Monday, May 13, 2013

The Hard Boiled Egg: A Metaphor

Every Monday morning before school starts I meet with my PLC which is the best part of my week!  This is a group of smart, highly motivated, committed and talented educators.  And conversation are amazing!

We call ourselves the "Constructivism PLC" because our goal is to implement constructivist lessons in our classroom, record them on video and then watch (and critique) them as a group.

I spend a good deal of my week thinking about what I want us to talk about during the next PLC.  I usually get inspired by something I read or experience.  This week I was listening to an NPR show that I like called, "The Splendid Table".  The host was talking about talking about cooking and mentioned eggs - specifically hard boiled eggs.  That started thinking me about how I boil eggs.  I use the method my grandmother taught me; put the eggs in a pan, cover with water, put the pan on the stove on high, when the water boils, set the timer to 12 minutes, drain and let cool, peel and eat.  This is a far cry from the Julia Child method.

I thought to my self, I wonder how other people boil eggs; I bet there are other methods.  So when everyone started coming into the meeting I asked.  It turns out that NO ONE boils eggs in the same way!  There was even some controversy as to whether adding salt to the water will prevent cracking.  Here is the thing - my suspicion was that there would have been different methods and that everyone would be comfortable with their own method.  This is the key for me - every teacher has their own methods with which they are comfortable.  But we rarely ask, "Is there a better way to boil an egg?"

I was ready to roll with the metaphor.  But when it came time for me to roll it out, I thought, "This is so contrived...there is no way these English teachers are going to let me get away from this."  I paused and then bailed... I BAILED ON MY OWN METAPHOR!  It was awkward to say the least.  I can't believe that I had a crisis of confidence.  Sometimes I suck at life!

But then a very interesting thing happened.  Another teachers said, "Wait, what is the metaphor?"  I was like, "" and then Geoffery jumped in.  He picked up my fumble and ran with it.  He linked the egg metaphor to two ideas - working with students who couldn't care less about boiling eggs and to working teachers who already think they are egg boiling masters and aren't interested in hearing about how anyone else boils eggs.  Every comment from there was linked to this egg metaphor and it grounded the conversation.

It turned out that this mornings conversation was really about motivation.  How do we motivate our students (at all levels) and how do we, when interested in real professional development, motivate our peers?  These are not questions with easy answers but by sharing our ideas in a safe and open environment we feel like we are part of a community.  I cherish that feeling.  Thank you PLC.

So here is the question; are we as professional educators, ready to admit that there is more out there to learn?  This is the point of our group.  Is one method to boil an egg better than another?  Can I get over myself and try new techniques?  Is the fact that I've been boiling eggs the same way for years a reason to keep doing it?  Is just getting the egg boiled good enough?  Are there really better ways to do it?

And does salt really keep an egg from cracking?

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