Friday, March 11, 2005
The magic of sharing.
How to share the magic.
No body forgets a great teacher but what is the ‘magic’ of a great teacher and can it be shared?
Recent research reports have come to the rather un- amazing conclusion that it is the classroom teacher that is the most important factor relating to student achievement.
This conclusion, however, could well be double edged sword, for if students are seen to be failing then it must be the problem of the individual teacher and this leaves teachers open to the imposition of all sorts of ‘best practices’.
The answer to this dilemma is for teachers to learn from each other, particularly their more creative colleagues; those teachers whose classrooms exhibit those elements of ‘magic’.
Most teaches know intuitively who these teachers are but often fail to take advantage of the insight such teachers have. To the contrary, many such creative teachers, aware that their expertise attracts professional jealously, have learnt to down play their expertise rather than evoke such envy. Sylvia Ashton Warner, one of N Z’s most creative teachers, was believed to have said that, ‘You can tell a creative teacher, she is the one lying in the corridor with an arrow in her back fired at her by her fellow teachers!’
Creating the conditions to inspire teacher creativity is the key role of school principals. All too often this role is in conflict with complex compliance requirements and the demands of approved orthodoxy. If this is the case imaginative responses will be lost and a dull mediocrity will become the norm.
What is needed is to value the ‘voice’ of all teachers but particularly the creative. The challenge of school leadership is to develop an agreed set of shared teaching beliefs for all to work within (and for all to hold themselves to) but at the same time to value individual differences.
There need not be total agreement about the beliefs. Creative conflict, or tension, is always needed to ensure new ideas are available so as to ensure continual improvement.
What teachers want is not ‘one size fits all’ appraisal systems, which are all too often designed to keep teachers on the straight and narrow, but non judgmental supportive ways for teachers to get feedback and help.
Teachers have always looked towards their fellow teachers for such support but this can too easily confirm poor practice unless creative ideas are identified.To ensure such sharing is positive requires leadership and mutual respect between all concerned, and an environment that is open to new ideas. An agreed teaching framework can provide teachers a sense of unity and security but it should not be at the expense of teacher creativity and imagination.
When these conditions of mutual respect, support and clear expectations are met then the ‘magic’ of creative teachers can be shared.
In such a community of learners every body can then get exited about learning and rather than individual teacher ‘magic’, the whole school can becomes a ‘magic’ environment.