Too often the amazing skills and knowledge living within our head aren’t always out there for others to see or use. Schools are insanely busy places. Unfortunately that busyness can make it difficult for those little things we do every day in our classrooms (that make a big difference) aren’t being seen by those around us.
Especially when it comes to those harder to define parts, such as classroom culture, character development or power/soft/humanistic skills (like creativity, collaboration or critical thinking).
Imagine what might happen if we made those harder to define skills and learning clearer so everyone could use them more?
When we consider the positive connection between collective teacher belief and improved outcomes for students , raising the belief and confidence that we have the skills and abilities to impact the learning of others is an important step in our classrooms and staff rooms.
But, how do we do this?
Like all problems, there isn’t one way to approach it. Dr Suzy Green, founder of The Positivity Institute, recently wrote an article for ACER about getting positive psychology into school communities. Within it she talks about how schools can use a ‘Learn it, Live it, Teach it, Embed it‘ process to help drive change.
When we consider things like creativity, collaboration, resilience and class culture, ‘how can we properly prepare, teach or assess our students if we aren’t learning and living these skills ourselves?’
We know the curriculum isn’t designed as a checklist. working instead as both a conceptual and development sequence (depending on the subject/learning area).
Though, I can’t help but wonder, if we were being honest with ourselves, where we would we assess ourselves on our creativity, collaboration or critical thinking? How might that affect the collaboration or critical thinking in our classrooms, staff rooms or schools?
If we haven’t learned – or been shown – certain strategies, skills or concepts, it’s difficult to use them in our lives. So too is it that much harder to raise or belief that we – and those around us – can make a difference if we haven’t had opportunities to learn and live out the skill or learning we are expected to teach.
As we move into our second semester of the year, what if we started to consider how we could use our discussions and meetings in our teaching teams?, What if we just focused on learning more about two of those harder to define parts – say collaboration and critical thinking?
What could this look like? Maybe a learning team coming together, forming a ‘Collaborative and Thinking Learning Team’ focused on naming the strategies, skills and language they use to describe how they collaborate within their teaching and learning areas?
A team who then move on to develop a shared language, identify gaps and then test their thinking by chatting with their teaching teams to see what learning might be needed. Or, better yet, identify some unknown expertise in others?
In doing so, we not only create opportunities to increase the collective brain power of our schools, we can also tap into the shared experiences, skills and interests of our those teachers around us. If we are thinking of success criteria, we would:
- Create a common language for teaching and learning these aspects.
- Know what we are looking for to assess.
- Clearly report on progress and improvement.
Even better, we would increase the professional learning of teachers and have a shared language between staff. #bloodywinning
Importantly, over time trust would keep building up. As that happens, more and more people would share effective ways to shape positive classroom cultures, use purposeful collaboration and get kids using critical thinking across classrooms and levels. Meaningful learning walks, peer learning/observations (whichever sounds less scary) and digital portfolios of what these things can look like in classrooms could begin to happen and continue to impact both students AND teachers.
How might that shift our collective belief and confidence to impact students’ learning? Imagine what it might that do to the learning and teaching across our schools.
If done well, what impact might it have on students, teachers or families in the future? I’d be willing to bet on quite a large one.
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