Today I had the opportunity to attend NBC’s Education Nation Teacher Town Hall online. While I have my concerns about bias, I am glad there is a lot of attention being paid to education right now. But rather than rehash my experience and opinion of the Town Hall, I have chosen to be inspired by Paula White, L. Lee and other colleagues on Twitter. I am choosing to write about possible solutions and what I see working in education with the hope that these ideas will help others to find their own solutions.
An alternative to traditional professional development, coaches are typically veteran or master teachers who collaborate with other teachers in small groups or individually to improve instruction and to raise student achievement. What better way to improve teacher practice than to individualize and differentiate for our teachers, just as we like to do for our students? Please keep in mind that coaches are not intended to be “teacher fixers” or traditional evaluators, but rather work with any teacher who choses continual improvement. After all, we can all strive to be a better educator. (Full Bias Disclosure: I worked as an Instructional Facilitator for 2 years.) You can read more about Instructional Coaches/Facilitators at the following links:
- The Kansas Coaching Project
- The Big Four Ning
- The Instructional Coaching Virtual Conference
- Blogs by Jim Knight: Notes on Instructional Coaching and Radical Learners
- Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud
- Differentiated Coaching for Educators from Jane Kise
- 21st Century Coaching
- Academic Coaching Produces More Effective Teachers
During the 2009-2010 school year, I had the opportunity to study Professional Learning Communities (or PLCs) for possible implementation in our school. During that time I talked with people doing PLCs and visited schools currently using the PLC model. While the PLC model is generally positive (there are negative aspects as well), what I took away was the value of built-in collaboration time for teachers. The schools where this really seems to work have created time for teachers to collaborate within the school schedule and outside of regular planning time (because teachers have enough to do already, right?). And by outside, I don’t mean before or after school. It is built into the school day either on a frequent basis (an extra planning type period every other day) or less frequent on a monthly type basis. I’ve also seen principals willing to provide subs for teachers who want to occasionally work together in this way. Teachers seem very positive about this time to work with their colleagues and even “non-believers” have come to value this time once they have experienced it. I often hear people say that teaching is an isolated profession. It doesn’t have to be that way. We can find ways to value and protect collaborative time with our colleagues.
A best practice I have seen many teachers employ is that of student choice. When it comes to professional development, teachers also deserve that choice. Whether it is choosing which PD session is most relevant to them, whether or not to work with an Instructional Coach and more, choice will yield better results in teacher improvement.
What have you seen work to help improve teaching and learning in our schools? Please feel free to comment here or write your own blog post with the tag #educationnation. Also, feel free to comment on or ask questions about the three options I’ve written about here. Let’s focus on solutions and move forward!