I love the eat local and buy local movement that is spreading wild. Not only does sustainability underpin the movement, but it is about community. The importance of community is huge when it comes to the 'little guys'. Local restaurants and small businesses thrive when their community embraces them. Community embraces these places when they serve up a fabulous product or a delicious meal. But the unique personality that is the business creates a gathering spot for the people of the community to visit and to shop- but mostly to connect in comfort.
Few businesses are thriving as much as the craft beer market in the buy local movement. Right here in Nova Scotia, there are over forty craft breweries- I am sure that number is growing! The support and the connection between the brew masters is evident when you look at the number of collaborations and tap take-overs. It is awesome to see competitors reach out to one another and offer a hand. Isn't that what community is all about?
The other day I joined a friend for lunch at the newest craft brewery to open its doors. The food was good, the beer was great, the environment was familiar....maybe too famliar. With its industrial lights, rustic wooden tables, metal touches and retro stools the decor seemed borrowed. The members of a niche community, craft breweries, who support one another and guide each other through this new journey, also, borrow design and ideas from one another. Is this a bad thing? Not at all- EXCEPT when using an idea, concept, or decor that doesn't match or connect with the businesses unique personality, the brand. Individuality is what makes any community thrive. It is woven through the fabric to connect and distinguish businesses. Despite enjoying my meal and my company, I felt like I was sitting in a personality-wrong establishment. You see, the brewery's brand told a story of history and tradition. Yet, the industrial chic environment looked like it was borrowed from so many others. In essence, it was selling itself out (paritally) for a fad.
What you say does this have to do with education? Education loves a good fad! From standing desks to stationary bikes to flexible seating to 21st century learning to mindfulness, the fads come and the fads go. Yet, as a community of teachers, we continue to jump on the bandwagon. Like craft brewers, we cheer one another on through support, teamwork, and collaborative efforts. We trade lesson plans, we trade ideas, and we copy one another. The intention of borrowing from another teacher is one of helpfulness and inspiration. We want our students to have the best opportunities and we want our students to learn through fun and positive experiences. Craft brewers want to give customers a great experience in which to sample their beer.
The problem with borrowing a strategy, decor, or implementing a fad because it is 'popular' in your community is that it is not always you or coherent with your brand. Instead of giving an enjoyable learning experience, you give one of confusion, frustration, and inconsistency. I worked with a teacher who implemented a no chair policy in his class because all the grade one teachers in his school were doing just that to 'great success'. When students stopped listening and starting running, his frustration levels grew- why was this not as great for him as it was for the other teachers? Simple, he did not teach his students in a style that connected with standing desks and his students needed the comfort of chairs to maximize their focus. He was determined it was the way to teach and told me about all the research that proves it. Well, it did not work and that was the hardest month of his teaching career. When he returned the chairs and returned to the front of the class, he returned to teaching in a style that played to his strengths. Consistency returned and so did appropriate behaviours. The learning experience went from incoherence and frustration to calm, positive, and educational.
I am not advocating for teaching students in one way or another, but I am advocating for being true to yourself in order to provide students with consistency in your approach, calmness in your actions, and confidence in your abilities. Like the brewery that the served me a brand of historical meaning in an industrial chic loft, the teacher who took away his student's chairs served up a confusing experience. A community is diverse and made of uniqueness and difference. This is a great thing! We support one another, we learn from one another, and bring something different to the table. As craft beer needs to build its brand, teachers need to build their style. There is space for all of us to showcase our personality and do so with confidence.
Change is good....but do so with supports and steps to help you succeed. However, don't hide who you are or what your brand is because you think something is better. Chances are it is just a fad like standing desks for first graders!