I was invited to speak to a group of 250 educators in the Dandenongs recently who have willingly formed and developed a structured professional learning program. To me that reflects an integrity and commitment to the art and science of teaching.
Whenever I speak to large groups of educators, I more often than not asked about the ‘how’ – how do you create contemporary learning environments, how do you improve the learning outcomes for each student in our care, how do you build a sustainable learning communities?
My response is always that there is no single road map for taking schooling forward in today’s world. We need to see it as part of a jumbo puzzle; it is the challenge and joy of working on the individual pieces that defines the HOW.
Despite the fact that educators understand the WHY of having to change the way we think about contemporary learners and learning, one question still plagues the profession:
What do I do about my colleagues who aren’t supportive of continuous improvement in the profession and who question why there is a need to change the way we work anyway?
It is a valid question; one that has been scrutinised by educators like Elmore, Hargreaves and Fullan et.al. The only wisdom I can offer towards answering this question is that you cannot sustain change unless there is shared understanding and a shared framework for improving schooling. This means robust dialogue and discussion within the profession that stretches and challenges existing practices and frameworks, and acknowledges all voices.
What I have noticed in my travels is that good educators do not follow trends – they don’t take walls down or give every child a laptop because that’s what the current fad dictates.
Good educators find meaning and purpose in their work; they articulate a shared understanding of what is important, they connect with each learner and they use what is available to them (good data, feedback, theory, practice, experience base) to improve on what they are currently doing. Great educators act on the discussion in decisive and practical ways.
Today’s schools need educators who aren’t prescriptive but proactive and are prepared to take the road less travelled.