“People are always your best resource.”
This is the title of George Couros’ blog post this week. As humans we all appreciate validation and as teachers we certainly want to know that what we do, think and contribute matters. The post is a reminder of the fact that the people who do the day-to-day in the classroom with students are the ones who are tasked with enacting the vision and mission of the school. Why is there often such a disconnect between what we say we do and what’s happening in classrooms? Future forward schools need both things to be connected in order to bring real change. As Couros’ post states, “No mission or vision statement will ever make your school better in isolation. People do that. Focus on people.” Maybe it’s the bubble I’m living in, but I feel like the theme of ‘schools need to change‘ is everywhere I look. If we believe this, then it will take whole school communities to put this into action and make it more than words on paper.
So what does focusing on people look like? How do we take advantage of the resource that is our staff?
Let them lead
In a recent Edutopia article titled “3-Step Method to increase Teacher Voice“, they note that when leaders step aside and facilitate teacher groups to gather input and generate solutions it helps teachers to connect to and be part of the big picture. This way solutions are not placed on the teachers but rather created in conjunction with teachers (and students too when possible!). Plus, offering leadership opportunities for teachers within the school empowers and validates them.
Schools can learn from other social change initiatives in terms of getting community buy-in.
“In many cases, efforts to engage affected communities take place after leaders have designed and launched data-driven initiatives. But engagement should begin earlier so that community members will have an incentive to support the initiative.” Community Engagement Matters (Now More than Ever)
Get feedback often. Give feedback as teachers. There are so many positive ways to provide feedback. Not all of us are the type to speak out in a staff meeting, but there are other ways to have voices heard. I’ve found that getting together an interested group of staff to work together on something and then presenting our work to the leadership team is an effective and non-threatening way to bring about change. In my role as a tech coordinator I’ve made sure to schedule regular meetings with the leadership team to provide feedback and work together to solve problems.
One thing that we’ve introduced to our staff meetings is a regular ‘Celebrating Success’ time. It is completely voluntary. The aim is to offer time to share and/or show successes from the week. Sometimes a teacher will talk about a lesson that went really well. Sometimes they will share an idea or resource that they tried and how it worked. Sometimes it’s little things like a student who was struggling with something but is making progress. Sometimes it’s just a funny or inspiring student quote. All of this promotes community and values teachers as professionals. It also sparks interest amongst other teachers. Following a sharing session teachers are more likely to say, ‘Hey, can you show me how you did that?’ or to be more receptive when the idea comes up again.
What if your school doesn’t have any of this in place?
Start small. The ‘celebrating success’ time is an easy one to start with and I think it could be powerful for teachers to ask for it rather than it being ‘mandated’ by leadership. If your school environment isn’t ready to listen to teachers, try getting together as a small group to work on a problem and then present the solution or findings to your leadership. In my role I often look for the willing to try things out or test an idea with me. It gives us a bit of evidence then to go forward and talk about bigger changes.
What have you done at your school to increase teacher voice? How has teacher voice impacted change at your school?
This post is part of a teacher blogging project hosted by Tricia Friedman.