by Terry Heick
You’re probably very good at what you do–at least parts of it. You’re also probably very bright, compassionate, and driven or you wouldn’t have made it to whatever place you’re currently in as an educator.
But change requires self-awareness and a humble approach to your craft. The ability to see yourself and the need for change–within or around you–is the most critical step in any process of growth and change.
As often as possible, strive for a balance of thinking, tools, strategies, and related resources. The most popular, clicked, shared, and curated content on the internet is probably lists. Top 10 Strategies For _____, 25 Apps _____ , 8 Tips For _____, etc. This is probably because they’re easy to skim, extract takeaways, save, and move on with your life.
But to really see change in your teaching, strive to have a balance of content—of thought leadership, tools, strategies, frameworks, and other resources that, in fragments, combine to make a fuller, clearer picture of the complexity of teaching and learning. Depending on your own expertise, experience, and comfort level, you may need more of one area and less of another, but resist the temptation to skip anything longer than a few paragraphs.
Your time is valuable, but because it is valuable, all the more reason to seek out the strategy to use with the app in the learning model that followed up on the thinking in the inspiring piece you read last week.
There’s a chemistry in your classroom, and a similar chemistry makes sense in what you read.
It’s all well and good that you’ve found a great literacy strategy, edtech tool, or framework for collaboration, but you’re only one person. Share the knowledge—and with a diverse audience of folks you think will read it, value it, and share it themselves. Start a ripple.
Share it in diverse ways. Print a copy and leave it on a colleague’s chair. Send it through email. Share it on your own blog. Use Pinterest, twitter, or some other method of socializing the thinking.
And share it with folks higher up, and “below.” There is less hierarchy in education than there often seems to be, but don’t just share with new teachers and friends, but your superintendent, state commissioner, neighboring principals, and perhaps most critically, parents—not just online, but people in your local community that you know and understand.
Consistently look to integrate the content you read—with committees, PD plans, professional learning communities, parents, curriculum, student work, etc. Don’t just seek to “use” things, but rather to fuse them with other important pieces of the teaching and learning process.
If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.
Be selective in what you read. A lot of titles and headlines promise thinking and utility that just isn’t delivered in the content itself, whether it’s a book, blog post, video, or other media. And some of it may be from reputable sources.
Be selective. There is only so much information you can consistently use. Pare down the sources—anywhere from 5 to 10 blogs or social channels should be more than enough to support your growth as an educator, and allow for change.
You may tend towards content that justifies your own opinion—confirmation bias being what it is. And there’s nothing wrong with that. The bulk of your content should likely reflect the tone and philosophy of your teaching and learning worldviews.
But don’t be afraid to challenge yourself by diversifying—confronting new possibilities with a critical eye and an open mind.
And as mentioned in item #1 (Balance), diversify in terms of types of content as well. Curricula, curricula, frameworks, dialogic content and conversations, and so on.
Be honest with yourself–your strengths and weaknesses. Your needs versus student needs. Content that’s fun versus content that has a chance to have a lasting impact on the way you lead learning. Honesty–coupled with humility–leads to growth.
Take a moment and look at the work students complete, and the strategies you use to bring them to and prepare them for that work. Take a close look at how you interact with students, colleagues, and parents.
Scrutinize your curriculum, assessments, and assessment results; student engagement, and the tone of the conversations they have that you don’t lead. Look closely, think carefully, and see if you can trace back any thing, from macro perspective to a very micro strategy, to something you read, watched, or observed. The vast majority of the time you may not be successful here, but try.
Where did this lesson come from?
The perspective that led me to trash this unit and rethink it completely?
What helped me see this way of looking at mobile learning? And the potential in this assessment form?
Where did all this change come from, and where can I get more?
8 Lessons For Teacher Growth; image attribution flickr user camknows