Monday, July 8, 2013

Rock Stars and the Rest

This post is a response to Michelle Baldwin's Post - No More Rock Stars.  You might want to read that first.

When I started teaching in 1985, I left school feeling like an expert.  I was smart.  I was well trained.  I had done well in student teaching.  I was ready.  Of course, as you all know from your own experiences, I knew nothing about teaching.  I needed help to deal with parents, administrators, other teachers, difficult students, time management.  You name it, I struggled with it.  And I am forever grateful to all the wonderful people who helped me make it through.

By 1988, I was in my third school.  Each school had different ways of running and so I needed support each time I moved.  Different grade?  More support.  Different curriculum?  More support.  New ways of teaching?  More support? Testing?  You guessed it.  I don't think there has ever been a time in my life when I didn't look towards, and depend on, others to help me get by.  
ISTE 2013 is over and it was, as always, exhilarating and educational.  But, since I've been home, and even while I was there, the same message seems to be floating around.  We need to stop thinking of others as rock stars and recognize that we all have something to offer.We need to eliminate the elitist mentality of the education world. 

Ok...I do agree that there should be no elitist mentality.  We all have something to offer.  But I don't agree about the rock stars.  You see, I need rock stars.  I need to know that there are people I can learn from. People who are doing more than me...who are doing what I am trying to do better than me...who are trying things I have not even heard of yet.  To me, those are rock stars and I am honored to be able to speak with them and learn from them every chance I get.

I also like to think of myself as a rock star.  Steve Dembo even called me one, once.  I want to recognize, and be proud of that fact, that I am better than some, with...project based learning...managing children...universal design...time management.  (Just a note: I am reading Lean In,  by Sheryl Sandberg, and am trying out pride for my achievements.  It feels like bragging and feels wrong but I'm sticking with it.)  If I wasn't better than some, then it would mean I haven't learned much in 28 years.  And I certainly know that I have.  I am not the same teacher I was 28 years ago. I am not even the same teacher I was 5 years ago.  In fact, last year I had a very unique year, where, things I had been trying for years, finally worked.  

 So how does that make me a rock start?  Well, to myself it doesn't.  To my close PLN, it doesn't.  But to teachers just starting to attempt those things I have finally mastered, I am a rock star.  I am a rock star in teaching the same way my best friend is my rock star when it comes to mastering patience.  The same way my daughter is a rock star when it comes to being more altruistic.  The same way Lee Kolbert is a rock star when it comes to managing an online relationship tactfully.  The same way Adina Sullivan is a rock star when it comes to learning how to deal with children in poverty.  The same way Paul Bogush is a rock star when it comes to being more political in education.  The same way Michelle Baldwin is a rock star when it comes to thinking deeply about others.  The same way.....

Yeah, I like being a rock star.  I also love that I have rock stars to emulate.  How would I ever improve if I didn't?  Who is your rock star?  Who are you a rock star for?


Adina Sullivan said...

Hey Lisa

First, thanks for including me. :-)

I don't think you and Michelle are really all that different. You both appreciate the talents and expertise of others and both refuse to tolerate those who think a bit too highly of themselves.

A few years ago, there was a popular opinion that certain ed techers/bloggers/speakers were somehow above everyone else. Many of us came to realize they were very approachable, funny, gebnerous, and have as many faults as the rest of us. Now there is a feeling that a new crop of folks have placed/promoted themselves to the point of being "stars". Often this is just as faulty as the impressions of a few years ago. For those few exceptions, bad behavior and elitist attitude shouldn't be tolerated. The appearance of cliques only aggravates this. I do agree that we all are great at certain things and much to learn from others. To me, this is the attitude that will allow us to move beyond the negative view of "Rock Stars", and help us to celebrate those things we are each good at doing for kids.

EdTechSandyK said...

Lisa, I agree we all need people who are ahead of us on the path that we can look to as examples to improve our own practices, and in turn, we should be willing examples to others who are not quite as far down the road as we are.

Maybe the term we need for what you are defining is "mentors". The problem I have, and I think others might have, with "rock star" is it is not approachable. A mentor, however, is approachable and involved in helping others grow in their professional practice. Just some food for thought!

Tim said...


Thank you for another great post. Yes, indeed, you ARE a Rock Star in all the ways you describe. I"ve used the term endearingly to some (people I admire, like yourself), and derogatorily (if that's a word) toward others.

I think EdTechSandyK has it right. The negative side is that these people become unapproachable. They preen rather than teach. They form a clique (or entourage) rather than make themselves available.

ISTE has had its share, like all tech conferences. But I saw less of that this year than in years past. What I saw, instead, were more people like yourself. People that share. People that make themselves available.

We definitely need more rock stars like you. :)

paul bogush said...

I do wonder if with more and more people getting online with twitter, blogs, etc...if there will be fewer big time rock stars in education. Most of the names I can think of were rock stars on the dawn of 2.0 and have retained their status, but I haven't seen an equal number break into the upper echelons of superstar status in the last year or two.

Wonder if what itunes did for music, is what social media is doing for edustars. Right now there are very few bands than can still fill an arena. I think that will happen in ed as well. There will be more eduplayers but fewer that can fill a keynote room of a conference. The future will bring lots of people who can fill many smaller rooms with passionate participants.

Lisa Parisi said...

Adina, of course I would include you. You continue to work in an area that most people, myself included, flee from. And you are successful doing so.

Sandy, the term mentor, to me, indicates a willingness on the part of the mentor to help out. I would never assume that my rock stars are willing to help me although I am thrilled when they are. I just need them as...inspiration...what can be done.

Tim, I agree that some people are unapproachable. The sad thing is that many of the unapproachable have made a living on instructing the rest of us. It is easy to sit in the Ivory Tower when you never answer the door. I don't look to people like that for inspiration.
I look to people who are willing to share.

Paul, I hope, I hope. Because if we have so many educators doing so many great things, we might actually have a public school system to be proud of.

Congerjan said...

I also wonder if the advent of the un-conference (think Educon) and the EdCamp movement have changed the way educators share. It's about conversation and not about the sage on stage!