Lost in Translation

There is a page in one of my favourite books The Arrival by Shaun Tan where the protagonist is having difficulties communicating.

I think I love it so much because I remember those frustrating days as a kid when I couldn’t communicate with my peers in school in Germany or Italy.

If I am completely honest sometimes I feel the same way in discussions about education. We love our terminology (me especially). Just to think about the number of terms that have come and gone since I started 13 years ago is amazing: SAMR, documenting, II, Differentiation, Personalization, TLCP, Collaborative Inquiry and so on. It is good (essential) to evolve, to improve, to deepen our understanding as professionals. I don’t believe the words or concepts presented are at fault.

At times though I wonder if we are lost in translation. We get so attached to the terminology,  strongly discussing and defending our own definition, our interpretation of meaning. Sometimes we think we are discussing the same thing and leave confused why we haven’t come to an agreement. Other times we argue about a difference in vocabulary but really had the same goal in mind. Worse yet I fear we judge individuals based on how current their terminology is when they are common threads through out. How can we improve the conversations? How can we dig deeper if we are so attached to the terminology?

Are we complicating the simple and simplifying the complicated.

A few weeks back I was so excited to see some former students. I was at the same school for nine years (probably too long) but had the opportunity to watch many of them grow up from the small shy Kindergarteners to the grade 5 graduating class. I am always excited to see them and their smiling faces when I travel (sometimes in the most unexpected places). I got to see C this time and as C ran over to say hi, I found myself rushing over as well. I think every educator has had those moments when you are reassured you have connected with a learner, when you have the opportunity to check in after a few years and see they are doing well. And it hit me, I can’t tell you what I taught her. I know we spent hours chatting about books and reading together but her passion for reading was sparked at home way before me. I could learn a lesson or two about confidence from C, so that is certainly not the lesson I taught her.

Are we complicating the simple and simplifying the complicated.

C reminded me that the most complex part of our job is the learner; the unique, marvelous, mysterious individuals that are in front of us every day. The frameworks, terms, research are all there to help us better meet the needs of our learner not to get in the way of it. They really are the simpler part of our job.

My take away from it all? I am going to make a better effort to not name drop the current terms, but make strong connections to ideas of the past, the evolution and most importantly the learner. Above all else before jumping to conclusions, I will take the time to listen closely so we aren’t Lost in Translation.