Sunday, December 18, 2011

Good Fences Make Lousy Families

There has been quite the back and forth over the past month regarding the pro's and con's of awards in education and the edublogosphere. This post isn't about whether I am for or against them, it is about why this conversation resonates year after year.

When I first started going online to learn from other teachers I started looking for class blogs that I could steal ideas from. Soon I noticed others looking at my class blog and even sometimes commenting on something I posted. This was (and still is) an incredibly motivating experience, a kind of peer approval badge. In effect, someone like me liked what I was doing.

I suspect many of us have felt out of place before in our schools. We tend to be the "geeks" or "nerds", not usually the most popular (and yes, even as adults that makes a difference so don't bother protesting.) But, when we found each other online things changed. We became much more than popular, we became accepted. We became family.

I am not saying that we are sympathetic protagonists that changed from caterpillars to butterflies when we created a PLN cocoon.  It is just that we now live in what we covet for our students, a community of people that truly care and share with each other. We have discovered that the real value of the internet is in how it can bring us together, not with content delivery.

So, what does this have to do with the aforementioned debate over blogging awards? The tone of the debate is more important than what the debate is about. Our community is building fences. Robert Frost understood when he wrote "something there is that doesn't love a wall" that walls are isolating. I don't want to be isolated anymore, I have lived most of my life being alone (even in a room full of other students). Good fences may make good neighbors, but they make lousy families.