Friday, November 11, 2011

Transforming the culture, expanding the learning

As a connected teacher, every day brings me new perspectives and new ideas to mull over, pushing my thinking in new directions.  This morning I was talking with another educator on skype about moving forward and transforming the culture of learning.  This afternoon I came across an amazing blog post by Jabiz Raisdana (@intrepidteacher) about why some teachers find it so hard to blog about their thoughts and wonderings.  In many schools with a "top down" culture it's often hard for teachers to believe that what they are writing is interesting to others.  In some schools blogging is actively discouraged by leadership who feel it is bringing down the good name of the school to have teachers questioning their practice, or perhaps even a breach of confidentiality clauses in their contracts.  Jabiz, however, asks some different questions:
What if we gave teachers time to blog throughout their work week? We spend so much time and energy on reports, what if teacher reflection and blogging was considered as important to the administrations of schools? What if we allowed our teachers the freedom to be learners? .... What if this wasn’t considered a luxury, but an expectation?
It occurred to me reading that that we have double standards - we actively encourage our students to reflect publicly on their work, but the same expectations do not apply to our teachers.  This afternoon I was in a class of Grade 4 students and they were setting up their own individual blogs.  They were posting their work and adding their own comments and reflections.  I remember saying to them "The last thing we do when we have posted work, before we hit the publish button, is to reflect on what we have done."  I gave them some things I'd like them to reflect on, for example two stars and a wish (two things they really liked about what they'd done, one thing they would like to improve on), and I asked them to think and write about what new things they had done and how their learning had moved forward.  And I found myself thinking, how often do we give our teachers the time to reflect like this?  To celebrate the things they think they are doing well?  To discuss or maybe even ask for support in the areas they'd like to improve on?  In an IB school, where we are all supposed to be inquirers, how often do our teachers engage in inquiry?  How often do they share their learning? And more to the point, why don't they?

Later, when I got home, I continued to think about these things and about how as teachers we should be modeling authentic reflection and sharing for our students.  How can we expect our students to be responsible digital citizens, if we are not leading the way ourselves.  How can we change the traditional culture of teaching and learning so that both teachers and students are empowered to contribute to their own learning and that of the community?

Photo Credit:  Exploding Stars by LadyDragonflyCC - Edmund Fitzgerald Anniv. 36years Attribution

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