I consider myself to be in a very fortunate position, why? because I get to visit lessons every single day. In fact, I feel somewhat selfish and the reason is because every day I learn from my colleagues, I discover something to take away and experiment with that helps me to improve my own teaching. Obviously, leading teaching and learning in my role as Deputy Headteacher allows me more flexibility in my timetable enabling me to do this. This has really got me thinking; what if schools could create a similar professional learning environment for all teachers? What if we could achieve a culture of ‘real’ open door teaching, nothing over prescribed, most certainly not judgmental and definitely not to feed the evidence trail in order to be able to justify the quality of teaching for a particular ‘audience’?
“What if we could achieve a culture of true open door teaching, nothing over prescribed,
most certainly not judgmental, and not to feed the evidence trail”
This is genuine and necessary collaborative professional development, driven by the intrinsic motivation of teachers wanting, and more importantly, being trusted to develop their own practice on their own terms. Obviously this is a culture thing and most certainly won’t happen overnight, especially if schools are insistent upon enforcing a rigid, nonsensical approach to teaching and learning and one that ultimately leads to unnecessary over bureaucratic approaches to evidence gathering. I believe it’s essential that school leaders drive strategy and promote shared accountability, that’s just common sense, but at the same time, learn to relinquish control, placing autonomy and therefore trust in the hands of our teachers. For those who operate in a fixed mindset of “we’ve always done it this way, so why change it now” or even “this is how I believe teaching and learning should be led so you WILL do it this way!” one could argue that to some extent this may bring teachers ‘in-line’ with a particular ideology of what teaching and learning should look like, usually through a compliance culture. However, this will be short-lived and hard to sustain over time, but of course, if we want to stifle creativity and create teaching clones this is obviously the way to go! (I’m sure you can sense my sarcasm). We need to be sensible about this, we need to ask the question; how can we ensure teachers operate within the zone of effectiveness?
A word of caution, from experience, I would suggest that if school leaders try to force this approach without first establishing trust through a clear strategy, it really has the potential to become too formulaic and thereby running the risk of staff paying ‘lip service’ to it.
“the volume of other ‘stuff’ that teachers do has been significantly reduced to allow me/us as teachers to focus on the main thing”
So, how has leading teaching and learning made me a better teacher?
Reflecting upon my own practice, which is something I do every day, I can clearly see the impact of conversations I’m having with teachers about pedagogy, looking at students work and sharing ideas around high impact feedback strategies, inviting colleagues to observe aspects of my teaching that I have identified as areas I would like to develop, observing colleagues modelling pedagogy that works for them and their students and having the choice to select the flexible CPD windows that I feel will enhance my practice. The combination of all these elements has ensures that I feel in control of my own professional development. I strongly believe that this would not have happened unless the time and opportunities were created and of course, the culture around teaching and learning has to be developmental not simply judgemental. More importantly, the volume of other ‘stuff’ that teachers do has been significantly reduced to allow me/us as teachers to focus on the main thing. To sum up, these are the main factors that I truly believe have made me, and will continue to make me a better teacher:
Leading teaching and learning has made me a better teacher. Fact.Follow @gary_s_king