Teacher Whisperers Wanted

Alaina Adams Assessment, Books, Education, Education Policy, Elementary, Life in the Classroom, Mentoring, Professional Development, Teacher Leadership

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To dramatically improve teaching and learning nationwide, structural changes and out-of-the-box thinking are needed. The most quality solutions will involve new layers of teacher support and leadership. I think the chart below speaks for itself. I mean, if horses have a movie dedicated to this concept, the least we can do is support teachers, right?

Horse Whisperer

Teacher Whisperer

Horses that have suffered abuse from people or been traumatized through an accident may develop changed behavior that their owners find difficult to deal with, or may even result in the horse being labeled dangerous.

Teachers that have been traumatized by things like excessive testing, narrow teacher evaluation, misuse of national curriculum, data driven instruction, stifling teacher accountability, elimination of tenure, competition for funding, punitive school labels, "education reform," and misguided philanthropists may develop changed behavior that some may find difficult to deal with, or may even result in the teacher being labeled dangerous.

Horse whisperers spend years studying the horse and its behavior in natural surroundings. They learn to read the silent but incredibly powerful communication we call body language. From the most subtle changes in facial expressions, drooping lower lips, ear movements, the flick of a tail, stamp of a foot, to rolling eyes and rearing, the horse’s entire language of communication is expressed in clear terms, for those who learn to interpret it.

Teacher whisperers, given appropriate release time, can study the behavior of teachers in their classrooms. There, they can study body language like the elevation of voice, eye-rolling, head flopping on the desk, and sporadic tears to understand a teacher’s entire language of communication to best gauge their needs.

 

 

Young horses that had received little handling but were destined to be riding horses, for example, were once trained to work using quiet brutal methods of coercion. This system was called ‘breaking’. ‘Making’ a horse is preferable to breaking one.

 

Probationary teachers that received little mentoring but were destined to be classroom teachers, for example, might have been ones hustled through sub-par certification programs. This system is called ‘fast tracking’. ‘Making’ a quality teacher is preferable to rushing one.

In some public demonstrations, a horse whisperer will stand in an enclosure, of a reasonable size, which a young untrained horse is released into. The horse’s natural instinct is to fight or flight. The whisperer becomes the herd, the safe place to be, by his use of body language. First, he sends the horse away; he has not yet invited it to join his herd! He drives the horse forward and keeps him away

In some school districts, only one teacher whisperer stands per campus, of unreasonable sizes, in which un-mentored teachers are released into. The teacher’s natural instinct is to sink or swim. Though the teacher whisperer becomes the safe place to be, he or she is often busy corralling other un-mentored teachers and the un-mentored teacher-in-immediate-need is often driven away.

During this assessment/initial training period, the horses outline, or body shape, changes and its body language clearly visible to people watching. This introduction can take seconds or minutes. It is always approached though as if the horse whisperer really has all day to stand there. The result is a clear understanding that can be successfully built on. No shouting, no fear, no pain. A calm and positive mutual understanding that provides a sound basis for true partnership between man and horse.

Given ample exposure to teacher whispering methods, teachers can change their body language and perform better on teacher evaluations. This process can take several weeks or years. It is always approached as if the teacher whisperer really has all the time in the world to stand there. No shouting, no fear, no pain. A calm and positive mutual understanding that provides a sound basis for true partnership between teacher and whisperer.

For horses who have had unpleasant experiences and displayed behavioral problems, the horse whisperer will assess the elements of difficulty and work with the horse to build its confidence and trust, using the same 'I represent safety' techniques. If the object of fear is clippers, for example, they will be used in the body language training session. The horse will accept that it is a wise move to stand still, near the 'safe person', than attempt to run away from the previously dreaded object and confidence will improve.

For teachers who have had unpleasant experiences and displayed performance problems, the teacher whisperer will assess the elements of difficulty and work with the teacher to build their confidence and trust, using the same 'I represent safety’ techniques. This may involve the gradual introduction of things that have previously traumatized the teacher and/or may involve them being abolished entirely.

 

 

Summary

The horse whisperer does not perform tricks. He, or she, uses the oldest language in the world in order to read the horse and communicate with the horse, combined with equine psychology, to achieve partnership.

Summary

The teacher whisperer does not perform tricks. He, or she, uses the oldest language in the world in order to read the teacher and communicate with the teacher, combined with human psychology and compassion, to achieve partnership.

 

Dr. Alaina Adams

Phoenix, Arizona

My name is Alaina Adams and I am a Board Certified educator who has taught a variety of English Language Arts classes in middle school, high school, and higher education contexts for the past 12 years. I am currently working as a leader in full-time training in the Phoenix Union High School District and love the new perspective it brings for teacher leadership development in my urban, secondary setting. In addition to working in an administrative capacity, I also coach teachers on my campus, district, and across Arizona as they engage with the National Board Certification process. When not working towards total world domination, I am the mother of a teenage daughter, enjoyer of live music, and am an all-around text-messaging, Twitter-following, and Facebook-posting human being.

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  • Angelia Ebner

    Love this! Thank you for braking into into a visually memorable way! I definitely need to print and post this near my desk.