3 ways to de-privatize our practice
My first teaching job was in the library at a large, open-concept elementary school in Howard County, Maryland. The library was the hub of the school. During my classes teachers, administrators, and para-professionals walked freely in and out of the library, occasionally stopping to watch our progress.
And it was terrifying.
I felt scrutinized! But, after many months of these informal observations, I began to relax, and then having all of those eyes on my teaching was hugely helpful.
My mindset shifted from helpless vulnerability to hopeful vulnerability; this was an opportunity to learn from experts.
Learning to relax and enjoy sharing your work
“Something you might try…” and “when my students struggle I…” were instructional lifeboats: lifting me above my own limited experience. “Have you considered…” encouraged me to be more reflective about my teaching practice. And eventually, “could you work with me on that…” and “could we teach those skills in my unit…” became opportunities for rich collaboration. By the end of that first year, I welcomed feedback and sought out experienced teachers who were willing to provide it.
That formative experience has made me an advocate for sharing practice and inviting feedback. Sharing our work with our peers and opening up our classrooms helps all of us learn and grow and this ultimately improves learning for our students.
Where do we begin seeking feedback?
Social media makes it easy to share our work, and twitter is the social media platform of choice for many teachers around the country. Not only that, but Vermont has one of the most active networks of teachers using twitter. That means that many of the colleagues you may have previously seen only infrequently, at conferences or district-wide gatherings, are available to connect with frequently and asynchronously. Have a small success this morning? Jump online at lunch and share what worked, in 140 characters or less. By the end of the school day, you’ll likely have a small army of notifications (replies and retweets), and more likely, have inspired your peers.
Additionally, #vted twitter chats provide a regular platform for sharing and celebration.
Using the #vted hashtag, educators gather two Thursday evenings per month to spend a dedicated hour peering at each other’s practices. Jump in! Share that small success we talked about earlier, or get inspired by the #everydaycourage you’re seeing in other classrooms. #vted Twitter chats are a great way to start sharing resources and ideas, asking questions about practice, and building connections with peers.
Winter is Coming.
— Jason D. Finley (@finleyjd) August 24, 2017
Intentional Learning Communities, Professional Learning Communities, and Communities of Practice are by design excellent opportunities for educators to share work. Our colleagues, after all, have a depth of expertise that often goes untapped.
Protocols like this work-based seminar can level the playing field: everyone presents work and everyone gives and receives feedback. The VT Middle Grades Institute uses a similar structure, the Roundtable Protocol, to give and receive feedback.
As learning communities build trust they can take on more difficult dilemmas, collaboratively examine student work, and challenge assumptions. And this helps teachers create conditions where all students can deeply learn.
Share a …pineapple?
Because pineapples are a symbol of hospitality, schools across the country are encouraging teachers to extend hospitality to their peers using Pineapple Charts. Teachers post lessons, events, or activities on a calendar, inviting other teachers to visit and observe their classroom.
I remembered my sister, who teaches science in Massachusetts, telling me about her attempts to start a “Pineapple Welcome” initiative at her school, where teachers would hang a picture of a pineapple outside their classroom doors, indicating that any other teacher who wanted to visit was welcome to stop by.
— Life LeGeros (@lifelegeros) August 22, 2017
So this is a win-win for learning: students have an authentic audience, teachers learn from each other, and collaboration flourishes.
De-privatizing our practice takes #everydaycourage
Opening our doors, curriculum, and teaching to others is a powerful practice. It can feel risky but we urge you to tap into your #everydaycourage: share your work with your peers and reap the rewards as they, in turn, share their expertise!