Friday, September 30, 2011
Two Stars and a Wish
Over the past few weeks I've been thinking about the role of mentoring and coaching colleagues too and wondering how this routine could help. This school year I've been covering for an absent colleague, so most of my time has been spent with teachers who are new to the school or new to the grade level. In some senses the "old hands" have been left to sink or swim, simply because I haven't had enough time to support all 37 of the class teachers that I usually work with (which does not even include the specialist teachers that I also have to support). Now that my colleague is better, and next week we will be back to both of us supporting these classes, I realise that I will have to refocus in order to give a lot more support to some of the teachers who haven't seen so much of me so far this year.
I feel the sink or swim approach has definitely not been a successful one - and I'm asking myself why, when I have been co-teaching and modeling good IT practice with some of these teachers for the past two years, they still flounder when left in the lab or in the classroom with the laptops by themselves. Have I been too supporting and nurturing, not letting them try out enough things for themselves and by themselves over the past few years. Have I been a bit like a "helicopter parent", hovering over them and not letting them make their own mistakes and learn from them? Or is the real problem that the technology is unreliable, that we don't have an IT assistant in the lab or who can be booked with the laptops and the teachers are not able to trouble-shoot all the technical problems that are constantly arising and so they are reluctant to use the technology by themselves?
I think that most teachers find me really supportive and feel that over the past couple of years I have helped them to move forward with using technology to enhance learning. The teachers trust me - they know that if they make mistakes I am there to help them not to judge them. I am a teacher just like them. I'm not an administrator who will write something up that reflects badly on their competence if things don't turn out well. I'm not evaluating their performance, I'm just helping them to move forward, develop professionally and do a better job. I'm not the kind of person who says "If you don't like where the bus is going, get off " and I'm not a carrot and stick kind of person. I'm more the kind of person who says "Keep moving forward, you'll get there in the end." I try to focus on the growth. But despite the huge leaps forward that many teachers have made, they still lack confidence. However I still think my approach is the right one - two stars and a wish will lead to more trust and will move people forward a lot further than one star and two wishes! It might just take a bit more time.
Today I was in a classroom with a teacher who last year had told me she didn't like using her SMARTboard. This year, she said, she's a lot happier with it. She's moving forward at her own pace. I think being able to voice her concerns in an atmosphere of trust last year helped her a lot. She knew I wasn't going to get judgmental or think she was a bad teacher for not using her board in the most effective way. She needed a bit more time to play with it, to explore some more possibilities. I think she has benefitted from a co-teaching approach too. She knows her class and her units of inquiry, I know how to use the technology. Together we have made a great team.
Photo Credit: Paper Heart by Tull Nishimura