“Nothing to fear…”

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“…But fear itself.” This oft-repeated quote (first uttered by Franklin D. Roosevelt at his first Presidential inauguration in 1933) neatly sums up my thoughts about collaboration between educators. There is so much to be gained from sharing between colleagues, yet many are wary. Why? Could it be our top-down P.D. model?

In my ten years of teaching, I have been to dozens (if not hundreds) of P.D. sessions. The overwhelming majority of those sessions have involved me being taught strategies meant to improve my teaching. At the same time, I can count on one hand the number of times that I have been invited, in a professional development context, to share what I am doing in my class. Oh sure, there’s often a request that I try a strategy out in my class and return to share how effective it’s been, but being asked to bring something new to the table? It never happens. In fact, the only time my lessons are ever really examined, is during my periodic teacher performance appraisals.

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Could it be then, that we have been trained to believe that our lessons really only exist to be ‘critiqued’ or ‘enhanced’ by others? That we have nothing to share, because effective strategies are only brought to us by board personnel? (note: Just want to point out that the board personnel I know clearly don’t feel that way. I’m talking more about the sub-conscious message teachers receive rather than the message intended by those who develop P.D.) This could certainly explain the guarded attitude that some teachers feel about sharing their lessons…

I find myself joining a larger chorus of educators calling for more teacher-directed P.D. opportunities. Perhaps a Genius Hour – type project, where teachers can share the things they are passionately developing with those who are keenly interested in new developments. Anyone have examples of this that they can share?

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3 Responses to “Nothing to fear…”

  1. kerreteach says:

    I think that your observations are bang-on. As a new school leader, I am becoming acutely aware of this problem. The accountability piece is a huge impediment to innovation, collaboration and openness. I had a good discussion with a teacher at my school about some of the initiatives that we are implementing. She is at the early stages of support. She described her reluctance by listing about a dozen system initiatives that were instituted top down and sold as the best way to address the relevant curriculum area. She is gun shy about embracing ideas because of the “treat of the week” nature of certain ideas. The real problem comes when these ideas are imposed. New knowledge is HUGELY important but that new knowledge should be introduced in a collaborative manner. We need to adopt an inquiry mindset to PD – take new ideas, theorize, experiment and reflect. This can only happen from a grass roots movement. Resource positions need to introduce the ideas into the network and then support the collaborative inquiry of the professionals within the network. This happens when we value and TRUST the professional knowledge in the system.

    Love the “Genius Hour” idea as long as it has an experimental phase to it. We have the opportunity through connective technology to carry out large scale tests and share the results in a truly powerful way.

    Love the blog Luke!

  2. Thanks Kevin! I’ve always found that teachers have an almost boundless amount of energy and enthusiasm for successful teaching strategies that they have designed or implemented from an early stage. They also have no issue being accountable for things they believe in (I.e. student safety, the myriad events that take place after school hours). Our kindergarten teachers are doing some amazing things using IPads to help students tell stories. This is a program that they created and implemented (initially at their own cost – though they received strong administrative support as well). Enthusiasm and accountability were never and issue for them because it was something they made, refined, and believed in.

  3. Dude. I really like what you’re saying. The TCDSB is letting me host a summer institue this year. I really hope that the teachers that attend are going to be receptive to this style of learning. I’m really looking at a workshop model. Workshop as in “Santa’s Workshop”. Where we work together to build something great. The style demands a little more participation and guts (you have to be ok with talking about your learning… something not always present in board PD); however, I really feel that THAT’s where good learning lives.

    Great post. You’re giving me food for thought.

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