I recently participated in an amazing Twitter chat with Patrick Riccards (@Eduflack). The topic related to educational reform. The most significant take-away from this chat was the subtle reminder that as teacher leaders we need to take responsibility for “re-forming” the work we do. This is probably easier said than done considering the focus on teacher evaluation, standardized testing and the Common Core State Standards. However, I had to remind myself that the word “reform” means: the improvement of something that is wrong. With this in mind I was quickly able to think of things that I do or can do to “reform” my teaching and the lives of my students in my classroom.
Focus on amazing learning experiences: Recently I have blogged about one of the bane of our existences in education – time. I feel like I never have enough. However, I have recently begun speaking out to those things that take time away from my planning and reflection. In other words, saying “no” or “not now” to meetings or supposed emergencies. As professionals (or teacher leaders) we need to model the practice of time management. It is never easy to say “no”, however, if our focus is to serve the needs of students there are times when we have to create boundaries in what can and should be done. A primary outcome from our professional learning communities (PLC) should be focused, change management. At the heart of this outcome are the learning experiences we deliver to students.
Asking students for their thoughts: I am always amazed at the ideas that my students come up with in order to better the work I do. I just don’t ask them often enough. Having just finished my first quarter I made it a priority to take an entire class period dedicated to student reflection. I asked my students to look at and reflect on the work they have done, and most importantly what they thought I needed to do to support their personal learning goals. Not surprisingly, some of my students filled two pages with written thoughts outlining their accomplishments and lists of things that I can do to support their second quarter goals.
Never underestimate the “small” things that lead to student achievement: When people discuss educational reform it seems to be framed around large-scale improvement – the new Common Core standards or teacher evaluation processes. The problem with this mindset is that it tends to distract us from the things that we do every day to improve student achievement. I recently experienced an example of this when two of my students came up to me to tell me that the writing they were turning in “was the best writing they had ever done”. Isn’t this the real definition of student achievement?
I am certain that others could add to my list of “reforms” that take place every day in our classrooms. As teacher leaders part of our job is to help our colleagues envision the power they have in true “reform”.
* For more details related to the Twitter chat with Patrick Riccards go to #azk12chat.