Tagged: change

And I Quote: Meeting Teachers In Their Classrooms As A Foundation For Professional Learning

Meeting Learners in Their Space

Professional learning in school communities is unquestionably a complex and challenging concept to attend to. Teachers, like all learners, are wide ranging in their interests, their developmental pathways, their learning styles, and their capacity to engage on any given day and in any given setting. There is no standard that works for everyone (at least I haven’t come across it).

Some adult learners require movement and interaction to stay connected while others prefer to stay put, listen, and take notes. Some want to generate thoughts and ideas through a process of individual and collaborative brainstorming, exploration, and critical thinking, while others prefer to have information delivered to them. Even so, dynamic lecturers can transform the traditional “sit and get” experience into vibrant and engaging opportunities for rich, meaningful, and connected learning, and effective group facilitators can draw enthusiastic participation out of the most reluctant collaborators.

As school administrators and professional learning teams consider reflective systems and structures such as Camburn’s three phase reflective process, Gladwell and DiCamillo’s professional dyads, and/or Purcell’s “post class reflective notes,” we must also consider connected and meaningful content. How do we get at learning that truly drives individual and collaborative progress and effectively impacts student wellbeing and achievement in authentically positive ways?

Of comprehensive school reform (CSR) programs, Camburn warns, “if we wish to develop a fuller understanding of how teachers’ work experiences support the development of their practice, it is useful to look beyond their participation in traditional staff development and consider a broader array of experiences” (p. 464). He further clarifies by suggesting, “knowledge about teaching that is acquired in teachers’ immediate work context (their classrooms and the larger school organization) may be more readily applied than knowledge acquired outside that context” (p. 466). A suggestion that connects directly to the “try it out, mull it over, and critically evaluate it” professional learning triangle he points to as scaffolding for genuine reflective progress.

Individual and/or collaborative reflective practices, employed in real-time and on location can influence professional learning a ways that provide teachers with the autonomy needed to connect in meaningfully with school reform or improvement initiatives, a valued voice along their own learning pathways, and a framework regarding how learning meets application for them and for their unique student population during any given moment in time.

Enlisting connected research and reflecting on outside scenarios and ideas has its place and should not be dismissed as worthwhile for professional learning in school communities. However, school leaders must also consider that the base of any truly connected progress specific to their school community is in fact real-time teaching and learning challenges and triumphs that are also specific to their school community, and that are concurrently transpiring along with the progress. Empowering classroom teachers to drive their own professional learning through reflection on their own experiences can be immensely powerful.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

 

*The foundation of this “And I Quote” post is an article by Eric M. Camburn of the University of Wisconsin-Madison entitled “Embedded Teacher Learning Opportunities as a Site for Reflective Practice: An Exploratory Study,” published in 2010 in the American Journal of Education.

Changing Minds: Respecting “Second Order Change” Stress

I’ve been looking at something all wrong.  It might seem that’s a problem, but in this case I’m thrilled.  In fact, I’m feeling a significant wave of relief.  Looking at something all wrong was a problem until I realized that I was looking at it all wrong, which really just happened about two hours ago.  Now that it has happened, I can adjust the way that I’m looking at it, which is happening even as I writing this reflection.  That’s why I’m thrilled.

I am now just over halfway through my first year as a building principal.  That means a couple of things.  It means that the honeymoon is officially over (or at the very least coming to an end).  Stakeholders are getting to know me in pretty significant ways and I’m getting to know them as well.  The “Howdy!” and “How do you do?” has morphed into “Where are we?” and “Where are we headed?”  It’s good.  I feel like partnerships are solidifying in significant ways, and that the change inherent in new leadership normalizing.  The key however is that is remains overt change, and it will for some time.

I earnestly believe that things are going quite well, it’s just tonight I was reminded tonight that change is change…good, bad, or otherwise.  Parents and students are reporting positive experiences, more and more teachers are expressing deepened understandings of my vision and making connection from it to their own, for the most part we are being patient with one another as we all work diligently toward ongoing progress, and we’re doing a wonderful job of giving each other the space and time we need to learn and grow.  There have certainly been bumps on the road, but all paths are leading lead to a focus on teaching and learning and a solid commitment to student’s wellbeing and achievement.

The thing that I’ve been looking at all wrong is my understanding of the significance that “second order change” has on stress levels and ongoing challenges.  I’ve all but dismissed it.  My community is already experiencing “first order change” change.  Me.  I’m new.  Even if it’s good (and hope that at least some of it is) it’s stressful.  So, anything else is “second order change.”  Any committee, any idea, and program, and suggestion that things might be different tomorrow, is additionally stressful.  It’s extremely reasonable that additionally stressful things would be accompanied buy additional stress.

I won’t stop making every decision that I believe to be good for the children I serve, but I can understand, and more importantly, respect the significant discomfort driven by “second order change.”  It’s not bad and it’s not wrong.  It’s an organic part of the growth process.

I believe that intentionally respecting it will help me better support and encourage those experiencing it.  I now have a deeper understanding that people are going to be emotional, concerned, and even uncertain as we move forward together, but I also understand that maintaining our focus and keeping the “together” part in mind will help us stay on target for continued excellence in education!

Live. Learn. Lead.

 IMG_8163

Dream Big. Work Hard. Be Well.