Teacher Practice Upgrade 2.0

How do we make strong groups of teachers who learn from each other, create innovative curricular models, and are constantly upgrading their practice as an educator?

This question comes from a simple invitation from someone on Edmodo and a result of reading Curriculum 21 by Heidi Hayes Jacobs.  Needless to say, her book causes me to think about reform, the title of this blog, as innovation through high quality practice and collaboration.

As a teacher I am solitary sticking to my own routines, thoughts, preferences, pedagogy, practice and logic.  What I do is a direct result of my own vision as an educator.  However, as an educator my role is greater than me, my role is national and global as one of thousands of educators who seek to educate children coaching them to be ready for college and the real world so that they may step into new roles as learners taking risks to engage life’s roles contributing to the global good.  How our schools and, as teachers, respond to diverse needs of people depends directly on our ability to adapt to rapidly changing shifts in education.  It is not ours to remain static but it is ours, our heritage, to be dynamic engaging students in the world in which they live outside of the walls of school sharing with them the process of learning to learn pushing limits of what is with what will be so that the innovations we need to survive in a changing world are created by minds that do not know boundaries of thought yet guided by moral aptitude that improves all lives.  This is education.

»How do teachers come together?

Physical and virtual spaces are important to the common goal of education.  Physical spaces give direct psychological, emotional, and philosophical connection all teachers need to communicate their point of view and determine what is the collective good for all students, teachers, and future of education.  Yet, as we all know, we are limited by physical limitations of geography, society, and living demands.  What was once impossible is now readily available through technology.  The physical limitations of time and space are not removed but are altered allowing us to interact via the Internet.  There can be no excuse for educators to have multiple touches and interactions within a district, between districts and abroad.  We learn from each other.

»What might be a new curricular model?

Often I wonder why some children are not further ahead in the curriculum given their aptitude for a particular content area.  Similarly, I wonder why students who are not learning the content are being pushed forward through it, or to another grade level, without demonstrating a high level of understanding.  This is a construct that needs to be deconstructed.  There is no point pushing a student forward or holding a student back based on age and grade.  A grade level, and its corresponding curriculum, should always seek to accelerate or decelerate a student’s progress based on multiple forms of assessment.  Decisions pursuing this form always put the learner first leaving little error as to whether or not learning is enriched or further supported.  Grade levels are just a means by which to group similar age peers and should not be viewed as the definitive guide as students progress in learning.  The student who is accelerated in the physical sciences would likely be accelerated in math, but may need more support in language arts.  In this model, students get what they need and not get what they get.  Every teacher, myself included, is guilty of saying they have done everything possible to enrich or support learning for every child.  With so many students in a classroom as a result of budget cuts due to the economy, a teacher simply cannot get to every child as individuals.

This model will force teachers to work together vertically, in teams, from early childhood through the high school years.  In this way teachers are able to be a complete team meeting the needs of the children entrusted to them for thirteen or fourteen years.  Conferences are not by grade level but need with a team of teachers who know the child at the beginning of school to the end.  Teachers are able to communicate among each other drawing on each other’s strengths and views to help the student at every turn.

»How do educators upgrade their practice?

I want to upgrade my computer so I go to the store and purchase the component I need.  Be it RAM, a new hard drive, or monitor, I first have to be aware a replacement is needed and aware that what I am using is degraded or deprecated.  Being aware my practice is not up to par is my responsibility, and the only way to know if I need an upgrade is to talk and watch others teach.  No one teacher has every conceivable skill to meet the learning need of every child but can grow in the ability to improve their practice.  Social networks are important here.  Such networks allow teachers to meet, ask questions, gain insight and shift in practice and pedagogy.  Teachers talking teaching allows us to improve what we do and how we do it.

We must have an urgency to meet the needs of every student by communicating, collaborating, and improving our practice.