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Thursday, December 08, 2016

Navigating a Changing Teaching/Learning Landscape

The teaching landscape continues to change. There are continuously new people, new programs, new research, and new initiatives. With this in mind, how does one navigate this ever changing terrain?

There's lots to consider with regard to this journey beginning with new people. Over time people have arrived unannounced and sometimes unfamiliar with the job at hand. As the onlooker or collaborator, this has been frustrating. Sometimes I've been left to wonder, "Who is this person? What is their role?" It's best to well introduce new people and their role. It's good to make the time for significant introductions as well as the time to set the stage for good work ahead. While from time to time this may be difficult to do, I believe that in most cases this is possible and will make a better start for new people and the expected collaboration of all.

The same is true for new initiatives, jobs, and schedules. When new events arrive, it's best to give those events a timely and thoughtful introduction. Yes flexibility is good, but it's much easier to embrace new initiatives if these initiatives are thoughtfully planned, prepared, and introduced.

Further, "new" profits from thoughtful strategic process, a process that involves stakeholders with adequate voice and choice and considers both the "old ways" and "new ideas" as good change or growth is planned.

"Always be humble and kind" is a good mantra for new, and sometimes that's difficult to do when the "new" is not well planned, explained, or executed. Yet, rather than blame the new initiative or new person, it's best to look deeper and ask, Why did this person arrive without introduction or understanding of the task or why was this new event planned without any significant stakeholder voice and choice. Looking beneath the surface of "new" that seems to be more of a nuisance than a support is important. It's also important to check in with others as what you see may be incorrect, overly influenced by outdated think, or incomplete.

Veteran teachers have to be more mindful of navigating new terrain than others since veteran teachers have navigated significant change over their tenure. They've experienced change that was significant and positive as well as change that was demeaning, oppressive, and negative. They have to, in a sense, continue to see with both new eyes and experienced eyes. Veteran teachers have to steer clear of the negativity that can come when voice and choice is limited, and instead advocate for positive, inclusive, and transparent systems of growth and change--how can we better the teaching/learning landscape for teachers now and teachers in the future. What will empower educators in ways that positively impact their craft and the work they do with students.

Where are educators most empowered?
Where are students most successful in holistic, promising ways?
Where does change happen in successful, inclusive, and transparent ways?
How does this positive change and development occur?
What learning communities exemplify the best that we can do as teachers and learners?

I work in a strong school system that exemplifies many good attributes. There is always room for positive change however--change by individuals as well as collective, systematic change and development.

For myself as a veteran teacher, I need to step back more to listen and learn. I need to really hear what colleagues are saying and speak up respectfully with ideas for positive change to empower the work that teachers can do to serve students well. I'd like to see us move towards greater inclusion, communication, and collective efforts--authentic distributive leadership models that empower the teaching/learning community in ways that matter to all stakeholders. I will think about my role in this regard and listen to what others have to say. I believe there's terrific potential and promise for positive growth and development in schools.