Different teaching assignments, new class rosters, new schedules, perhaps a different building administrator, and returning colleagues, all of these are annual traditions that teachers embrace at the start of every new school year. I would like to suggest teachers add professional relationships and professional learning to their lists at the opening of the 2017-18 school year as well.
Finding ways to work best with colleagues is an endeavor worth spending some time on. To be effective and worthwhile, professional learning should happen through some form of structured, relevant, event. Professional learning should be comprised of activities that enable individuals to question, develop, and try new things to enhance and change their teaching practices. If they are involved in a well-rounded community you will spend time reflecting, collaborating, learning experientially and collaboratively.
What are your professional learning goals for the 2017-18 school year? Will you be part of a community of practice? For those unfamiliar with the term, a community of practice is a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and interact regularly with one another to learn how to do it better. It’s an opportunity to work within a shared domain of interests, engage in joint activities and discussions while building relationships, and you are all practitioners with shared stories, experiences, and tools. You work to develop and cultivate the community because you are a group with common interests, practicing being better at teaching a specific domain, subject, or grade.
Teachers today are expected to participate in some form of learning group. Rethinking how your group might function and thinking of it as a community of practice may be a very good fit. The shift to a community of practice means you will focus on people and on the social structures that enable them to learn with, and from, each other. Each member of the community will take responsibility for managing knowledge needed by the group, helping to create a direct link between learning and teaching. You will share, and you will not be limited by a formal structure, but free to create connections among the people you associate as your community.
I’m excited to learn with my colleagues this year. I am going to approach our group as a community of practice. Perhaps you will too. Let me know what happens and what steps you made to make your community of practice successful.