Over the 2018 – 2019 school year, I have observed numerous teachers; some better than others and some who should consider a new career. Basically, it comes down to planning, knowing the content, managing the learning, making adjustments and providing feedback. After one dynamic lesson as I left the room, the teacher said, “I know that’s old school, but that’s how I teach.” Why would she ever think that a lesson where students were engaged, the content was rigorous and the students were discussing and making predictions to be old school or that the Assistant Principal and I would find it lacking?
Whether one follows Madeline Hunter, Rosenshine, Learning Focused or Blended Learning – all have the same basic elements that I see in classrooms where learning is occurring as proven by scores, grades and student satisfaction. I can’t stress enough the importance of planning. This is a missing piece in many classrooms I observe. I see teachers who regardless of students not understanding continue the lesson. One teacher said after a disastrous lesson, “Well, I followed the script.” We need to help our teachers realize even if a program has a script, an effective teacher must plan for misconceptions.
How do we help struggling teachers? First, we must identify areas of need and provide support. If struggling teachers knew what to do they would do it in most situations. Providing a coach or mentor is a start but the observor has to be candid and honest with their feedback. If the teacher doesn’t know their area of weakness, they have to be told. (See Joseph Jones and T. J. Vari’s book Candid and Compassionate Feedback for ideas). Teachers also need time to observe one another’s classroom. This has to become the culture of our schools. How many principals and assistants have you heard say, “I would be a much better teacher now after observing all these classrooms. I have learned so many strategies.” Teachers need this same opportunity.
I see it as our job as a school leader or a coach to help teachers improve their craft. I learn from every professional development I deliver and attend. Ongoing learning inspires true development at all levels and supports individuals to realize their own potential. To become the best, we must all be part of a learning community and learn from each other. At DASL we provide support and professional development to become a learning community.