Jal Mehta, assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education wrote recently that we “have an almost endless list of things that we would like the next generation of schools to do: teach critical thinking, foster collaboration, incorporate technology, become more student-centered and engaging. The more skilled our teachers, the greater our chances of achieving these goals.” Building teacher capacity is both a school and system responsibility.
The role of the teaching educator in our system is similar to what Michael Fullan refers to as coaches. They are experts in literacy and numeracy who work with the lead teacher to plan, model, observe, reflect and challenge with the intent of improving the learning outcomes of all students.
In the early days the arrival of a TE in schools was often met with resistance and in some cases, their expertise was under utilised. Over the past few years we have worked tirelessly to articulate and communicate the what, why and how of the TE in schools. Their role is not to obstruct schools but to build instructional capacity. The focus shifts from building individual capacity to community capacity. Once we build community capacity, our schools will be able to link into an ever bigger system of inquiry, learning and knowledge.
We now understand that the most powerful way of building capacity is in situ, in context around the real problems and challenges that arise on a daily basis. Previous models of withdrawing teachers from their context and transmitting information did little to improve their practice and only served to further frustrate them. The best approach is to learn the work by doing the work and having someone that you can share and reflect with. I think teachers respond well to the immediacy and collegiality of this approach.
In 2011, Michael Fullan and Jim Knight wrote an article titled Coaches as System Leaders. They state that if “teachers are the most significant factor in student success, and principals are second, then coaches are third. All three, working in coordinated teams, will be required to bring about deep change.”
Some may call it the power of three – we refer to it as the instructional triad (TE, principal and lead teacher) or the teacher-learning triad (teacher, lead teacher and TE).
Our TEs are an important part of our system strategy to improve the learning outcomes of all students and ensure a professionally rewarding working life for teachers. The how and why of their work represents a shift in education from “I know to we learn” and success for some learners/schools to success for all learners/schools.