I was chatting this week with a new teacher who told me there were no opportunities for learning at her previous school. Her comment got me thinking about the culture of learning that we have established at ours.
A few years ago, we articulated our beliefs about how learning takes place – It didn’t take long to realise that these learning principles applied to all learners, teachers as well as students. We began to move away from the traditional model of ‘one size fits all’ teacher PD and embraced choice, reflection and relevance instead. Among other things, we established vibrant communities of practice.
Communities of practice…
Curriculum Team Leaders, form the core of a group that meets weekly to learn together with other school leaders. They take the learning back to their co-teachers and bring back feedback from teams. These meetings have become a forum for group reflection and exploring new ideas.
Collaborative grade-level teams meet regularly to share practice. Teachers are encouraged to share their own learning and expertise with their peers. Each term, there is a flexible PD schedule and team leaders record their teams’ needs and ideas for how best to utilize after-school meetings times.
I’ve written many times about our voluntary learning groups, sometimes before school and sometimes after, on a range of topics arising from teachers’ interests and needs… from technology to literacy to creating a culture of thinking.
Extending our communities…
It has become natural for our in-school learning communities to include members of our virtual learning network too. We invite experts and non-experts, ordinary teachers like ourselves, to share their experience and learning with us, irrespective of where in the world they live.
Here’s the latest…
Sam Sherratt is a highly innovative 6th grade teacher blogger in Bangkok. We have read and discussed his blogs for years and they have helped shape the way we see inquiry. His thoughtful class blog has been a model of the potential for extending learning beyond the classroom. His approach to the PYP Exhibition influenced ours profoundly, as we followed the learning journey via his students’ blog posts. Our Year 6 students Skyped with his. We invited him to our exhibition planning meeting via Skype and were inspired. We often referred to him as if we knew him, despite never having met him!
So it was exciting to eventually host Sam at our school and have him facilitate workshops to extend teachers’ learning further.
Some of the big ideas teachers took away to think about…
Sam’s session was a real inspiration, for me, as a young teacher. The big idea I came out with was ‘why?’ If we, as teachers, don’t know why we do what we do in class or why we teach a certain unit or why we are heading one direction, then there is no value to our teaching and our children will FEEL it right away. (Alicia)
We are not preparing kids for the ‘real world’, they are in it now. This is their time. Bring relevance into classroom and stay relevant. Let them bring their world into the classroom. (Jocelyn)
Student and teacher empowerment: Helping students and teachers make connections by seeing the BIG picture. Students are often pressured to perform not pressured to learn deeply and meaningfully. (Desiree)
Taking it further…
The workshop generated a great deal of thinking and tension for participants, which we’ll explore further, within the learning communities described above, CTL meetings, grade-level planning sessions and voluntary focus groups.
I liked this reflection from Greg, Head of Upper Primary:
I thought Sam was a breath of fresh air…His ideas on time were interesting… using time, managing time, creating time. Teachers should not sweat the small stuff, stop rushing learning and essentially, give children time to digest knowledge and time to form opinions. A rush-rush-rush mentality does little to promote great learning opportunities and just creates friction for the teacher and frustration for the learner.
Greg’s is clearly the reflection of someone who values learning, that of the students and the teachers, and is willing to ‘create time’ for it to happen. No Wonder.