DIY… with a network

CC licensed photo shared by Flickr user greeno777
CC licensed photo shared by Flickr user greeno777

We’ve spent the past couple of weeks transitioning from the first home we’ve ever owned to what we imagine could be the last one we ever reside in. It’s not a dream home like the ones you see on TV, yet it’s our own little piece of royalty. The move has gone as well as anyone can expect, but I wanted to mention something spicy and educationally pertinent here. A house is almost too ripe for metaphor exploitation, so I’ll try to keep it at a minimum.

We are discovering that the previous owners of our house, a dour and fiery couple of empty nesters, were fairly infamous for their cartoonish grumpiness. Our new neighbours looked relieved to see a new, naive looking young family move in. We weren’t surprised at the former owners’ reputation as we encountered it first hand on our visits to the house before moving in (they almost beat up our home inspector). Basically, it seems you could call them a lot of things, but lacking in pride was not one of them.

The man of the house was so proud of his DIY ability. He installed the garage door opener, new hardwood flooring, and even an old school intercom system, among other things.

“See? Much better, cheaper than contractor,” he asserted with his thick European accent, his chest literally and figuratively puffed out.

Indeed, much of his handiwork was acceptable if not impressive. Except for a few things. Well, one in particular.

We discovered that Mr. I Don’t Need Nobody just happened to have an electrician’s license. And, by ‘license’, I mean the kind my daughter makes using Crayolas and paper. One hack job in particular nearly floored the legitimate electrician we brought in. ‘Fire hazard’ doesn’t cover it.

So it got me thinking about myself and other educators I know. Although I would classify myself as a fool when it comes to home DIY, I simultaneously define my educator self as DIY to the max.

When I first entered the profession, I was constantly befuddled by some colleagues who asserted to me things like: I can’t do x because ‘they’ didn’t provide me with the y; or it’s not possible to do blank because of this, that, and the other.

Why not? I would and still always wonder. There’s always a way to get the resources, tools, or permission needed to do great things in our schools. If no one’s going to help or provide the necessary ingredients, then I’ll just do it myself! Someone’s gotta blaze that trail, right?

In actuality, I believe the majority of teachers and administrators are of this mindset, and it’s a bloody good thing indeed. Most of our schools and classrooms accomplish extraordinary things (often off the radar) solely because of innovative DIY dispositions.

Nevertheless, when I saw that clump of wires in the basement ceiling of our new home, I had a stark reminder that there is a point where a Do It Yourself mentality jumps the shark. At some point, you cross over the line which separates problem solving to prideful arrogance. You can’t always do it yourself, and if you do, you’re going to end up clumping a bunch of electrical circuits together in a manner which is terrifying, if not fire starting (and I don’t mean the good flame).

Some time ago I asked the question of whether tweeting and blogging was for everyone, and I still believe that we need to think critically and contextually about evangelizing ed spaces like Twitter. Still, seeing some of the handy work by Mr. Just Me And My Toolbox On A Deserted Island, I’m ever more firm in my feeling that I can’t do this teaching thing without my face-to-face and avatar-to-avatar crew of education ninjas.

Keep Doing It Yourself… with a network of Do It Yourselfers.



  1. I tend to agree. It is not always right to pontificate about tools like Twitter*, etc. . I find that one has to choose their audience carefully, ascertain those that are open to new ideas, ready to experiment, to try new ideas. I never impose.

    Yes, it is good to have face-to-face and online educators to turn to as we teach each new day. Face -to-face is particularly important. Face-to-face education environments are something that we should treat as precious and ensure is never eroded by policy makers and fiscal decision makers.

    (*I personally would not label Twitter as an “ed space” ~ some educators have made it an “ed space”.)

  2. Thank you Royan. Congrats on your move.
    Your reflections on DIYers ring true on many levels. We have all had to rig something up to make a lesson happen. Yet, our creation did not become part of the permanent structure of our practice. I think of a mad scientist in the lab screaming, “It’s alive!” without realizing a monster has been created. It may always come down to time, pressure, resources, finances or curriculum, but going it alone in our world is not uncommon. Your assertion that we need to unite as a group of individuals is what I take away here.

    We all have something to contribute in the edification of our learners and each other.
    Constructing a home is a perfect example where collaboration happens for a singular purpose. Each one is skilled in their trades and understanding of the value they bring to the site. So often, teachers think they have to be concrete finisher, framer, mechanicals expert, roofer and finish carpenter in one. Calling on one another for help is what we need to do as a natural progression in our ongoing professional practice.

    1. That’s exactly what came to my mind when I thought of our home owner who thought he could do it all.

      I don’t necessarily think it means that we have to collaborate to ‘build a home’. For instance, I’ve seen contractors do jobs both collaboratively and on their own, and I’ve often found the latter to actually produce a better process and result.

      I do think, however, that we need a collaborative space/network that we can always access so we don’t clump those wires together.

      Ok enough with the metaphors;)

  3. Thanks for the post Royan. Before attending the Pearson #OntEd Symposium yesterday, I felt very strongly about this. After going through all the reflection posts and SM feedback of the event, this blog post became that much more resonating. To state my teaching career as DIY is an understatement. I’ve always considered myself as the “Pacific Mall” of educators (apologies to those who don’t get the reference). I’ve had to do things alone for the most part not because of some weird Lone Wolf complex. The reality is that if you want to do more in education, things will have to come out of pocket for the most part, be it paying for additional professional learning and / or additional equipment in the classroom, etc. It’s been like that in the past and I assume that it will be in the future.

    So in comes Pearson and their quest to understand social media and its impact on classrooms and the teachers that use them. Quite frankly, the event was an eye opener. The collection of like minded “Ed-Ninjas” was a sight to behold and the discussions that emanated was just as compelling. For the first time in my 14-year career, I was compensated for my thoughts and feelings about social media and its role in my practice. More importantly, this company is trying to find a way to help those who currently “hack” their workflow and help those who might have a hard time adjusting to the ever changing educational landscape. Finally, a willing corporate partner that wants to hear from teachers. How refreshing.

    To my dismay, my morning was consumed by mostly positive and sadly, some negative feedback about the event. I guess you simply cannot make everyone happy. In light of it all, I still believe that regardless of what’s in place (with or without corporate partnerships), teachers will always find new ways to DIY things in order to suit them and more importantly, their students’ needs. I do wish that we look at things in a more open manner. I’d like to think that educators are open to changes, especially if those changes can help them and their students. We can worry about the corporate bottom lines until the cows come home but our end goals should still revolve around our students (and our health and well-being for that matter). Our principles will not dictate this relationship but rather the future funding models to the education system. Why not explore it and harness it to our advantage now while we are in transition?

  4. Hey Mr. Lee! I have officially started my own personal blog for music. I was wondering what template you use for your blog? I’m just curious because I’d like my blog to have a clean, and white appearance like yours! Thanks!

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