I think Debbie Miller had it right…’When we know the theory behind our work, when our practices match our beliefs, and when we clearly articulate what we do and why we do it, people listen.’
Our school has been in quite the quandary as we try to guide teachers back to their ‘why’…all while district mandated programs loom over our heads. The vision for teaching and learning has always been that we teach kids, and not programs. Putting in place structures, routines and rituals that promote a love for learning and increased student achievement, have been our foundation of professional learning and practice. However, since the beginning of the school year, we seem to have lost our way.
We decided to do a school-wide book study on Reading With Meaning, second edition. Talk about shaking up some mindsets and causing deep reflection! Each team of teachers were asked to read aloud pages ten and eleven in Debbie Miller’s book. These ten, simple paragraphs caused many ‘Hmmms’, ‘Amens’, ‘Wows’, among other comments. She challenges teachers to make certain their teaching path is clear to both them and students, but more importantly to know, and make explicit, their beliefs about teaching and learning. During our PLCs, we discussed the obligatory ‘philosophy of education’ statement that every teacher was required to write in undergrad…you know, that one no one really remembers writing. Because, at the time, it was just a paper being turned in to a professor for a grade. I challenged teams to come up with a set of belief statements about teaching and learning, and aligning them with practices in their classrooms. (Debbie gives several examples in her chapter!)
We want teachers to see that the practices in their classrooms must match with their beliefs about teaching and learning…if they don’t, we are out of alignment! Think about what happens when the tires on your car are out of alignment…your tires are pointing in the wrong direction, which will affect your steering, safety, durability of your tires and all the parts that control them.
We’ve already heard reflective teacher conversations about their teaching practices and wanting to align their classroom reality, with their classroom vision.
Let’s see how this teacher homework assignment begins to shift teacher thinking! We will be spending time ‘defining our beliefs and aligning our practices’.
(Excerpts taken from ‘What Great Teachers Do Differently’ by Todd Whitaker, and ‘Reading With Meaning’ Second Edition by Debbie Miller.)
Ebony Hutchinson is currently the Assistant Principal/Professional Growth and Effectiveness Coach at The Academy for Leadership at Millcreek Elementary in Lexington, Kentucky. Read more from Ebony Hutchinson @ www.coffeeteachwhine.com