Modelling for Improvement

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by loomingy1

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by loomingy1

In a post recently by George Couros he wrote about 10 Ideas To Move Innovation Forward.

Included in the list was this:

2. Model what you want to see.

It is really easy to go say, “do this”, but it is more important to say, “let’s do this together”.  If you think about the way many run staff meetings, they often talk about “21st Century Learning” but do not model it when educators are present.  People rarely change because they hear something, but are more likely to grow if they experience something.  How are you making those learning opportunities something people experience?

“Meaningful change ain’t gonna happen for our kids if we’re not willing to invest in it for ourselves first. At the heart, it’s not about schools…it’s about us.” Will Richardson

I do agree with this, in respect to the classroom, staff collaboration and relationships in general. We need to invest in the change, believe in it and act on it.  I do think there are a few things to consider however.  One is perception and the other is expectation.

Can we have an expectation that others act or perform in a certain way without first modelling it ourselves? Or is it an excuse/lack of responsibility for poor practice if there is not a model to follow?

Something else I recently read via twitter was this from 

The secret to motivation is that there is no secret. Why? Because leaders do not motivate anyone.

Motivation is intrinsic and therefore individuals motivate themselves to succeed. It is up to leaders create conditions for motivation to occur.

A leader reinforces motivation when he or she leads by example — the leader who is the first one into the office or the last one to leave as well as one who is willing to come in on weekends, if others are asked to do the same.

That is the kind of boss others want to follow.

I know that many people think that long hours = hard working = good example.  Personally I would rather my leader be at work 830am until 4pm and each day they take the time to check in and prioritise/make time for the learning happening in classrooms, that would motivate  me.  I would rather they  have energy and enthusiasm left to engage with students and not be exhausted from lacking balance between work and family.

When it comes to change, I think setting an example is crucial, and as George says “model what you want to see”.  After several conversations though, I see how this can be misunderstood.  In a conversation today I was asked by a young teacher who is pushing others to use technology in their classrooms “so should I be going into other classrooms and teaching the class for them?”. My response was “not at all, but how about sharing the practice you are already doing in your classroom.”

I went on to explain that she should perhaps focus on how she was being innovative in her own teaching and share it with others. Not to work in isolation because then the only people she was modelling to were her students. It’s not about the tool you use nor the lesson you teach, it’s about the approach you are taking which allows kids to construct their understanding not have it constructed for them.

If we want other teachers to take risks, then as teachers shouldn’t we provide examples of risk taking and as leaders don’t we need to be taking risks also?

If we want to see teachers develop dynamic student led learning environments with relationships at the centre, then as teachers shouldn’t we share our dynamic learning environments and celebrate relationships we have with kids? As leaders don’t we need to ensure these same examples – establishing good staff relationships and designing dynamic staff meetings/learning opportunities?

Sounds fairly straight forward, but ay there’s the rub!

Whilst you might expect resistance to shared practice to come from poor teachers, it too often comes from good teachers and this continues to surprise me.  We expect our students to reflect and evaluate each other regularly, yet when it comes to letting an adult into the  classroom, or to show examples of their practice, the fear of judgment seems to overwhelm some. In my experience and in discussion with other HS teachers, this is more true of the high school setting.  Perhaps in  early schooling with parent helpers, support staff and often more team teaching opportunities and open space learning, it becomes “normal” for other adults to be in learning spaces. Having worked in early years and special education, I have always had extra adults in the classroom and perhaps this is why it has always been “normal” for me.

So the challenge for me this term is to support staff to develop their confidence in sharing their classroom examples with others.   To break down isolated teaching, celebrate good practice and success, and have teachers open up and be part of constructing a supportive learning community with a shared goal in mind; to continually improve the learning experiences for our students.

It would be great to hear from high school teachers as to how they feel about sharing their practice and opening their classrooms to others.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Who makes you Average? | Cultivating Learning

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