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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Teaching Year Ahead: Keep the Focus

I've clearly outlined my teaching/learning focus for the year ahead. I'll shift that focus a bit once I hear the systemwide goals which are usually relayed at the start of the school year. I don't expect the system goals to create much change to my personal teaching/learning goals.

One challenge I face in school is that I have many, many leaders who plan for me. These leaders don't work with students often, but have substantial time to make plans for my work. Their distance from the day-to-day student work and expectations sometimes makes their directives difficult to follow. For example they may want me to do something that seems like a mismatch given the questions students are asking and the behaviors they are displaying day after day.

What's a teacher to do?

The truth is that this large number of leaders serve multiple educators so they are not working with me that often, at most it's usually once or twice a month which means 20 interactions during the year. Yet when you consider there's about five of these leaders, that's 100 interactions and 100 different activities/events to respond to.

What I would prefer is to lessen the number of leaders and increase the time-on-task for skilled professionals with students. I'd like to see less top-down leadership and more distributed leadership where skilled professionals are working as teams with students and with each other to serve students well. That does not occur as much as I'd like and I do recognize the challenges inherent in the shift from top-down to more distributive models of teaching and learning.

Typically I get stressed when many add new protocols, activities and think to the plans I've made. I get upset mostly when these plans don't take into account my experience, research, plans and efforts. I typically quickly embrace new information and activities that respond to student need and research though, especially needs I can't meet easily and research I haven't yet learned about.

So in the year ahead, I want to get along with all these leaders and I want to show respect. I also want to move forward with the goals that I've set to teach well, goals well-based on past efforts, systemwide expectations and a commitment to helping every child succeed with positivity and academic growth.

Hence, I'll react to the numerous new directives in the following ways:

  • Listen for new, valuable information. Write that information down and embed it into my work.
  • Not worry about repetition or outdated information, and use those times to focus on my own goals and efforts.
  • Speak up with respect if the share does not match research or student needs. Sometimes directives are shared that don't match current research or oppose what students are needing.
  • Recognize that leaders and teachers are all on different learning paths with varying objectives. Sometimes one educator's goals and another's may not match--this happens.
I've thought a lot about the goals for the year ahead. I'll work closely with my grade-level team to reach those goals. I'll think seriously about the  many additional protocols, goals and values that will be shared, and choose wisely about the time and energy I'll devote to that array of directives, then respond with respect and care. Onward.