I heard a school leader discuss past debate and discourse at a recent meeting. He essentially noted that the past debate had resulted in better work and effort today. I agree with his conclusion as I had watched and read about the debates as they occurred, and I noticed how the dissenters came together with common purpose and better work.
As I think of my history of more than three decades of teaching, I have noticed significant change. While our school doesn't look or feel that different than it did when I began teaching, there's been significant change in what we do and how we do it. I believe our approach has developed with regard to our sensitivity to individual students' needs and interests as well as our efforts to match new teaching with new research related to cognition, cultural proficiency, social/emotional learning, and health.
Also in the recent past, I wrote a lot about systematic issues and the need for system change. I am seeing good system change now. Most of all, the switch from a one-teacher-one-classroom approach to the shared grade-level model of teaching has been significant. I can't believe how much better I am able to teach with this collaborative model versus the old-time one-teacher-one-classroom-model. The new model has replaced competition and isolation with collaboration and teamwork. In the past parents would discuss which class is better, and now all students belong to the same cluster so that competition doesn't exist. Also in the past we would be responsible for all the students at a grade level, but we didn't know them all. Now with the shared model, we're still responsible for all students, but now we know those students well so it's much easier to care for them at recess, in the halls, during class and on field studies.
It seems that the system I work in is beginning to pay more attention to lead time, collaboration, transparency, communication, and teacher voice and choice too. I hope that change continues to deepen and take root. I also hope to see more commitment to distributive leadership models similar to our shared teaching model as I believe there is a lot of strength and development possible in flattening the hierarchy in school systems to empower all.
As I've noted in past posts, I believe that there's been lots of good work with regard to identifying and support attributes of good teaching, and now I believe the focus needs to be on the attributes of strong systems as I believe that elevating how systems work will result in a better education for all children. I believe that elevation should include the attributes I list above so that educational systems are contributing to strong, vital, collaborative learning communities that honor and elevate the voices and collaboration of all stakeholders including students, families, educators, administrators, and community members.