Sharing the stage

Society is changing rapidly and as educators, we understand the complexity of schooling in this world. As I have recently discovered, explaining those complexities to the media and a broader audience is even more challenging!

Creating a schooling experience that is relevant is not as simple as knocking down walls or changing timetables. If it is to be sustainable, then it requires a cultural change – a re-thinking the whole experience. It requires teachers, parents and the wider community to think and talk differently about schooling in today’s world. It also recognises that we are (as I have said many times before) ready to move forward because of the work of talented educators over the decades.

To say that some educators in the past took the approach of a ‘sit down, shut up and I’ll teach you what you need to know’ educational philosophy is understandable given size of classes, lack of teacher training and little or no professional development. Seen through this lens they did a marvelous job!

If we call ourselves a genuine learning community; working in solidarity with our colleagues, then we must not be afraid to challenge each other and to challenge our own mindsets as we improve the quality of learning and teaching in schools.

Solidarity is strengthened by an ongoing professional conversation that is open, collaborative and respectful of diverse view points. We have the 2.0 tools to facilitate this yet there a few who accept the challenge of expressing their opinions, sharing their experience beyond staff rooms.

If we agree that learning is a responsibility we share, then why aren’t there more leaders and teachers contributing to our professional conversation in virtual spaces?

I look forward to hearing many more voices in the future!

8 thoughts on “Sharing the stage

  1. Hear hear. The voices are gradually piping up.

    Yet, teachers are some of the most conservative individuals with whom I have ever shared a workplace. Expressing diverse opinions within the staffroom itself is a challenge, let alone outside of the staffroom.

    Certate bonum certamen.

  2. I wrote about this recently in my blog in regards to shifting this paradigm and getting back to students. Whilst we still continue to view ourselves as a speciality with specific skills we will never have integration into our classrooms where it is needed to benefit students.

    I was one of those leaders butting my head against the wall two years ago trying to understand why people did not integrate technology, I had to change my tact and look at it from a student perspective. I ran student roundtables and asked them what they would like in regards to powerful learning ( I never mentioned eteaching or elearning) and our students wrote about how they learn best. They wrote about the use of images, multimedia, web and how they can get answers but do not know how to distill or make sense of this information overload. There was also a huge push for content creation instead of passive dictation and exercises. These students never mentioned that they wanted more elearning in their classrooms and the teachers couldn’t help but rub it in when it wasn’t mentioned.

    However it didn’t bother me in the slightest as these students articulated what powerful learning was for them and as a school and as teachers we responded. We reevaluated where our goals were. We had to change the goal which said “we want to integrate more technology” to “we want to teach powerful inline with our students needs” elearning was a term no longer used in the middle years at our school and the pressure was off and the power boundaries changed as well. Reflection time was an essential part of every class and teachers developed goals with the students for the next lesson. Teachers did have to integrate technology but it was from the students needs, each class had student mentors who assisted in making powerful learning possible with a multitude of technologies. As a group we had moved beyond teachers always having to know the how and the what but assisting with the why ! All this without elearning or eteaching? Who would of thought?

  3. Mr.Whitby, when will you start informing the public properly about your plans and propositions?

    “It requires teachers, parents and the wider community to think and talk differently about schooling in today’s world.”

    When will there be open discussions with the Catholic school community that will be directly affected by this opening-ended class teaching proposition that seems to be spreading from school to school? It seems that you intend to make this vision of yours a mandatory initiative that schools must comply with? Am I wrong? Well how am I supposed to know if the CEO doesn’t even inform me of their initiatives for the future?
    I believe, that some action should be taken to aid “transparency” with your media and broader audience: I believe a very public, formal and specific forum should arise for this matter at hand.. it is no good to read people on blogs who ‘talk up’ their own perspective, and quite frankly no one is seeing the whole big picture of results and successes to project/group based teaching/learning, most of the time I’m only reading about the ‘success’ of this promising revolution in teaching, when in reality there are a lot of failures of the same initiative throughout history and re-occurring today (evident in responses to the Cathnews article “90 students in class of the future”, and that’s just an appetizer)

    Where are the collaborative discussions that students, teachers, parents, and experts can communicate and exchange ideas in one location?

  4. As Lauren, John and Mark note, the success and the spread of innovation we are seeing in schools is directly related to a sharper focus on learning.

    For a long time, the business of schooling has been about a range of other matters, some of which, have been important but mostly distract us from the real business of schooling – improving and enriching student learning.

