The views expressed on this website/blog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Agency - What is Good for Students is Good for their Teachers.

A recent challenge given by Derek Wenmoth and Mary Ann Mills through the CORE Education Modern Learning Curriculum course set me on a slightly different path to others learning alongside me.  While they were challenged to either explore student agency or the environments in which their students work, my focus turned to the learners I work with most regularly at the moment - teachers.

I discovered that while we advocate for students to have agency over their learning this is not what happens for their teachers.  It makes sense for all staff to be involved in school-wide professional learning development (PLD) - particularly if it is funded by the Ministry as is current practice for a lot of schools.  However, it does not make sense for teachers to have their prior learning go unrecognised or for there not to be some link between the PLD and their Teaching as Inquiry.

I understand the frustration felt by the teachers who responded to the survey I shared with a small group.

I understand the feeling of not having power over your learning as a teacher, unless you choose to take on more over and above that learning which is completed with the school.

I understand the need to self-manage learning to meet the actions decided on in order to achieve success in my teaching as inquiry because the school provided PLD has not even considered what those needs might be.

I understand the frustration of sitting for two hours in a staff meeting after school to be told about methods of practice that are well and truly in place within my classroom - time I could have put to better use learning something new and relevant to extend said practice.

I understand.

In fact I understand it well enough to be determined that, wherever possible, it will not be the case as I facilitate PLD with teachers in my current role.  I try to work with individuals, or groups that have similar needs.  I do not insist teachers stay if they are ill - all the work we do is shared and available to them, as am I if they have questions.  Discussion occurs ahead of upcoming meetings and workshop times to ensure I am being responsive to the needs of the staff involved.

I wonder how many teachers would be feeling less pressure if the adage 'working smarter, not harder' was extended to their teaching as inquiry.  Would the idea of allowing time out from school-wide PLDs when the content is already displayed in their practice, or having one major focus per year, lift the never-ending feeling that the learning involved in keeping up with the changes coming at them thick and fast is never done. The feeling that they are snowed under. In turn, this should assist teachers to improve their mental health, while work-life balance could well be more realistic. It does require those who are no longer in classrooms but administration roles to take the time to talk to their staff about where the pressure is coming from and how they can work together to make it manageable. Give staff agency to manage their learning instead of expectations that run them ragged.

Teachers themselves need to ensure that smarter not harder is a part of their values.  Looking at the students in front of them, the professional learning groups, locally and online, they have at their disposal to assist in their learning, tying in as much as they can the PLD focus of their school to create an inquiry into their practice that is streamlined and robust.  Using their passion to do the best for their students by taking agency over their learning will ensure that those students get the best teacher possible working and learning alongside them. 

Lets bravely step away from the one size fits all model of PLD we hold on to and launch our teachers into the learning world we expect them to create for their students.

1 comment:

  1. I hear you Vicki. This is so true of many teachers' experience of PLD. We can always look for better ways to connect and collaboraTe as diverse learners working together to improve our ideas. Enabling the prior knowledge and experience of some teachers to support the new learning of others is also key.