This week I attended and presented at the Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching (ECET2) conference in Snowbird, Utah. In addition to collaborating with 350 of the country’s top educators, I had the pleasure to attend a session lead by the brilliant and provocative Rick Hess and rock star teacher, Maddie Fennell. Their session, “Cage Busting Teacher,” urged us to take action. How do we do that? We solve problems in education.
As they were speaking, I couldn’t help but see the connection to Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Improvements in education happen when educators eliminate barriers that prevent students from learning. As teachers, coaches, and administrators, we have to prove ourselves as problem solvers and leaders. If we don’t, people outside of education will do it for us.
We aren’t born experts, we become them. As with every other profession, educators must prove themselves to be subject matter experts, instructional designers, family engagers, and professional developers. Most importantly, educators have to prove that they can solve problems to make education better. In UDL, teachers do this daily in the classroom, but Hess and Fennel urged us to identify barriers and solve problems on a school, district, and national level.
I learned that to be a “cage buster,” you start by identifying barriers that prevent students from learning. These “problems” can be anything – scheduling issues, professional development, teacher performance, student mobility, etc.. Too often, teachers are frustrated with barriers in education, but they don’t take it a step further to provide alternative, viable solutions. Ask yourself, what is getting in the way and how can it be overcome? If you don’t have a solution, you must collaborate with others until you have developed a strategy. Once you have a solution, you have to share it with the powers-that-be, implement it, and monitor its effectiveness.
This whole process finds its home in the UDL Guidelines. Remove barriers, collaborate, develop a strategy, monitor progress, and make changes. All the while, be strong, be innovative, and be professional. If you can take these steps, you can begin to bust of our your cage and assume a leadership role in education.
Learn more about Cage-Busting by ordering Rick Hess’s book here.