Professional development also needs to be designed for the purpose of the school. For Catholic schools, there is an even greater challenge. Schools need to meet the professional growth of teachers and their spiritual growth. How do Catholic schools meet this need? What methods can schools use to expand the spiritual strength that teachers need?
The spiritual growth of Catholic school teachers is essential for the success of schools. Catholic school teachers are entrusted with not only the academic knowledge that students learn, but also the faith formation of their students. Teachers are called by the Holy Spirit to develop the knowledge of their students in subjects both secular and sacred. Catholic school teachers take on this additional role with pride and passion, but it is critical that schools aid their teachers in developing their faith and strengthen their desire to teach the faith to students
Opportunities for faith formation are available in the same way professional development opportunities are available. They are not seized upon as much as I would like them to. There are lecture series available, webinars, classes, and informal meetings that teachers can attend. By the way my my favourite is Going Deeper.
Next question is this, “how many teachers know these opportunities are available?” How are we as SLT focused primarily on the academic content and not focused enough on the spiritual needs of their staff? This lack of attention is where schools start to separate themselves.
Schools need to inform teachers of ways to grow their faith as we are a faith community. Connecting the faith to the daily lives of our students in Catholic schools helps schools reach students where they are and pushes them to where they need to be as Christian leaders. Teachers need to find new ways to model the faith and connect the faith to students.
Teachers need to be willing to share what they see as opportunities. Teachers need to find their PLN and attend events together. Teachers need to be willing to step up and do their part. Teachers also need to take an active role in developing new professional development.
Another important aspect of professional development, especially in the realm of spirituality, is what we can do to best serve our students. How can we display our faith more to show what Catholicism means to us? We need to provide a safe environment where students feel safe to ask a question about where their faith is going. We need to learn ways that encourage students to strive to love Christ more deeply. I hope working on the Bishops Document will help us grow in this area.
Creating a positive culture goes beyond conversations about diversity and celebrating differences. A foundation of how we treat others and solve problems and modeling that school-wide is far more important than isolated assemblies, monthly themes and small group crisis management. Giving students interpersonal skills can be a huge benefit for them in their adult life, and much of the distress we see in our world currently can be ultimately drilled down to a general inability to disagree respectfully and continue to work for a harmonious solution
The focus of our HOF Inquiry is curriculum development. If teachers develop a high-quality written curriculum, but fail to implement it then their work is the equivalent of motion masquerading as progress (Parker, 1991).
Curriculum development is much more than an inquiry, unpacking standards, or meeting once a week. If teachers spend their time focusing on the taught curriculum they will be able to greatly impact student achievement. “When school staff have a more informed conception of curriculum, a teacher’s daily decisions about how to deliver instruction not only affect student achievement in that classroom but also future student achievement, for it is assumed that students will be entering the next classroom prepared to handle a more sophisticated or more expansive level of work” (Zmuda, Kuklis & Kline, 2004, p. 122).
Our inquiry should be about answering questions. “If you want to make discoveries, if you want to disrupt the status quo, if you want to make progress and find new ways of thinking and doing, you need to ask questions” (John Maxwell, Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, 2014). Here some key questions for HOFs that I have come across.
- What are the key concepts we will address in this course?
- What are the key skills we will address in this course?
- What are the priority standards for this course? How will we ensure that these standards are emphasized throughout the year?
- If I had a daughter enrolled in this course, would I be satisfied?
- How will we implement the 4 Cs (Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication, and Creativity) in curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment(s)?
- Will we use LwDT to support teaching and learning? How? What are the goals?
- Are there opportunities for student-led lessons or is every lesson dictated by the curriculum and teacher-led?
- Are there multiple options for personalized learning throughout the course?
- Does the course incorporate student-led questions which deepen student understanding?
- How will we measure student understanding?
- Are we designing authentic tasks for students?
- What is the role of formative assessment in measuring the written, taught, and understood curricula?
- Do we have a plan for when students don’t learn?
- Does our learning space support student understanding of the key skills, concepts, and soft skills that our staff has identified as important?
- How often do we meet to discuss teaching and learning?
- Do we analyze career readiness indicators? What is my role in supporting college and career readiness?
- Do teachers have the opportunity to provide ongoing feedback regarding the school curriculum?
The growth of any craft depends on shared practice and honest dialogue among the people who do it. We grow by private trial and error, to be sure — but our willingness to try, and fail, as individuals is severely limited when we are not supported by a community that encourages such risks.
The Courage to Teach; Palmer, 1998, p. 144
Experience is a truly remarkable thing. It’s a gift we give ourselves each day. It’s a hard teacher, and often plans lessons we don’t want to learn. But it makes us look at things differently with each turn. Experience makes us evaluate where we have been, and what we are headed into next. It makes us collaborate with others on the journey too. In order to experience, you need to take chances and live. It’s risky, it’s terrifying, it’s pretty awesome. If we don’t experience we don’t grow.
