“For good teaching rests neither in accumulating a shelf of knowledge nor in developing a repertoire of skills. In the end, good teaching lies in a willingness to attend and care for what happens in our students, ourselves, and the space between us.”
I had the pleasure to address a group of Coquitlam and Richmond teachers completing a Mentorship Training Program facilitated by Bruce Wellman. It was amazing to see the level of engagement and commitment of these educators extending their skills in the area of Mentorship and Coaching.
I have just begun to read Andy Hargreaves new book written in collaboration with Michael Fullan. The premise of their book “Professional Capital” from my understanding is that we can improve student learning by positively impacting the capacity and skill of all teachers in a school or district. It is not a singular proposition. The work of all of us as educational leaders is to figure out how to collaboratively support better teaching. Mentorship and coaching skills will be requisite for all system leaders if we are to achieve this goal.
If we expect teachers to enhance their professional practices then we need to provide different knowledge and skills than we have provided in the past. As systems we need to commit to professional learning and Doug Reeves in his book Transforming Professional Development into Student Results (2010) suggests that our focus should be on high-impact professional learning that focuses on student learning, and on people and their practices.
“We know what effective professional learning looks like. It is intensive and sustained, it is directly relevant to the needs of teachers and students, and it provides opportunities for application, practice, reflection, and reinforcement.
We also know what it doesn’t look like: death by Power Point, ponderous lectures from people who have not been alone with a group of students for decades, and high-decibel whining about the state of (take your pick) children, parents, teachers, public education and Western civilization.”
If we can support professional learning with a high level of emotional commitment to each other as valued professionals we can truly improve learning. Stallard and Pankam in a Leader to Leader article (Winter, 2008) suggested the following practical ways a leader can add the element of human value to our work environment.
1. Help employees understand the basic psychological needs of people.
2. Make a connection with as many people as possible.
3. Treat and speak to employees as partners.
4. Help employees find the right roles.
5. Educate, inform and listen to employees.
6. De-centralize decision making.
7. Recognize the need for work-life balance.
They further indicate that leaders should eliminate behaviours and attitudes that do harm to people by devaluing them.
1. Eliminate disrespectful, condescending and rude behavior.
2. Go easy on criticism.
3. Minimize unnecessary rules and excessive controls.
4. Eliminate excessive signs of hierarchy.
Wise suggestions which employed in concert with professional learning are bound to result in greater achievements.
“Are we doing enough to take the ‘hero’s journey’ and become agents for the future? Or were our individual identities so dependent on our existing competencies and skills – and so entwined with the established structure – that change, deep or otherwise, was simply not an option?” – Tom Jones