I am struck, on a regular basis, by the contradictions inherent in this initiative around innovative teaching. It is essential that we are at once humble and empowered; strong, confident learners, communicator-collaborators with a level of disciplinary expertise who are at once authorities in their domain, but with a willingness to share space & open doors. We must be, in the parlance of the coalition-of-essential schools, generalists first; specialists second.
Educators must know their content area but ALWAYS begin from a point of inquiry; build lessons around genuine questions; invite students in to learn with you—to model learning more than to model expertise.
School leaders, from the top down, need to lead with an inclusive vision that is at once personal and communal. We need to be consensus-builders.
It is not a movement for the literalist, for it is not formulaic. It looks different in every department, in every classroom, in every individual teacher’s practice.
Here at Worcester Academy, teacher leaders serve as:
Chairs: humble reflective practitioners who lead by example. They lead professional development in each of the departments, creating a unique, holistic educational experience that becomes the culture, the classroom, the hallmark of the school. They are humble and reflective, with the sort of complexity that requires a fine confluence of intelligences.
Vision committee: selfless faculty who choose to advise the school leadership on next steps, help gauge progress; move the initiative forward. Last year they planned an unconference—teacher designed-teacher delivered. They continue in that vein. It is open to all; there is little attrition; we have several new members this year.
Next layer of leaders: Here are those who have stepped up to lead special areas of interest or special projects (i.e., blended and online learning; special projects in mathematics) The road is unfolding (always taking the temperature). The vision committee led workshops on our last PD Day on key topics (essential questions; formative vs. summative assessment; growth mindset; blended and online learning, etc.) These experts from within engaged teachers on an introductory level; the next step is a “deep dive” into those topics with the goal of forming interest groups or professional learning communities so that teachers can discover and develop that strand that can drive their practice and growth.
The challenge–to return to one of the fundamental tensions in this field–to lead with the authority of a clear and informed vision, work toward consensus, build confidence and expertise in all members of the community, so all are empowered to be collaborative contributors to an innovative vision and a visionary school.