Learning is not an ‘add on,’ to be done when we have some free time or at training sessions. Some of the most significant innovations have been in infrastructures and day-to-day practices, allowing teams and intact work groups to integrate working and learning.
— “The Academy As Learning Community: Contradiction in Terms or Realizable Future?” Senge, in Leading Academic Change: Essential Roles for Department Chairs, Lucas, A. F. & Associates, 2000, pp. 280-281
I recently came across a talk by Michael Fullan on making change. I heard him at ULEARN 16 where he was phenomenal. I thought this talk would be useful to share but it also reminded me of a TED talk by Linda Hill, which when combined might give schools and their leadership teams some real incentive and instruction for change. They also combined to indicate that progress will not be made with either top-down or bottom-up approaches but from a developing a new school culture towards shared, networked collaboration at all levels. It got me thinking about a few issues.
The SLT must be seen by the teachers as an equal participant in learning. This I got from Fullan in his talk he gave about transforming the Canadian school system. He highlights that a principal behaving as an active learner was a surprise key indicator in his research into schools making significant and positive change.
Hill talks about innovating or dying. This so important for schools as we sit at a watershed moment in time in NZ education. Our courses cannot remain the same. Linda Hill says “Innovation is not about solo genius but collective genius.” She goes on to outline how the most successful organisations build organisational structures and cultures that are “iterative, inter-related and quite frankly messy.” She also highlights that investing in all the people to give them time to develop and collaborate around new challenges and ideas. It is also critical to build a culture where everyone feels they might have something to offer in improving the operation of or output from the organisation.
This is a huge issue for schools, where many teachers never bring problems to the leadership team because they do not think it’s there place to suggest change. Schools are often not flexible or iterative enough to adapt to changes as they arise. A fixed-time vision for learning in a school issued from top-down can kill excellent ideas that surface during the period in question. What I took from Linda’s talk was that schools need to develop a staff culture for collaborative problem solving, discovery driven learning (and that’s the teachers we’re talking about) but run integrated decision making where everyone is confident to express ideas
“Good relations between teachers and their colleagues and between teachers and their students can mitigate the negative effects of challenging classrooms…”
In March 2015 the OECD released a report from the International Summit on the Teaching Profession: Schools for 21st Century Learners (2015) by Andreas Schleicher. It identified some good news, and some not-so-good news:
The good news: The most successful education systems are those in countries whose society values the teaching profession.
The not-so-good news: Fewer than one in three teachers believe that teaching is a valued profession in society.
On my ongoing development there are some key areas that I have been working on in my leadership in SLT in 2017.
- Distributed leadership, provides opportunities to participate in decision making at school.
- Positive interpersonal relationships between teachers and their colleagues and teachers and their students
- Meaningful appraisal and feedback that recognises and celebrates teachers’ strengths while simultaneously challenging teachers to address weaknesses in their pedagogical practices.
- Provide a culture of collaboration among teachers through:
- jointly teaching the same class
- observing and providing feedback on other teachers
- engaging in different classes and age groups
- professional learning
“The strongest association with teachers’ job satisfaction appears to be participating in collaborative professional learning activities five times a year or more.”
- Quality professional development. A focus on the three components of self-efficacy – classroom management, instruction and student engagement. Learner agency has been a common term for me this year.
I have been thinking and reading about this this year in my class. There has been a great deal developed regarding this in our mentoring system in school. The following is a summary.
Consistent classroom discussion and modelling from mistakes.
This has concerned me for sometime. Students fear failure. They also fail to try because they make mistakes. I began this semester with a discussion about what growth mindset meant, and how we (our classroom) could use it. Each week, we talked about how “mistakes are when learning happens.” I want students that are hitting The Wall to know that failing isn’t the end and the not understanding a concept is merely the first step on the road to getting it. Creating a growth mind-set, involved lots of frank discussion about learning from mistakes.
Set-aside class time to review mistakes on assessments.
After our discussion, I returned their first assessment of the semester and told themn(my students) that they would have the next fifteen minutes dedicated to reviewing mistakes. I posted common errors that I saw on screen and wandered the room giving advice and help. We do this each week now and it gives students a dedicated time for reflection, a chance to access my help, and a non-stigmatized time to review errors. This is key, students will not naturally do this on their own, and I still need to prod some of mine.
Student visualization and ownership of growth.
As students wrapped up their self-assessments, I passed out a log that I had created for them to track their achievement on each of our classroom standards. They get three chances in class, and can then re-assess outside of class. Therefore, I gave them space to see how they were doing. I realized that students were not keeping track of how they were doing over time; I wanted them to see how much they had improved and have quick access to know that they needed to work on. I used to keep track of this, but found that when students have ownership of their scores, they are more apt to do something about the low ones.