Teachers matter. Anyone who’s stepped foot into a classroom for longer than 10 minutes clearly recognizes teachers matter, to the classroom culture, to the instructional methods, to the students. But teachers matter to each other as well. And we need to matter more.
I recently facilitated a collaborative workshop at the North Carolina English Teachers Conference. I was possibly the only elementary educator at the conference, engaging with middle and secondary teachers in a quest to develop better practices for independent reading. This cross pollination of ages, disciplines and even school structures expanded my vision and understandings of independent reading beyond my classroom. One new teacher gained tangible ideas to expand her students ability to select books beyond their assigned texts – which require students to take a test to demonstrate understanding. A 9th grade English teacher uses strategy groups based on formative assessment just like I do with my 1st graders. A charter school 6th grade teacher helped me understand that making instructional changes in one grade can filter to the next, as students are empowered to advocate for high quality choices for independent reading.
So what does this one collaboration mean to us as educators? Let’s stop putting up barriers.
Barriers such as age – often we think of an age group of teachers different than our own to have vastly different ideas. Maybe they do, but what can we learn from each other? How does the history of education or the innovation of today inform instructional decisions?
Barriers such as school structure – I trained as a public school teacher. I learned to recognize each individual child as vital to our school community in the private sector. Within the current debate of charter schools, utilizing resources from our local communities to support education is fundamental to student success. How can we collaborate across institutional differences to support the one commonality – learning and growth for kids?
Barriers such as location – I am trained in the US and am guilty of comparing schools from my limited perspective of growing up in public US education, pre-Common Core teaching in Virginia, and our current national standards. Recently, I’ve made efforts to examine other schools, other counties, talk with other educators. Teaching in Finland, Scotland, Japan is pretty different than ours. How can we widen our understanding of education in a more global way?
Barriers such as time – if we want to engage, it is on our own backs, after school, outside regular teaching duties. This is a current reality but I hope that future educational leaders will begin to recognize that professional development, like all good learning, should not happen in isolation. Advocating for our own passions in education is a way to broaden and deepen our instructional practices.
So teachers, let’s talk. Even if you are older or younger, work for a school different than mine, in a different time zone, let’s find the time. The only way to connect our ideas and learn from one another is through conversation. What is one instructional change you are thinking about, trying out, or needing some encouragement for? Please, reply.