A very scary thing about wikis

to today’s public school teacher might be the way it extends the professional relationship beyond the walls of school. The prospect of online collaboration appears about as welcome as a surprise visit from annoying in-laws.

In my colleagues’ frightened expressions and excuses for not wiki-ing up, I read the ominous change web 2.0 collaboration must represent. To Joe or Jane Schoolteacher, especially if s/he has a family or friend life, wikis might seen tantamount to an invasion of their privacy.

There’s school, where we do our work, which we must.

And then there’s home, where we do what we choose. The two should not mix. At least, teachers of my generation are not used to blurring the work/home boundary.

Reflecting the same apprehenion, a controversy has emerged in my school this year over a new contractual obligation for teachers to collaborate in professional learning groups–even at the sacrifice of their contractually mandated “prep time.” The union I belong to is officially for best practices, right now the research shows (and really it has shown at least from the 80s) that better schools have teachers in teams working regularly for increased student learning.

What’s wrong with it? Well, some of the older teachers not used to having their prep-time impinged on have claimed that the new collaborative time demand is excessive, burdensome, or micromanaged so that not much is done.

I wish they’d give it a chance.

Do these resistant teachers honestly think that they, by themselves, are beyond the benefits of intellectual challenge and stimulation? Do they really believe that they are so wise and proficient that meeting with presumably rightly-intentioned and competent fellow teachers would somehow harm their effectiveness in crafting curricula?

I don’t get it.

And outside the school building, after the kids are in bed, the dishes done, and the tv goes off, why do some teachers object to spending a few minutes considering issues of the vocation that allows them to have a home life?

I think maybe the “professionalization” of teaching in the second half of the 20th c. in American public school teaching fostered some counter-productive (I’ll say it–selfish) attitudes that could hinder us just as America’s schools need to get going with 21st century technologies.

Sometime after the days of the spinster schoolmarm and the monastic scholastic, the American school teacher became an individual and broke away from the subservient civil servant role. For the first time in history, the teacher could be as bourgeois and significant for his own private life as he was increasingly rewarded for his public life.

Not that we want the equivalent of a convent or monastery, but we teachers could use a little more after-hours connection and collaboration, IMHO.

At the least, when teachers refuse to attempt it, we turn our back on the latest technological means for communicating effectively. How can that be good?

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