“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.
After reading this week it got me thinking about what I could do to improve well-being in my own place of work. The holidays are the perfect time. It seems obvious and simple to me that if teachers are healthy, positive individuals their teaching practice benefits from this. In the current climate surrounding education teachers need to know that there are people who care about their well-being and that they really do matter.
My role within the school is to responsibility for the Senior School and Daily Operations. That means working closely with colleagues. It’s important to me that staff want to improve because they want to improve, not because I want them to. To achieve this it is important to put strategies in place to let this happen. I t has to be more than professional development. It is the small things like creating time for authentic appraisal, having meaning staff discussion about the decisions that affect them and extra five minutes for that staff farewell. The aim is to make staff feel valued and encourage a collaborative approach to teaching and learning across the curriculum areas.
The PTCs formally known as RTCs are a guide to help teachers be the best they can be. It is up to school leaders to apply them to the individual learning environment so they make sense. This must be done collaboratively though.
Our staff are the most important resource in a school. I am inspired and driven by the difference I can make in my students lives, but I know that this is never going to be possible without a motivated and committed staff.
I get really frustrated sometimes with words such as “unyielding” “open conversation” “evaluation” “feedback” “rigor”, “robust”, and “relentless”. Not because I disagree with them – they are critical to ensuring excellence – but because too often they are used to excuse systems, behaviours and actions which do nothing to promote collaboration or creativity. They can lead to a notion of accountability which becomes about fear and falling short. What’s more damaging to innovation and a love of learning than that?
For me, PTCs are more about clarity and focus than it is about measurement. It is about the transparency and alignment of expectations, clear communication, personalized support, and taking appropriate action should these not be realized. And it is a two way process. As a leader within a school, I hold others to account. However, more essential to me is that I hold myself accountable to my own values, that I am held accountable by the staff I work with but most importantly, that I am held to account by my students. I am guided in this be a robust (a could go one entry without using it) appraisal system and systems that guide me in the process that I do my job well.
This week I have been conducting a faculty review. It was an opportunity to review paperwork and look at classroom teaching. I came up with a list of things I’d like to see in every classroom beyond a bi-cultural learning environment that illustrated special character. Perhaps this will get you thinking.
- Deeper learning through relationships between all learning parties.
- Students employed collaboratively and working together in small teams/groups. Lots of key competencies being displayed here.
- Physical movement by both the students and the educator in the classroom.
- Frequent and specific feedback to students as they work toward their learning goals. Feedback from students and teachers is most improved and increased when students are getting descriptive feedback on their learning.
- Great questions being asked and a focus more on questions than answers.
- Differentiation evident. This means kids working at their level at their pace and unless you’re really lucky, that can’t be happening too often.
- Learning targets and learning objectives clearly posted. I really enjoy the task of asking students what they learned and what the lesson sequence was.
“The most powerful single influence enhancing achievement is feedback.” – John Hattie
Be it your students or those you appraise this is important. My students while enjoying their grades enjoy the feedback process in the drafting process of assignments. Through our professional lives, assessments and evaluations stand as focal guideposts for determining our growth, as students and as employees. Serving as an integral player in establishing our level of success from the earliest of ages through to retirement.
Good feedback is important. I find it humorous to see Michael Scott conduct his appraisal in The Office. It is funny because it is true. Unfortunately, those same assessment and evaluation processes marked for enhancing our learning and growth, often serve little more than to create winners and losers. In the classroom…and in the workplace. To overcome this requires a new mindset, one that moves us away from the casting of winners and losers…to creating learners. And it hinges on one of the strongest influencers of learning…feedback.
Both children and adults understand that quality feedback is a necessity for ongoing learning. Most of us yearn for authentic feedback to validate what we are doing or to provide direction to lead us down a more successful path. When provided correctly, feedback can provide a continuum for growth…for creating personal goals to increase one’s learning and capacity. According to John Hattie…“setting personal bests had high positive relationships to educational aspirations, enjoyment of school, and participation in class and persistence in task.”
The power of feedback to serve in the development of growth mindsets and ongoing learning…or to serve as the catalyst for sorting out the winners from the losers.