Teaching – the most haunted profession of all.

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This photo really has nothing to do with haunting, but it was the scariest image I had. (Image: © Elena Moiseeva | Dreamstime.com)

One of the great mysteries of the teaching profession is that we are the one most closely linked to learning, yet we are the most resistant to change, the greatest inertia bearers of any profession. (Even if you disagree, it is safe to continue as I will argue with myself in the next couple of sentences.) This makes no sense, until we realize that my first assumption has a fatal flaw, in that it is based on a common misconception. Teaching has not always been about learning. It has mostly been about teaching.

This is the fundamental piece of the school-puzzle that has changed rapidly in educational thought, but not in educational practice. We think differently in our heads, but sometimes not in our insecure hearts, because we are haunted by those persistent ghosts of the past. Our teachers were probably about teaching, not learning. It is hard to throw the ghosts of our own hard earned school experiences off our backs, those ingrained assumptions about the way classrooms run. Tenacious little assumptions they are, formed during our own school days.

The closed-classroom is the embodiment of the ‘teaching is about teaching’ world view. Conversely, the ‘teaching is about learning’ world view is embodied by an open-classroom. It seems that levels of preparedness to share would be a perfect measure of classroom openness. For a quick self assessment of how badly you are being haunted by those ghosts of the past, I have three questions – a yes/no is required.

  1. I am nervous about sharing my lesson/unit plans with colleagues because they may not be good enough. (The plans, not the colleagues!)
  2. I become nervous when another adult enters my class.
  3. I make sure my door is (literally) closed when I am teaching.

If you answered yes to all three, you are clearly being haunted by ghosts of school past. Fortunately, there is a simple remedy. Do what we ask our students to do on a daily basis. Create, share, publish, create, share, publish, create, share, publish ad infinitum. A sure cure to get those ghosts (closed-classroom insecurities) off our backs and move our great professional along, so that our collective thinking will more closely align with our collective practice.

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Core values & beliefs guiding action

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It’s good to have a destination. It’s even better to have one that’s worth the trip.

One of the feelings that never leaves you when you work in a school, is the constant forward motion. We are always moving in a direction, and it is this direction that can often unsettle us. How do we decide where to point ourselves, where to direct our limited time and mental energies, and are we able to control this direction? I think that the myriad possibilities that confront us in our busy school lives tend to confuse the issue; there are multiple points to focus on, so which do you choose? It seems that we need to focus our energies on a couple of our core values & beliefs and incorporate associated goals on the journey. This may simplify our search for direction. For example, if the importance of a culture of inclusivity is one of your core beliefs, use this to create the context for the other goals – the many important aspects of your students’ education that you want to cultivate, such as increasing inquiry based learning in your classroom/s. An example could be addressing inquiry based pedagogical change within the context of developing a more inclusive classroom by focusing on the emphasis of the student’s voice in the classroom. It is a question of sorting big ideas and smaller, related ideas and playing with the pieces to see how they could potentially fit together – the precursor to a plan.

This sounds dangerously like the start of a strategic, action plan. Despite the irony of the name ‘action plan’ for a species of document that, at least in my experience, is often defined more by dusty, shelved, inaction, than active forward movement, I am interested in the link between values/beliefs and goals in the framework for action and will come back to this over the summer. The photo shows the value of defining clearly where you want to be, at the end of your action. It is in fact, where I am heading tomorrow morning. It’s good to have a destination. It’s even better to have one that’s worth the trip.

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Looking for reflection

‘Biscuit’ the schoolyard hen is very good at close inspections. You can see a picture of biscuit in an earlier post about building a chicken coop (the very cute, yellow fluffy chick).

Following on from an earlier post focusing on reflection animosity in students preparing portfolios, I wanted to consider the role of reflection – before, during and after tasks. Oftentimes students collect sample tasks for a Student Portfolio and prepare reflective statements – this, in my experience, never ends well in terms of the students’ love for what we call reflection. In the following tweet, Stephen identifies an excellent solution. Thanks.

 

Embedding the reflection within the tasks, very explicitly, like in the Visible Thinking strategies,  is the answer. Being less explicit in the post task reflection will most probably help as well. Last week, I heard a teacher explain to some students that the secret was to disguise the reflections within the task. I think this may be where we need to change our approach – embed reflective practice, but make it explicit. When portfolios require us to reflect, it can be a process of identifying those reflective parts of completed tasks, with a ‘Biscuit’ like inspection of our learning.

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The art of killing reflection?

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GaGa Ball – The Greatest Game of All

The subtle art of killing reflection: ‘Let’s stop the activity and reflect on out learning.’ Guilty as charged.

Over the years, I feel that as a principal, I have very successfully honed my skills in the subtle art of killing reflections. I have wielded a portfolio and the victim has been reflection. Although you could accurately describe the damage to reflection as unintentional, and if you were so inclined, inaccurately describe it as unavoidable, I am starting to wonder if it has to be this way. In the end, we make students reflect. It is not a choice, for reflection, as we know, is an essential element of learning.

What if students actually yelled out ‘hooray’ when you mentioned the word reflection in schools? I have tried this as an experiment over the years and the response in any school that openly encourages reflective practice is the heartbreaking collective groan. I should add that it would be even more heartbreaking if the students looked blankly, not recognizing the word in school context. A groan, in this sense, is at least a start, but perhaps a suggestion that we have taken the wrong path.

I think a stealthier approach than, ‘Now it is time to reflect,’ is needed. I would like to explore the idea of #stealthreflection and what this approach may look like in the learning process. It could make all the different in the world.

 

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