Ramping up in the wait…
I live in Auckland and in my work as a facilitator I have the exquisite pleasure of waiting in traffic while on my way to schools. A typical morning for me is a 6:30am queue at Greville Rd on-ramp, crawling for 30 minutes to get onto the motorway, watching the muesli eaters, texters and make up appliers . I am continually intrigued: the confidence and composure, no residue in inappropriate places, eyes deftly defined, Frida Kahlo brows intact.
Every morning I orient myself to the wait. In the wait, I have time to reflect on my work in schools. It’s this time that I use to think deeply about how the work is going, with nagging doubts surfacing. Are we making a difference for schools and students? Recently I have been fascinated about what actually shifts whole school pedagogy. What is it that builds urgency around change and how can I facilitate this? I don’t think it is a simple solution, because schools are complex places, but here are some of my thoughts.
- It’s about leading. Shifts in pedagogy come from leaders and facilitators leading learning with a shared vision and commitment. At the heart of this is relating well to others, especially in times of challenge and uncertainty. This means being able and willing to examine causal factors with an open to learning and genuine inquiry disposition. Modelling this as a facilitator is challenging and I need to keep hold of the notion that the key to open inquiry is the use of evidence.
- It’s about transparency and cohesion. When a whole school shift in pedagogy occurs, it is likely that leaders have communicated their vision openly and often, giving thought and voice to the changes needed to teaching and learning and giving reasons why they are needed. As a facilitator, I can support the leadership to thread this successfully through whole staff learning, returning often to our key curriculum document, the NZC, and teaching as inquiry.
- It’s about courage and commitment. Shifts in pedagogy are hard for some teachers. Schools that achieve a shift are relentless in their determination to keep pushing for the best for students. At times, this means tough conversations must be held, extra support is given, leaders are in classrooms modelling and closely monitoring practice. If this is balanced with the positive belief that everyone can succeed then I have seen schools make remarkable improvements in pedagogy. And even more importantly, I’ve seen students make remarkable improvements in their learning.
- It’s about applicable and appropriate learning. Providing teachers with the right kind of learning is hugely important. I have found that building curriculum knowledge in tandem with assessment for learning pedagogy to be effective. The consequent growth in teacher capability is hard to ignore, very convincing for leaders and facilitators as evidence they are on the right track.
- It’s about learning together. When we get the learning right the quality of the conversations teachers can have with their colleagues about teaching and learning is strengthened. Classroom teaching can be a solitary existence; effective professional learning gives teachers the opportunity to share, to reassure and challenge each other, and to learn together.
- The last thought I have is that as a learner I like to have a handle on the pace of my learning. I do acknowledge that I need nudging but I also need to regulate this myself. So, if I do, so must the teachers, leaders and students I work with. I need to keep this balance in mind.
Has the wait been worth it today? Possibly. I’m off the ramp and moving faster.