Teachers learning

I recently had a chat with Rob Muscat, assistant principal at Nagle College Blacktown and we were talking about the work the staff are now doing as part of their commitment to challenging and empowering students.

It is obvious that teachers are excited about a new way of working that is collaborative, supportive and professionally rewarding.  The commitment to critical reflection and dialogue has been contagious.  It has led to a new learning narrative.

Teachers talking about teaching is critical; teachers learning about teaching is powerful.

10 thoughts on “Teachers learning

  1. Michael, this is very powerful stuff you are doing. I particularly like your reflections on the way it has changed your work as a teacher. It was not imposed on you and you worked the solution through. This such a fine example of teacher learning. I could tell from your blog that it is energising you

  2. Greg – thank you so much for these considered words. It’s even more energising to think that what I’m promoting in my school forms part of a bigger picture and a changing landscape.

    Metaphors aside though, I’ve really enjoyed the underlying tenets of your posts: that it’s teachers that make the biggest difference, that good teachers are good learners and, of course, that technology – when used critically and creatively – empowers learning.

    In a profession that is continually disempowered and deprofessionalised by the controlling discourses of high-stakes testing and so-called ‘back to basics’ among other things, technology gives me a sense of optimism and makes me feel much less a ‘cog in the wheel’ and much more a change agent.

    Cheers and thanks again – both for your posts and kind feedback,


  3. Michael if only we could build a critical mass of teachers and principals who saw technology in the same way. Any suggestions??

  4. Greg, I’m interested in the above comments about ‘critical mass’ & ‘use of technology’ perceptions of teachers & principals.

    In my experience, I am continually inspired & excited by the ways teachers are open to, and proactive in their use of technology for both their own & their students’ learning. The ‘critical mass’ in my opinion, is out there now, in our schools;- teachers & principals adopting at a steady pace, selective in their use of different tools to meet their needs, critical and evaluative and yet all the time open to what is ‘out there’- what will be the best tool for the learning environment, the learners in our schools. Often the practical, day to day adoption and use of a technology solution, or a Web 2.0 application becomes so seamless and ‘normal’ that it doesn’t stand out to get ‘noticed’ and talked about. As Sidonie Gabrielle Colette says…”You do not notice changes in what is always before you”.

    It is exciting and empowering to hear of the work of Rob and Michael. Opportunities that showcase the marvelous work of teachers and school leaders need to occur frequently, lest we neglect to acknowledge the amazing things going on in our schools, (work that can often go unnoticed because it forms part of the normal, day to day practices). I think…(know) we need to find further ways to showcase and share the work going on in classrooms & schools in order to nurture that optimism that Michael describes. We need to continue to work on developing collaborative, supportive and professionally rewarding work environments. It is happening at a micro level in our schools- as Rob’s example shows. But how can we make it happen at a system level?

    1. Frances – an eloquent synopsis. Like you, I am excited and encouraged by the work of teachers and leaders especially those who are adapting technology to improve practice, communication and collaboration. My frustration is that we never hear about the great work going on in classrooms except when teachers like you and Rob and principals take time to blog your experiences. How many of our principals are blogging on a regular basis? Is it the task of school leaders to be establishing these connections; showcasing the work of their teachers or do we hope more adaptive experts come on board? I’m not sure how we make it happen at a system level without it being too top-heavy. There are plenty of conduits such as John Connell, Stephen Heppell, Will Richardson et al who are happy to promote the work of schools. I hope this is what bluyonder is on the road to achieving.

  5. Greg,
    I have just finished reading Mark Pesce’s keynote address, (and educational manifesto) from the AISWA Annual Conference. http://blog.futurestreetconsulting.com/?p=265 Among many other thought provoking messages he states:

    “Sharing needs to become a foundational component in a modern educational system”….

    and …

    “We should be creating a great, linked trail behind us as we learn, so that others, when exploring, will have paths to guide them – should they choose to follow. ”

    Pesce acknowledges that the educational field is a network of individuals … and he charges us to build connections that support mentoring, exploring knowledge in all facets of our community…students, parents the outside world…& I know, this would include School Leadership Teams & Teaching staff.

    A very relevant comment to this discussion is his statement:
    “We have to look to ourselves, build the networks between ourselves, reach out and connect from ourselves….”

    We cannot rely on others to do this for us. Your offer to have conduits to assist in sharing what is going on in classrooms is appreciated….but it is not the only answer. Your own efforts, to showcase examples as you visit schools,…is appreciated…but not enough. Pesce’s explorations on the ideals of a constructivist project and his acknowledgment that we are entering a time where the opportunity to embrace such a model is evident, charge us all to be part of the solution.

  6. On a further note Greg, I’ve been thinking of ways that enable teachers & school leaders to take up sharing in the ways described. If it is something valued within the system & there is evidence that this is a model that will enhance both the teaching & learning within classrooms & within the system in a broader sense, then it is the role of all leaders to facilitate opportunities for this to happen…..

    At System or Principal’s meetings could there be time set aside specifically for typing up, blogging or using Nings/wikis for schools to tell of work in classrooms/within schools?…and could there be a short sharing time to enable that showcasing & discussion…?

    At staff meetings within schools, could there be committed time for similar activities for teachers?

    The greatest challenge is not, I feel, that teachers & school leadership teams don’t feel that it is important to share….schools continually reach out to network with the wider community & other schools and have been doing so for years. But to document it in a more tangible way…we are so time poor and focused on addressing school challenges & initiatives that such documentation is not seen as important as the work itself. The value of the activity will not really become evident until it is actually happening. As Fullan points out…”Behavior changes before beliefs” …..We need the opportunity & the sense of value that dedicated time to the task affords. The assistance we need is that sense of importance to the task…& time…& this will not be achieved by words of encouragement or support…but by actions that ‘make it happen’.

    1. Frances, I couldn’t agree more. Our model of professional learning through building leadership capacity and situating professional learning within the context of school and classrooms is based on our theory of action. I agree that it begs the harder question of how to provide time to connect, share and document. We know that while teachers buy into this approach old methods of communication simply don’t work.

      At system level, we have been encouraging sharing and collaboration and the use of technology and found it difficult to get the necessary take up. As we gain momentum and experience, this will inevitably grow. My only answer in the short term is continue what you are doing so that people see how it impacts on and influences student learning. There is nothing like teachers sharing good practice to build momentum and critical mass. I’ll share your comments with others and we will continue to find ways to increase collaboration using technology.

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