Monday, December 26, 2011

Reflection, equality and choice: it's all about relationships

I’m starting to think further about how to implement my goal of doing more coaching in the second half of the school year.  Having worked with teachers for a number of years to improve their technology skills and build their confidence in using technology to transform student learning, I’m trying to identify what has already been achieved to create the right conditions for success in this area.

One of the important things that I think I’m always clear on is that while I may be the person with a greater knowledge of the technology, the classroom teachers are the ones with the deeper knowledge about their units of inquiry and their students.  When we co-plan it involves dialogue, sharing our ideas and making decisions collaboratively.  In class the students know which teacher will be most able to help them with their questions – it is a technical question about how to do something or is it a question about the content or how they can show their understanding?  While the model used so far has been one of co-planning, co-teaching and co-assessing rather than actually coaching, the relationships that we have already built up will be the foundation for moving forward in the second half of the year.

Over the past 2 years I’ve worked hard on giving choices.  Last year I encouraged teachers in a grade level team to think hard about the choices they were making about how technology could support what they wanted to do.  Each teacher in the grade level was encouraged to make his or her own choices.  For some the technology was used more for the tuning in or finding out parts of the inquiry cycle, other teachers wanted to concentrate more on using technology to help students sort out what they had investigated or perhaps to show their understanding.  Even when IT was used by all students as part of their summative assessment, I encouraged teachers to give the students a choice of what they wanted to use.  Again I think that handing over of the decision making to teachers and their students has played an important role in setting the groundwork for the choices that teachers will be making as part of a coaching process.  When teachers feel they are in control of their own learning, a coach is someone who can suggest different options and it is up to the teacher to make the most meaningful choices for their students.

Seeing  classroom teachers as equal partners in a coaching model, and allowing these teachers to make their own choices is easy as our relationship is already based on mutual trust and respect.  At our collaborative planning meetings teachers can express their opinions and also their concerns.    Often when a teacher wants to do something but has concerns about how it will actually work, trust is the most important factor in being able to move forward.  I’ve had teachers who have initially been skeptical about an outcome, but have trusted that it would work, and then been enthusiastic with the results.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of changing practice by trying something new and seeing how successful it is, but in order to make that leap there has to be trust.  Encouraging teachers to then reflect on why these changes have been so successful, empowers them to learn from this experience and to plan on using technology in other new ways in the future.  This way, the teachers have not only adopted new practices, they have also made them their own.

Photo Credit:  More than Pride:  Equality, equal rights by Timothy K Hamilton AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works 

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