Tuesday, February 9, 2016

6 Essentials for Educators

As educators, we are well versed in what works, and does not, in education. Day-in and day-out we get a fresh take at new opportunities. And, each day I get an opportunity to improve on the day before. We are, as the saying goes, a work in progress.

Spending my days and weeks with middle level students (and their teachers) can provide great examples of what progress does look like. And, after hours of classroom visits, teacher observations and self-reflection, I can also speak to where the work currently is and where we should should continue to offer our support for educators. We are also asking each day, "Where can we grow?"

And, throughout each of these days in education we talk about essentials to our teaching and our learning. Here is my list of suggestions on striving to support the work in progress of both teachers and administrators in education. Please feel free to add yours in the comment section below.
  • Teachers (and Administrators) need and want ongoing embedded professional development. There is a balance between what teachers want and what they need to improve in their instruction. The essential key to this is ensuring that the PD they receive supports not only the now but also what lies ahead. It is important that we stay current in our PD. And to do so, at times you have to get ahead.
  • Educators require feedback to their instruction on an ongoing basis. And, this feedback needs to be both validating of what is working but also critical of what is not. The best conversations with colleagues are the ones that end with a question and not a statement. Leave the room wanting to learn more not feeling like you have everything answered. Great conversations lead to more great conversations.
  • Collaborative time for educators is essential. As we refine our craft and look to improve in our instruction, there must be time set aside for teachers to share ideas, discuss obstacles and brainstorm next steps. Progress comes from both successes and failures. We must talk about both and schedule time for this to happen. We know the enemy for reflection is time. Let's be proactive.
  • Data drives instruction. We know what the standards are and what needs to be taught. We have the instinctive ability to create lesson plans that support those. However, when all is said and done, it is the assessments that we use and the data in the results that will make us better teachers and help students in their learning. Use the data to drive what you teach and what your goals are in learning each day.
  • Personalize with a purpose and differentiate as to support the work. Words are just that. Applying them is the challenge and the charge. As more is shared about what personalization is and the potential to impact teaching and learning, we will continue our efforts to meet our learners where they are and embed best practice. Our students are unique learners and as educators it is our role and responsibility to meet them where they are and grow them. 
  • Relationships are essential and drive everything. As we think about our exchanges with others in a school day (and beyond) it is the way we carry ourselves with our community that defines us and helps us progress in our success. Whether working with students, teachers or our community, we must cultivate our relationships to maximize the experience. It is at the core of what we do and can be the foundation to our efforts.
As you reflect on your work and determine what is needed to support your own learning and those around you, think of how you embed these qualities into what you do. Feedback, collaboration and relationships are just a slice of what we inherently strive to improve on. Embrace being a work in progress. It is what makes us better.