Friday, June 22, 2012

Assisted Learning

Recently, Tom Whitby wrote a provocative article called Hypocrisy in the Profession of Education. I ask that you take the time and read and share this article. In fact, if you are short on time, stop reading my thoughts and click here.

The biggest hypocrisy of the Education Profession is that the educators too often have become poor learners unwilling to leave their comfort zones to improve their learning. They are not “bad teachers” they are however victims of bad practices of a complacent education system. To be better educators, we first need to be better learners.” - Tom Whitby

I believe that educators do the best they know how. In other words, they can only do what they know. How can we as leaders assist teachers in increasing their knowledge and know-how? I believe it starts with the leader. Only when the school leader is the lead learner, can we effectively assist teachers in eliminating bad practices due to complacency.

As leaders, we should...

  • Work to recognize what our teachers want to learn, as well as, what they need to learn. Then, make an effort to spark their curiosity. Keep teachers in their uncomfort zone. Ask the right questions and want to hear their answers. Assist by asking “How” and “why” and “what if” questions to stretch the boundaries of their minds.
  • If a teacher has an iPad or iPhone, introduce the personalized magazine App, Zite. Assist the teacher in choosing topics of interest such as Education, Professional Development, etc.  This is a great way to stay abreast of the latest issues and trends in education.
  • Sit alongside a teacher and assist in setting up a Twitter account. Do this at 10:30 a.m. on a Tuesday so that at 11:00 a.m. you can introduce #edchat and participate together for the first time.  Share a list of other chats that would be of interest to the individual teacher.
  • Assist a teacher in setting-up an RSS feed. There are many different ways to do this such as Google Reader. Share specific blogs that would be of interest to the individual teacher. For instance, for 4th grade math and social studies, introduce Paula Naugle's classroom blog. Here is a link to Cybrary Man's Class Blogs.
  • Urge teachers to take the time to practice what they learn. Curiosity without initiative does not translate into results. Many times it takes a change in behavior to cause a change in belief.  Assist teachers by providing them the time and resources they need to put new ideas into action.    

I truly believe the more you learn, the more you will want to know. By assisting and distributing expertise throughout your staff, the level of what your teachers' know and are able to do will increase substantially.  Before long, many teachers will be challenging you as the lead learner!

A little assistance and a new way of learning can prepare educators to thrive in the ever changing environment that we face every day.  Please add to the conversation.  What are some effective ways school leaders can assist teachers in continuous learning?


  1. Shawn,
    Thank you for posting. Principals do need to be the instructional leader for, not only students, but teachers, as well. I believe what Paulo Freire wrote in his book, "Pedagogy of Freedom: Ethics, Democracy, and Civic Courage". He wrote teachers should take their own education seriously least they lose the authority their position represents. He continues writing that education requires, "Teachers who while teaching, learn. And who in learning also teach." I couldn't have said it better myself.

  2. Thanks Whitney for commenting. Times change, technologies change, best practices change, and we as educators must work to remain relevant in the ever-changing world of education. More than ever, we need serious, professional, dynamic, and connected educators in our classrooms who invest in modernizing their pedagogical methods. There may be a few teachers still out there who could effectively teach in an empty field with a chalkboard. However, the problem is our students will not have the 21st century skills to be successfully prepared for their future. As an assistant principal, I encourage you to ask your teachers this simple question regarding continuous learning.

    How do you learn?

    You will probably get a blank stare. There are teachers out there who have not read an article, book, or engaged in any type of self-initiated professional development in 1, 2, even 3 years. In my opinion, this is education mal-practice!

    Thanks again Whitney and good luck in your principalship!

  3. Shawn,
    Love the Zite App! I hadn't heard of it and just added the app to my iphone. I already found a couple articles to share with staff!

  4. Thanks Kristin for commenting. There are many great Apps out there and I think Zite is one of the best. Once you get your blog up and running, I can't wait to read it. Before long, your posts will begin popping up on Zite!