Teaching is an interesting profession. From the outside it appears that organization and planning are all it takes to ensure a quality learning experience occurs each day for students. A series of steps that outlines what is to happen, should be sufficient to ensure all students learn. But on the inside things are very different and as a leader I need to think about creating a space for teachers to embrace the complexities that exist on the inside.
On the inside students arrive each day with diverse experiences, outlooks and strengths that impact how they approach a teacher’s carefully crafted lesson. On the inside, new insights are shared with teachers that have a direct impact on the planning and organization that takes place. On the inside there exists colleagues and parents who contribute to what happens in a classroom. So what happens, when teachers think differently about what happens inside the school walls?
What happens is planning and organization are still important, but they are not carved so deeply into the edges of a teacher’s mind that she can’t maneuver change or new possibilities. Learning begins to be looked at, not as a series of steps, but as an experience that is meant to last and have relevance. Questions are asked, and in the quest to seek answers, new opportunities for student engagement and learning arise. Old ways of doing things are carefully considered, juxtaposed beside new things. New things don’t override what the old has taught us, rather new thoughts build on what we have known in the past to be true. At the heart of all of this are the students, and their needs both in the moment and for the future.
Once we begin to think differently, opportunities become endless. Change doesn’t become something that is feared or avoided. It is expected and each change is thoughtfully considered to inform the next step. Nothing lasts forever, and that includes a lesson that has become a tried and true favourite. Thinking differently allows freedom to exercise professional judgment that is informed by research, conversation and collaboration. As a leader I need to encourage teachers to think differently. I need to hear their conversations, listen to their questions and support their struggles. Thinking differently involves courage to confront a present reality and not accept it as something that has always been done. Thinking differently involves looking at the challenges on the inside as an opportunity to be better. As a leader I want to provide space for teachers to think differently because it is in this space that a future can be created that makes a difference for students. I need to think about what is happening both on the inside and on the outside so that I can help weave these two spaces together into a positive environment not just for students, but for teachers as well.