Sunday, February 19, 2012

Teacher as Thief

It's true. We steal stuff. We take what belongs to others. We do it on the sly, we do it blatantly. Sometimes we announce it to others, sometimes even to the victim. Case in point: the other day, a colleague used the term "delayed gratification." "Oooh," I said, "I'm going to steal that for my next blog post." Done. Maybe a few of us ask. But most of us just steal.

Stealing used to be harder. Or, should I say, the goods were less accessible. They were abstract: ideas, methodologies, or lessons that our colleagues had already used or thought of, and if we were lucky, they existed in a material form, too. If we were lucky, there was a ditto.

With the advent of the internet, stealing became easier. It became a downright cakewalk. Need a lesson on  objective pronouns? Look it up. Need some help with classroom organization? Find it online. Need a good way to explain long division? Google it. And because what we teach and how we teach it is out there, for all to see and steal, our profession has changed.

The beauty of the teaching world being cracked open and on display online is this: no one is possessive about his ideas or lessons any longer. No one can claim her lessons as original, even, since there are probably some just like it in cyberspace. Three years ago, I created a unit loosely based on the Six Word Memoir project. It became a Six Word Summary project for our work with The Old Man and the Sea. Last year, my science colleagues organized a departmental field trip to my classroom during common planning time to see my students' work. They're now considering how to use the Six Word concept in their classes, and I've had several conversations with some of them as to how best implement the project in their work.

And so, we now encourage stealing in each other. We probably can't even call it stealing anymore. Now we should just call it sharing. I find that too boring, though, and I think my colleagues do, too. Aren't we boring enough already? Our vices are few, our morals are strong, our role modeling consistent. Let's still call it stealing. Makes us sound racy.

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