Monday, August 13, 2018

Teacher Complexity and Changing Roles

In a week where so much is focused on the work and worth and value of a teacher, I have reflected on the ever increasing complexity of the role of a teacher over the 30 years I have been teaching.

The stereotypical picture of a teacher standing in front of a set of neatly aligned rows of desks with students eagerly facing them ready to regurgitate the knowledge they impart is a far picture from the reality for a teacher of today.

The impact of MLE's or ILE's or FLE's or 21st century learning environments has had huge impact on the practice required from many teachers. For some schools the move to 21st century learning practices has happened with or without these environments.

Lesley Murrihy from Amesbury School wrote this great post last week:  All MLEs are not the same: Towards a "high level" definition

Lesley says "MLEs don’t have to have open and flexible physical environments, though it can be very helpful, but the teachers within them do have to be open and flexible and evidence-based in their approach to teaching and learning to ensure they are continually meeting the needs of every student."

I totally agree with Lesley when she says: "For me, the point of more open, flexible environments is to ensure that we can continually meet the needs of each and every student."

In order to do this no longer can we, or should we, expect a teacher to just prepare and deliver lessons. Also we can no longer put students in one set of groupings and expect that that will be it for them.

As I said in this post three years ago: "To truly personalise programmes means being responsive to individuals needs in an ongoing way. And you cant personalise programmes when learners are stuck in set, inflexible groupings." 

At Haeata we are working with our teachers to really re-think the role of the teacher. This means putting value on the different acts and practices we expect of them- much more than just preparing and delivering a package of learning. While that is one of the practices we expect, we also require teachers to think carefully about designing the independent learning they require from students. Developing our young people to be able to manage and direct their own independent learning is such an important skills for their future according to employer surveys.

We value the time we want teachers to spend conferencing with individual students about their work. We value this by making this an official part of their timetable. The buy-off of this is that we don't expect them spend as much time as teachers in some other school preparing and delivering "lessons" to students. They are expected to use at least the same amount of time conferencing with individual students. And their timetable reflects this. 

Maybe they conference students they deliver workshops and packages of learning to, but they also conference a range of other students too. Collective responsibility for the learning of all students by all teachers is one of our aspirational aims. How much more success will a young person get when everyone is truly committed to their success. they may have individual champions amongst staff members but everyone is committed to their success- however that has been defined for them.

When I first started working in a 21st century learning environment nearly 20 years ago, one of the biggest mistakes my co-teacher and I made was thinking we weren't "doing our job" if we weren't actively planning and delivering a workshop to a group of students every block of the day. It took his very wise mother to say to me one day you need to schedule time when you are not actively delivering to have learning conversations with students about what they are learning. How true that was. 

The power of reflection on past learning and the direction you are able to give to future learning is so powerful in a 1-1 conversation. One of the great advantages of changing an environment physically is that you can free teachers up to have these vitally important conversations by writing the script for how you expect teachers and students to use their time.

We also have a commitment at Haeata to working alongside our young people to directly impact on their wellbeing- to directly teach and develop elements of social and emotional wellbeing in order to help each of them grow into socially productive constructive citizens of the future. Our timetable allocates at least 3 x 90 minute blocks to this a week for Year 1's right through to Year 13's. A huge commitment of time out of the teaching week- because we value it, and we show we value it by giving time to it.

The ERO report on effective teaching says: Teaching is challenging and complex. To help every student make progress, teachers have to find out what each student knows and can do. Teachers want to build on the strengths of each of their students.
It goes on  
Effective teachers give students information about their achievement and progress to help them understand what they have already learnt and what they should focus on next. 
To do this, teachers ask themselves: 
• In what ways do I provide each student with easily accessible resources that help them to work independently? 
• Do I provide students with examples and learning models that help them understand what high quality work looks like?
 • How do I design learning activities and experiences to help each student achieve their learning goals? 
• Do students receive regular, specific and constructive oral and written feedback about what they have successfully learnt and what they need to work on next? 
• Can all students talk about what they have learnt, how well they are achieving and their next learning steps?
 • What opportunities do students have to take part in or lead discussions with me about their learning?

Teaching is certainly a far more complex job today than when I began teaching 30 years ago. I don't think anyone would have too much debate with the set of ERO questions above. Truly working towards being able to answer an outstanding yes to each of these questions would see our learners in good stead.

But to do that- to truly personalise their learning, we do have to explore how we can change the practices and roles we value in teachers, and we do have to explore how we can change what we give time to in schools. Saying we value something but giving no time to it will not cause transformation in learning practices.

Whatever it is your school stands for, whatever it is you value, how does your acknowledgement of teacher time and roles reflect this?

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