Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Doing Work that Matters: Many Levels of Intersection and Development in Education

As educators we are pulled in multiple directions.

It's good to navigate our learning/teaching efforts in directions that impact students with strength.

To do this we often have to assess the teaching/learning landscape to notice what is needed and who is there to support our efforts to fulfill and enrich those needs.

There are multiple levels of work we engage in with this in mind.

Level one is that area of effort we have full control over--we make the decisions and lead those efforts with the resources, experience, and knowledge we have.

Level two is the collaborative areas of teaching and learning at ready access. This is likely the work we do with our grade-level or subject-area colleagues as well as the parents and students we serve.

Level three is broader team we work with--the team at the school- and system- levels. This is often the team you advocate to or with to foster new initiatives, make promising change, and help systems to evolve in ways that better the teaching and learning for all.

Level four is that level that goes beyond the school- and system- and reaches out into the edusphere close to home and abroad. Often big ideas are shared and developed in this sphere and typically social media. coursework, conferences, reading, and research connects us to this broad area of study and effort.

As educators we have to be cognizant of these multiple levels of communication and work, and what successful strategies work at each level.

For level one, I suggest a good routine of daily work that empowers the work you do teach well. Finding a routine that works for your professional contribution, growth, and daily effort matters and this routine will differ from educator to educator.

At level two, common goals, collective analysis, and shared project/problem-based work enriches the team collaboration. Frequent meetings and deep knowledge of one another's strengths, challenges, vision, and dreams supports positive collaboration and result. Building these teams truly elevates what we can do with and for families and students. Where there are good structures for collaboration such as shared teaching models, common planning periods, professional learning communities, and shared goals, there is good opportunity to build successful collaborative teams.

Level three depends a lot on the structures in place, structures that organize and foster the voice,  choice, and activity of all stakeholders. If there are ready channels for communication, share, and development, then it's likely that this is a good level for building one's greater capacity to teach well and forward a positive evolution of ideas and practice. If structures at this level are compromised, then this level will be a more challenging level to navigate and might even serve as a wall to good change and development for individual educators and all stakeholders. It's important for educators who are interested in change to understand this level well in order to be able to promote new ideas at the system level--ideas that will develop what we can do for all students. I am one who supports the move to more distributive systems of leadership in order to entertain the good ideas of individual educators and educational teams to better what we can do with and for students and families. These distributive systems thrive if there are good idea systems, communication, professional learning, and open minds to continued growth and evolution to teach students well.

Level four requires that you make time to interact with educators outside of your daily teaching/learning sphere. You might follow education-related social media threads and become active via your state teachers' union, education departments, and subject-area organizations. Similarly you may reach out to be active in formal national and international organizations and exchange and/or regularly consult social media threads that provide you with ready access to education change makers, researchers, and stars across the globe.

How these levels of effort interact is fascinating to think about. Sometimes educators will be most inspired by national and international share via social media. Big ideas from the Twittersphere may powerfully impact what you do in the classroom each day. Other times it will be the close collaboration of grade-level or subject-area colleagues that fosters the best growth and development related to practice and students success. Sometimes it's simply a book you read or an idea you have that promotes positivity that matters, and it could be that a school- or system-wide focus provides the impact you desire. These levels intersect in many different ways to move schools and students ahead.

As professional educators, it's critical that we are aware of these many levels and what it takes to gain capacity with each one, the kind of capacity that leads to your best effect with regard to the students and families you serve. Onward.