A look back—and ahead

The end of the calendar year is often a time for deep reflection. We tend to think back on what the year brought, and wonder about what the next year has in store. Sometimes we are right, at other times, we miss the mark completely. So, I thought it would be interesting to look back on my predictions from last year, and consider whether any actually came true, or if it was a bit of “try again next time” (and you can hold me to it; last year’s post can be found here). Without further ado, here were my three predictions; you can judge for yourself whether I would make a good fortune-teller, or if I should stick to my day job.

Prediction 1: A greater emphasis on the arts that will lead to an even greater emphasis on STEAM. This came true, at least in some capacity. We did see a shift in focus to emphasize areas of the arts, at least in theory, and the idea of STEAM being an organizing principle for this is also somewhat true.

We offered more learning opportunities to teachers and leaders in the arts but those opportunities did not necessarily translate to more learning. Many workshops took place during days and times when arts educators couldn’t attend and sometimes, workshops that did take place did not support as many educators as we hoped.

That said, our STEM/STEAM groups have grown in their support and development, and the arts are taking a front seat in these groups. Facilitators are emphasizing integration and educators see this integration as important and necessary. So, while our emphasis on the arts alone has not expanded as much as I might have thought, the integrative approach taken by a STEAM lens appears to be seen as a true method to making sure that all disciplines move towards an equal footing.

Prediction 2: Blended learning will become standard for educator professional development. So this is where I point out something on the other side of the room that appears interesting (“Hey look, a zebra!”) and then slowly (or quickly) back out of the room.

While it might seem that blended learning could effectively take the relationship and contact of face-to-face learning and marry it to the flexibility that virtual learning provides, we haven’t seen it materialize into a preferred form of professional learning in our region. I can speak to part of the reason from my own personal experience: I love the idea of blended learning but I find it really difficult to form deep relationships –the kind that I need in order to grow—in a virtual, asynchronous environment. Also, for me anyway, the flexibility provided by blended learning often turns into another opportunity for me to procrastinate.  

While I can’t be sure that my reasons are the same as the region-at-large, I can be sure that for the 2018 -2019 school year, this prediction has not come true. I’m not sure if the realization of blended learning as the foundation for professional learning in general will ever come to pass.

Prediction 3: A continued need to connect—and an ever shrinking world—will lead to a greater reliance on collegial circle groups. This prediction continues to ring true and speaks to possibly some of the reasons why Prediction 2 was off base. In a region with so many different school districts, it can become very easy to feel like we are living and working in echo chambers. We tend to hear the voice of our own schools and districts, and we tend to miss what is happening in the greater region. This is a shame, because in some cases, our districts only cover a few square miles. Why wouldn’t we want to understand what is happening a few minutes away?

The rise and continued growth of collegial circle groups, where role- or interest-alike educators come together to share, learn, and support each other makes perfect sense, and the connections members of these groups make explains why some collegial circles continue to run after many years, and why members of these groups continue to come back. If I were a betting person, I would bet heavily on this prediction continuing to come true into future years.

So, let’s take stock. I hit the bullseye on one prediction, was way in the weeds on another, and stumbled my way to another prediction that may (or may not) be correct. With a record like that, it is clear that my future as a fortune-teller is not, as they say, in the cards (or crystal ball).

Regardless what this year brings and what predictions you make, I hope that much learning, leading and laughing comes your way. Best for a great start to 2019!

Fred Ende (@fredende) is the assistant director of Curriculum and Instructional Services for Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. Fred blogs at www.fredende.blogspot.com, Edutopia, ASCD EDge and SmartBrief Education. His book, Professional Development That Sticks is available from ASCD. Visit his website:www.fredende.com.

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