    I see it in the schools I visit both here and overseas, teachers are passionate about learning and when we engage them in a discussion about how to improve and support this, it leads into some really exciting possibilities and we are beginning to see them take shape now.

    Of course the dialogue of itself is not enough to sustain change. We have to continue the discussion and collaboration, develop a sustainable narrative of schooling in today’s world, and systems and school leaders have to be as passionately committed to supporting teacher innovation as good teachers are passionate about their work.

    We know that when we get all parties working together we are more likely to fashion and develop a sustainable cultural shift for learning in today’s world. This is an issue I regularly take up with our local politicians and policy makers.

    I visited a school last Friday and chatted with some teachers and students. I’ll post the video and my comments this week. You’ll see much of what I’ve said here happening in this school.

    The way forward is definitely building it from the ground up, working with teachers committed to deprivatising practice. This way, we focus and celebrate the success as Einstein once observed we ‘fail forward’. Failure is not the issue. The issue is failing to act on what we learn from our mistakes.

    Learning is about failure. You try something and you keep on trying until you understand the connections and concept. Good teachers don’t demean the attempt, the use to build on student understanding and knowledge.

  5. Interestingly Greg, I have found that Personal Learning Networks thrive and develop through a ‘give and take’ process.

    In working with students, an important point is always stressed.
    * If you want people to read and respond to your work, you will need to read and respond to theirs
    * We have 2 ears and 1 mouth!

    There are many schools who are venturing into communicating through blogs etc. I know it would be an impossibility to keep up with all of them, all the time. But….wouldn’t it create that environment of sharing that you seek, if staff at CEO also commented on school /staff blogs? I know time is a factor….but we as teachers are busy too and yet the expectation is there for us to take this step! I applaud the concept of sharing, but I also like the idea of ‘leading by example’

  6. Great point Frances and very well made. As you say time is an issue but not an excuse. We are in the early days of blogging, even the internal CEO ones get a limited response pool. It is going to take time as we rework and rethink how we go about collaboration and dialogue. I’ll press your point as well

  7. Hi Greg,

    I recently presented at a conference on the subject of technology in outdoor education see:

    Our school is attempting to integrate technology into its teaching by supplying all students with laptops, with some teachers doing a great job experimenting with technological possibilities.

    However, the majority of teachers are not using this technology to its potential. When I ask these teachers why they don’t, the same old reply comes up; we don’t have the time to learn then implement these new tools.

    I have been arguing for a re-think of the traditional teaching model of having teachers rostered on to their 20 periods a week and look at a more corporate structure where time is allowed for research and development of ideas and implementation.

    I was thinking along the lines of a permanent casual/s that relieves subject teachers for a week block during term time so they can have time to develop the use of these new technologies. I am a firm believer that if we want quality in the classroom, we have to find ways for teachers to have quality subject development time.

    Greg have you found a solution to the issue of providing quality development time for your teachers? Does there need to be a re-think of current practice?

    Dr Ian Boyle

  8. This is the classic conundrum and it emerges because we think of the solutions from an old paradigm. The way teachers work currently means that if you want to do ‘extra’ you have to find time in a very busy and crowded day.

    It becomes an add-on. I believe we need to approach the problem from a new structure; it’s about finding new ways for teachers to go about the work of teaching in today’s world.

    The reality is that if anything is extra, it always will be given less priority than the main business. What you have to do is make the extra part of the prime business.

    We’re engaging our teachers in a discussion about working in teams, developing flexibility in the curriculum delivery and pedagogy, which requires personalising learning and embedding technology as part of that very work.

    In this way, there is much more learning by doing, in context around real learning and teaching moments. There’s no one answer but I can show you schools that are doing highly creative things; where teachers are sharing their practice and working collaboratively by way of supporting each other and therefore learning about learning.

    Coupled with this, we’re finding that kids are becoming a great resource for teaching teachers about technology. If a teacher is prepared to ask students how to use the new technology, it frees up the need to find extra time – it becomes part of the learning for student and teacher.

    All of this is a work in progress and very contextual by its nature. But for me, the solution lies in the hands of the teachers not the hands of systems and bureaucrats who dictate how teachers should work.

    A reflection on your comment about casual teachers: we know that the prime difference in improving student outcomes is good teachers so that means the more you fragment that relationship, the less likely you are to continue strengthen those relationships therefore positively influencing the learning outcomes.

    That is why working in teams over consistent periods of time is so much more effective. It is hard to maintain continuity if we casualise teaching.

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