Breaking Down Silos

I had the opportunity to moderate the #michED chat this evening, around the community selected topic of “breaking down silos.” We live most of our educational lives in silos; grade levels, content areas, middle school, high school, “smart kid”, “dumb kid.” Society encourages us to think of complex relationships and organizations, like schools, as simple silos. It’s not the worst thing in the world; it provides new teachers with uniformity and the ability to focus on just a few small goals at the start of one of the most trying careers anyone can imagine taking on. But there comes a time when we all need to break out of our silos in order to grow, and develop new ideas.

I shared a simple, but encouraging, article from Edutopia about “Shattering Silos” by Ainissa Rameriz before the chat started. I know it breaks conventional “Twitter Chat” protocol to ask everyone to go read an article, or watch a video, before starting the chat. I wanted to get everyone’s attention before jumping into the tweet-fest of high fives that many Twitter chats can become. I think it worked. Several people were much more thoughtful during the chat, and it gave me time to compose myself in between the introductions and the first question. I deliberately slowed down the chat by asking fewer questions, and allowing more time for “dead air” from myself; the conversations that grew up were inspiring, and the side chats were plentiful. It felt good.

I followed up the chat with a simple request that I was fearful no one would meet. I asked everyone to share one thought from another Twitter chat participant that they wanted to adopt and work with on their own. I feared it would land like a dud, with many confused that I was turning a casual, enjoyable conversation into something closer to “work.” The response was magical. Not only did the #michED community answer my call, but the conversations and tweets continued well passed the end of the official chat hour.

I consider myself blessed to work within an amazing network of educators here in Michigan; we may push one another, we may challenge one another, but we come together not to showcase our talents or steal a spot in the limelight. We come together to share ideas, build resources and ideas for the benefit of our learners, and through that we’ve broken down more silos than we could ever have hoped to level on our own.

Below is the archive of the chat if you’re curious to see what it’s all about.