This was a question I posed to a group of educators recently. It was interesting to see their responses, as for many, it was negative or a look of horror at the thought. The idea that we do, what we have always done without questioning, following up from what we learned in teachers college then imposing that on our students, is a problematic notion.
So, why would we do this? How do we impact on todays learners by thinking only of yesterdays practice? It's not about throwing away practice of the past, it's about re-imagining what is possible to impact on our learners. For example, when educational newspaper articles, like the recent one on maths teaching come out, we often get fearful of the consequences and reactions by our parent community. This is when we need to be brave and work for and with the students. We need to reference research done by educators, not the Business Round Table.
If we are constantly doing the same thing, how are we reflecting on our practice? Are we putting ourselves in the shoes of the student and looking at active engagement?
I believe that reflective practice as a staff is crucial in growing capacity to impact on learners. How do we encourage this? We practice it ourselves. As leaders we need to think - would I want to be lead like this? and work from there. We need to foster a growth mindset around being a learner.
One of the comments from Carol Dweck that hit home for me was around growing reflective practice with staff. She said to me, "if staff know that you have their back, they will take more risks."
There is so much truth in this statement. I talked with my staff about this and those that were very comfortable taking risks and reflective were quite clear that they knew I had their back. This was not so clear for those who were more formative in taking risks. My job - make it clear!
As a leader, it is our job to grow our staff from being a novice to expert. We provide the scaffold (Rule Governed Behaviour) for them to grow on this journey, we are warm and demanding with them.
It is staffs' job to 'know their learner,' to know when they are a novice and when to shift them towards expert, as well as developing an understanding of expected milestones of the journey.
I also like the notion of the ZPD thinking, not just for our students but also for staff- what are you capable of with support?
How do we know they want to be in your class? If you know them as a learner, if you impact on their learning at a personal level, if you develop a relationship with them, then you have them. Don't always do what you have done.... think differently about learning and what impacts most on students, not what makes it work for you as a teacher - practice not systems!
My son is a good example of a school looking at the importance of knowing the learner. He has just completed his first 6 hour adventure race. He did this with his principal and two of his teachers. They know more about him, he knows more about them, will this improve his learning? Of course it will.