Thursday, May 19, 2011

Open 6 doors: one lesson at a time

If we are serious about improving teaching, then we need to begin to open the doors to one another’s classes. This article is not suggesting that the system is broken, but rather it is about giving suggestions on how we might begin to see improvement in the school one lesson at a time.

Anticipate improvement to be continual, gradual, and incremental
If we believe that we can wave a magic wand and expect that improvement in our classes overnight, we are living in a dream. Learning takes time. In spite of the new reforms, initiatives or creativities; change may be thrown on us quickly, but it is really a slow and incremental process. Continue to invent small changes in the system and keep track in order that they may be shared.

Focus on student learning
The point of teaching is student learning. If we forget this point, then measuring success of students will be an impossible task. We need to begin asking one another how these changes are improving students learning in order that we might stay on track and not get lost in excitement of change.

Focus on the teaching
Teachers come and go. Teaching on the other hand focuses on the methods and the tools. Collaboration is key to scripting our approach. Our script is looking at what we value, what we want to improve, what tools we are going to use, what benchmarks we are going to use. Once we begin examine our methods and tools, and then improvement will begin to emerge.

Improve with context
Improvements in teaching do not begin at the University, at the Ministry nor at the Board Office. They begin and end in the classrooms where our students learn and our teachers teach. Teachers have known forever what works in one classroom might not work in another. On Twitter, Facebook, and Blogs we see innovation being spread like wild fire. Innovation needs to be tried out over and over again with adjustments as we encounter different classrooms. Traditional methods of weekend workshops and the like do not always allow for improvement to take place in the classroom as they are far too often disconnected to your context in the classroom. Make the innovation real and in context and begin to see improvements emerge continually, gradually, and incrementally.

Take responsibility
Improvement doesn’t happen on its own. It is developed in context and engages the learners though working with other highly qualified professionals to entrust change. If we, as teachers, are the only ones who can entrust change, then we need to seek out the tools, the research, and the best solution to the problem of improving our teaching.

Learn from experience
Each new teacher that enters a classroom starts from scratch. They are capable of solving problems, trying new approaches, and developing their own knowledge base for teaching. But what is missing is their experience. So the team of teachers who have been working together for the long run, incrementally changing and storing professional knowledge might be effective, but that knowledge and experience needs to be shared. New teachers to the profession need to find a mentor, while experienced teachers need to provide a means to share their insights. How else can we get better over time?

Once we begin opening the doors to one another’s classrooms, we might begin to see what we have learned about teaching. The fruits of this learning, might emerge in school improvement over time.

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