One chapter of the soon-to-be-released ‘TechnoTeaching’ book (USA and outside Amazon links) focuses upon in-house teacher training. At one of my schools, as a Senior Leader, I was asked to work with a group of lead teachers and help them improve their teaching skills – which, in a perfect world, would lead to whole school improvement. Hmmm… I knew that as an Advanced Skills Teacher, I was regularly called on to provide tips and support for other teachers who wanted/ needed to be slightly more innovative. You sometimes need to see what outstanding looks like in order to apply it to your work. But how could I encourage teachers, who were already very good and even outstanding in their areas, to become even better?
Then the answer came to me: take a risk and be daring. Up the game and throw a TV out of the window (sort of). The rock and roll version of teaching, but a lot more safe and sober. Bear with me.
About ten years ago, I thought of a way to illustrate edtech challenges or what I called ‘missions’, based on what teachers wanted to get better at. I didn’t want to play it safe – I wanted to engage them as much as they wanted to excite their learners. (Note: We do spend time in the book discussing it, so I do not want to give away too much!)…Anyhow, the long and the short of it was: when you show others excellent teaching examples (give them time to try them out, support them in taking some risks and bending some rules, before finally ensuring they have time to reflect), IT LEADS to even more inspirational teaching strategies than you could ever imagine. It also gives complete ownership to those pioneering members of staff. It is rather like the Edcamp style in which professionals have a grown up approach to learning. Teachers ask the ‘room’ what they want to know about, illustrate what they can share with others and people all learn something they need to. Flexibility is key and it is personalised completely to the audience.
Which begs the question – why do we not encourage staff to take more risks in teaching for the sake of learning? Why do we not differentiate learning for teachers? Why do many leaders frown when faculty throw all the class-books away for a lesson (memory skills), or decide not to sit behind a desk (barrier), or look at software they had not heard of before and apply it to lessons (allowing students be the teacher)? What’s holding them back?
The main thing that struck me, based on all my experiences as an educator, is that teachers don’t wish to be told what to do, but we all like a few good ideas every now and again. We are also good at shaping and sharing the experience we want – we are used to teaching for Pete’s sake - and are fully able to suggest ideas to make teacher training much better. We just need to be asked.
For example… in another school, another project, teachers decided that a blog was the best way to go to discuss the Missions. I merely facilitated this by creating a blog. Here is the link for you to judge yourself. Sadly I had to leave shortly after this (maternity leave) but you can see how the seeds were sown. This project later went on to be picked up and developed across the city.
OK. If we turn this conversation around a little at this point, reader, I would love to know how you (and yours!) manage professional development in your school? I came up with this a while ago and would love to know what inspires you? TeachMeets, webinars, chats in the staff room or working with a personal coach? Do you feel that your line managers and administrators are really getting the best out of you? In education, we absolutely do this for our students, yet why don’t we challenge our peers to make us their ‘Mission’? Jules and I are keen to look at how we can help you more. We are able to visit your schools to ensure that quality and flexibility – or are schools doing this for you already?
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This is where Jules and Nic will post articles, links to interesting sites and things that we think our TechnoTeachers will like.