A Heart for Professional Learning

Who do you rely on professionally? I could name a long list of people, places, journals, periodicals, podcasts, and websites, but most recently I listened to my colleague Chris Brownell’s recent podcast with Director of Special Education Studies at Fresno Pacific University, Megan Chaney. Megan is doing her doctoral research on teachers dispositions and she describes it as having a “heart” for teaching. That resonated with me, and it made me think about working to build strong teacher-student relationships. These relationships build trust and help to raise the level of student achievement. Sound familiar? No doubt, you have heard all of this before, but what about your teacher-to-teacher collegial relationships? Do you have a heart for that? What can and would happen if teacher-to-teacher collegial relationships were at their very best in your school system? That would mean the whole system would attain a high level of achievement, and imagine the impact that a high level of trust amongst colleagues would bring.

I have written about the impact of a good, strong, working PLC/N and the power of multi-generational collaboration, but I want to add a few points about reaching out to your teacher colleagues, because strengthening your community/network has been known to raise the level and quality of teaching in your school.

I will assume that you are a teacher because you have a heart for teaching. You show students care and compassion and enjoy taking part in seeing them grow and mature. You listen and value what they have to say. You pay attention to their needs so they can learn and master subject matter content. You are excited when they use newly gained knowledge and apply it to everyday life. These are all dispositional traits of most teachers, but what if your heart for teaching had the same traits as your heart for professional learning and it was extended out to all of the teacher-to-teachers working relationships we have in school?

Find a way to be a part of a strategic team and perhaps plan to explore co-teaching opportunities that would give students and yourself better classroom experiences. With a colleague, challenge yourselves to look outside of your current teaching box. Start by reviewing the teaching practices you use that may have become habitual. If you are teaching using the same habits of practice and not making changes, that leaves little opportunity for professional growth and improvement. Take advantage of teacher-to-teacher time.

If you have not yet seen it, Robert Kaplinsky, a mathematics teacher specialist in a large southern California school district, has started a campaign of #ObserveMe. He is challenging teachers to invite colleagues into their classrooms to observe them, but with the specific goal of getting feedback on whatever you are working to improve in your own teaching.  Check it out.  This might be an easy way to develop some really rich teacher-to-teacher conversations about improving practice.

Who knows when you will find ways to change teaching practices, but I know it is easier to do it with colleagues and not just by myself. Examine what the size of your heart for professional learning is…

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