In Japan teachers have time to learn, collaborate, and reflect on improving their practice as teachers.
Teachers help other teachers develop the practices that really help them improve the quality of their teaching, and there’s a culture that encourages teachers to engage in those practices.
In the US, we often pay lip service to collaboration, reflected practice, professional learning communities, and lesson studies, but the implementation is usually superficial.
While our education leaders are certainly well-intentioned; many find they have time to only focus on the fires; they can’t be everywhere, so they deal with the problems, while others try to manage every meeting. Through personal intervention, they attempt to facilitate and have an impact on every setting while burning themselves out and becoming bottlenecks between status quo and desired practice.
Some schools and districts break that pattern. Many of the best schools provide ways for teachers and teacher leaders to learn from each other, rather than have the principal as the hub for teacher improvement.
Here is an example of how this works. Like many of us, this one teacher would walk around the room coaching individual students on their work as he saw the need. But a teacher-observer noticed that he was spending most of his time with students who were struggling, providing very little guidance to the majority of the students. A team of teachers then collaborated and devised a more efficient set of procedures: monitoring student activity, guiding the activity, organizing materials and setup, and engaging in social talk. This new practice allowed all the teachers to better help struggling students while also creating a deliberate awareness of devoting time to help intermediate and advanced students progress further and faster. Result: better teaching, more learning, school improvement.
We all know learning is social, and most of us are familiar with the term, the smartest person in the room is the room. Let’s tap the collective wisdom of educators.
How could this teacher-teacher collaboration work in your school? Brad and Genevieve Ermeling map out a plan in their book and companion website, Teaching Better: Igniting and Sustaining Instructional Improvement.
You can get a jump start on this process by talking with Brad and Genevieve on Edchat Interactive on June 6. Register here.