Practice what we preach

When you spend time in a classroom some simple and obvious truths are brought home to you. People in positions of leadership have a responsibility not only to engage in a professional discussion on learning and teaching but to really ‘practice what we preach’.

By this I mean, we need to be aware of what is happening in classrooms if we are to develop the frameworks that support teachers in their work.

I had a wonderful experience last week in a Year 2 class.  We were engaged using technology not as teacher to student, adult to child but as learner to learner.

I was actually more nervous than they were – “you just press this button!”

For me, several things were evident. These students had an intuitive understanding of the technology they were using, they understood their subject and there was celebration when they completed their work.

And the result?  This is what good learning looks like.

21 thoughts on “Practice what we preach

  1. Greg,

    Your philosophy might just be the most sound though I have heard in a while. We must, as educational leaders, practice that which we preach. If we ask that our staff be innovative, we must be as well. If we want them to be risk-takers, then we must be willing to fail in front of them as well.

  2. Phil, excellent observation about “failing in front” The issue is not failing but failin g to learn from the experience. Learning is an iterative process so failing is an integral part of this process

  3. I love letting my students be the “teacher”. I believe that allowing myself to learn from them is just as important as them learning from me. Recently I had the opportunity to allow a student to lead the learning in a session with Google Sketchup… I learned a lot! The student planned the lesson and taught it very competently. So the biggest learning for me was that I might not always be the most important person in the room when it comes to imparting knowledge. There are 30 others who can contribute too.

  4. Greg,

    I totally agree and sometimes a problem with leadership is that they are often only a part of the initial discussion and also the celebration of the end product. It is great to see the exciting and rewarding end products. However, it is crucial that leaders see the collaboration, problem solving and issues in general that teachers face in the implementation of 21st century learning practices. This ensures that policies and practices that leaders develop are constructed with due consideration.

  5. I think Robyn and Gavin are correct. Teachers aren’t meant to be the experts but the evangelists of technology.

    Just as we expect teachers to know their students’ capabilities and school leaders to know teachers’ capabilities; system leaders must know their schools and what each contributes to the shared learning agenda.

  6. Ahh Greg that sounds great, but what happens when school leaders only create a perception that all is well within? I know, always the hard questions from me. How do we look beyond the facade?

  7. Julie, not a hard question at all, I actually have more faith in teachers and leaders. People usually see though the facade if it exists especially if the approach is not evidence-based. Negativity and suspicion about what may or may not happen rarely replaces trust and support.

  8. Greg, funny that I also have a lot of faith and respect for both teachers and leaders alike. They are some of the best people I know. The role they have is such a vital one in the lives of our young children.

    Negativity and suspicion generally comes from somewhere doesn’t it? And I disagree its a hard question particularly for large organisations.

  9. What you haven’t mentioned here Julie is trust.

    Do you trust teachers enough to do their job and do it well? We have to trust our leaders and teachers, which is why the system is doing everything to support the learning and teaching in every school.

    My colleague Mark Walker from Elsternwick PS in Victoria has the complete support and trust of his parent community. Why? Because the data doesn’t lie.

    It is proven (Hattie) that class sizes, egg-crate classrooms and homework makes little difference to the learning outcomes.

    We need to give teachers the licence as Heppell says to make the huge advances in learning that we saw in medicine at the turn of the century.

    It really is a matter of trust.

  10. Greg, not talking about classroom setup, size or teaching style. I have, as I said I would, given open plan teaching a fair go ( I have been quiet on that front). I have given you my trust and support here as have many of us have. What have we been given?

    I was actually referring to leaders, their integrity and ability to lead in an honest effective way. Parental trust can only be earnt and whilst data and stats are great ( though we need to see these or at least see a representation of these in our childrens ability), integrity and honesty is very important. Lose that and you lose it all.

    Trust for me goes hand in hand with faith and respect.

  11. I once had a parent ask me if I had ever thought about teaching a subject they way they had envisioned it being taught. My reply: What is it that you do for a living? Answer: I’m a plumber. My reply: I would never ask you to lay pipes the way I thought they should be laid. I would have no idea how to do that.

