Sunday, 5 February 2012

Teachers need support, time, and guidance from other teachers

Photo by Maura Parker
Teachers need time, time to talk, time to share, time to plan.  The general public may not realize that there are almost two completely connected but entirely different jobs teachers do:  planning and facilitating learning.  After teaching for 17 years the planning becomes even more overwhelming when you have the knowledge and the tools you need.

Teachers need to learn how to collaborate and what to collaborate on.  Recent social networking phenomena underscores the human need to share.  Now that we have the ability to share why aren't teachers doing it?  Time.  Teachers who do blog, read the latest research about teaching and learning, look for ways to integrate technology and other new learning into their classrooms - are doing it after teaching all day long.  Many are using their summers to learn, but it is often still in isolation.

Enough soapbox talk.

Last week I had the luxury of working with my teammate for an hour and a half for professional development that we were able to design.  She and I are taking Lucy Calkins' Reading Workshop class.  So our work is part of a deeper context.  This is the critical piece missing in professional development - working in the context of long term learning.  She and I chose the topic -  non fiction reading and writing unit.  We were so excited, we almost forgot to pick up our kids from their special!  When does that happen in professional development?

Our goal was to develop a unit for our international baccalaureate program.  This is a HUGE undertaking.  But, what I think other teachers in my district don't realize is that discovering how we can think of teaching in a new way doesn't need to be understood by next week.  It is a process of discovery that will never end.  

Teachers are perfectionist, control freaks.  They can't wrap their heads around the idea of teaching and learning being a nebulous, organic experience woven together with a practice and discipline of skills.  The missing link in this equation is the time and guidance needed for teachers to continue their own journey of learning within their own teaching community.  This is the new job of the principal as teacher leader and coach.  Unfortunately, she or he is being pulled in as many directions as the teacher.  But that, my friends is another post.


Christopher Working said...

I think you've highlighted an important consideration here. Often people outside the realm of education don't understand the behind-the-scenes planning that is so critical. On many occasions, I've been asked "Can't you just use last year's lesson plans?" or "Don't they give you teacher manuals?" I often try to explain, in vain, that as much as I'd love to be able to just use such resources, in the real world it just doesn't work. Times change. Requirements change. Groups of students change. And what I know to be true about the learning process has changed.

Having an opportunity to do this important work with a colleague is an incredibly powerful, yet marginalized idea. In fact, meeting with a colleague to plan curriculum is often even pooh-poohed. To those who don't fully understand what it takes to teach, time spent with colleagues should be spend poring over data, then discussing how to react to the data. I wonder how many of our schools' problems could be solved simply by allowing teachers to actually meet with each other on a regular basis, to raise the level of instruction in the first place, rather than simply reacting to gaps in student learning.

Sarah said...

Chris, I guess we just keep pushing the conversation further,huh?