At the close of the school year, I completed my time as an Instructional Facilitator. This fall I will be moving back into the classroom, where I will trade my adult clientel for that of teenagers. The last two years have been a huge learning experience for me and I wanted to write down some of the things that have had an impact on my educational philosophy.
Professional Development – In my role as embedded professional development, there wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t think about or work on crafting PD for teachers. I feel as though I could write volumes on this topic, so I’ll just address what I feel is the biggest point. Teachers don’t really learn much differently than our students. They deserve to be treated as learners with individual learning styles. Choice in learning can have a huge impact. One-on-one feedback can be very useful. Listening to what teachers have to say about what they need to learn and what they want to learn is important. Orchestrate opportunities for teachers to learn from the experts in their building, each other.
Teaching Strategies – I have had the chance to study many different teaching strategies in depth. I feel like I have gone from having a tool box to a tool chest on wheels.
Technology – Working in a 1:1 High Access school for the first time, I have been surrounded by technology. I learned a great deal concerning the ins and outs of our MacBooks, their programs, Web 2.0, and our filtering system. But more importantly, I have seen the variety of ways other people learn about technology. Different learning styles can play out dramatically when teaching tech skills. Fear and confidence play a big part in the willingness to try new things. And my own teaching philosophy has shifted as a result of what I’ve learned. To me, it’s not about incorporating technology to build skills. It’s about shifting from a teacher-centered classroom to a student-centered approach.
The Big Picture – Being more involved with both building and district level issues, I have gained a better understanding of the big picture of education. I feel I better get the role of administrators and I understand that as a teacher there are so many things that go on behind the scenes to make my job better. Decisions can be pretty complicated and there are many factors and people to consider.
Teamwork – Being part of a team of 5-6 Instructional Facilitators over the past two years has taught me a lot about what it means to work as a collaborative group. The best teams aren’t those that think alike, but those that can meld different perspectives, talents and skills to accomplish their goal. Not everyone will (or should!) agree or approach things in the same way. What is important is how you meld those different perspectives, talents, and skills to accomplish your goals.
Change – I have been told over and over that as an Instructional Facilitator that I am an “agent of change.” Sometimes that has excited me, and at other times that thought has been rather scary. Change is a tricky thing. One of the mantras I often repeat to myself is something I learned from Jim Knight. Change needs to be easy and powerful. If you want people to change, you have to make it doable. It needs to be something easily within their grasp, not some sudden monumental shift. That’s not to say that you can’t have multiple smaller shifts that lead to large scale change. It just means that it’s something people can look at and say “hey, I can do that.” If you want people to change, they have to see the impact of that change. If the results are not powerful, people will wonder why they even bothered. Make the change worth their effort.
What Great Teachers Look Like – Over the past two years I have been in many different classrooms and had the chance to observe and work with many different teachers. Would you like to know what the perfect teacher looks like? Well, I can’t tell you. Why? Because there is no prescription or magic pill for great teaching. What one teacher does in their classroom would be a disaster if a different teacher tried to do it in their’s. The best description I have been able to come up with for a great teacher involves two things. 1) They care about kids and 2) They continually strive to be a better teacher. If someone has these two elements, they have the potential to be a fantastic educator.
This is just a small summary of what I have learned over the past two years. I could greatly expand on any of these or other topics. If you have any comments or questions, please let me know.