    Trust is everything. We need to trust that our teachers and leaders know what they are doing, believe in what they are doing and that the system is doing everything in its power to create a dynamic and future forward educational system. Would you want anything less for your children? I wouldn’t.

  12. I want for my children the best possible education and I am no plumber, I am a teacher. And I will continue to question and query practices that leave a lot to be desired.I

  13. As leaders in our own classroom, we must be given the respect that goes along with that. I love the comparison rclarke gave with the plumber. That is exactly it, in a nutshell. Parents must trust that we not only received an education in our content area, but that we are also here for the students. The love of learning and the desire to pass on this love means more to us than most things. (A paycheck for example!)
    When parents or administrators wish to question our methods, they must do so in a professional manner with respect for the individual. After all, isn’t that what’s expected of us?

  14. I agree totally the respect must be there on both sides. Though parents have a right to question all methods, teaching practices etc as they have chosen to pay for this education. We as parents be us plumbers, teachers or lawyers hand over to teacher our childrens’ future. Don’t expect any parent to do so blindly.

  15. Parents do have a right to question but so do teachers. And if what has gone before (traditional model of schooling) isn’t achieving the optimum results for every child, then parents must supports their teachers in adopting and adapting new practices. Students are really the best judges of what is working and what isn’t in classrooms.

  16. I also believe that students are great judges about what is working well for them in their learning spaces.
    When students are given the appropriate responsibility for their learning, the learning process is seen by the student in a whole new light and motivation and interest can invariably be heightened.
    In saying this however, I believe that students need to be given guidance and certain limitations as they begin to accept more responsibility for their learning.
    The relationship between teacher and student is absolutely crucial to the success of this approach to learning and teaching.

  17. As a parent of a child in one of the Catholic Schools in Parramatta, I think the teachers are doing the right thing but technology is letting them and the students down.

    Let me share my experience of my teenagers typical day in their high school in the Parramatta Diocese.

    They try to log onto one of the schools computer but it won’t let them…nor the rest of the class for that matter. They then log onto a generic password.

    Internet connection is painfully slow…takes them back to our dial up days at home. They then try to log onto the intranet where their teacher has posted some work, however half of the class can not log on for some reason. Everyone’s complaining because they can not access anything and then if they do they can not save anywork because of the generic log in. Result….. another lesson wasted.

    We are now in March and this seems to be a continual complaint of my child.

    I ask the same question…what support is given to the great teachers we have in helping our kids learn. Obviously either the IT support is under resourced or not appropriatly qualified.

    I look forward to reading your reply.

  18. In response to your comment Joan; it has been recognised that access to some IT systems by students have been slow to log on and in some cases difficult to access.

    Since January this year significant upgrades of all school networks and internet access will be completed. 12 of our High Schools have already been completed and the remaining schools over the next 3-4 months. As you would appreciate, these upgrades do take time to implement and we are doing our best to fast track them at the same time keeping disruption to students to a minimum.

    We are very confident that once these upgrades are completed, the student and teacher experience using IT will be rich, high performing and transparent.

    The Diocese of Parramatta and the ICT team are highly qualified and committed to this plan.

  19. As a teacher in a public school, I understand the frustration of the parent regarding technology concerns. We must always have in place a back up plan in case our technology fails us. Our students should not suffer if technology hits a couple of snags.
    In our school we have had significant up grades this year regarding technology. With every upgrade, however, there comes an increased chance of encountering problems. When students cannot log on or cannot find a web page in order to complete a lesson, it creates chaos in the classroom. I understand this and commend this parent for not placing unnecessary blame on the teachers involved.
    Whether you are personally paying for your child’s education first hand, or paying for your child’s education through tax dollars, you have a right to understand the methods being used. However, questioning the teacher publicly or in front of your children only demeans the teachers’s authority thus furthering dissention in the classroom.

  20. I am now even more concerned. I hope Lori this is not the case.

    So once the upgrades take place, which could take up until July, more “teething problems” may occur????

    I don’t think that this is doing my already stressed child, who is facing the HSC next year any justice.

    What if, any dispensation do students get?

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