilities, the efficiency of effort, and maximization of strengths. Each must teach with and through one another, coopting the learning experiences of shared students while retaining autonomous identities and collective priorities.