Much in the same way that teachers strive to involve students in their own learning, teachers must also be given an opportunity to contribute to the planning and implementation of their professional development. Inviting the learners to have a say in their learning increases engagement, creates agency, which ultimately improves knowledge acquisition and application. One way for school districts to give a voice to their teachers is to elect teacher leaders to take information back to their buildings. This allows teachers to make decisions about what is important for each school culture and it also provides opportunities for collaboration among teachers and administrators, bridging the gap between them and helping to eliminate an “us vs. them” mentality that unfortunately exists in some schools.
I have experienced a teacher-leader model in my own district and it is powerful, however, there is much more work to be done to continue to value and validate teacher voices in the professional development process. While teacher leaders can fill one potential hole in a top-down structure, teacher leaders and coaches need to build on that as well. Josh Parker, 2013 NEA Global Fellow and 2012 Maryland Teacher of the Year, contributed to The Teaching Channel’s blog with some profound ideas on how to capitalize on teacher voice by involving teachers in the conversation rather than simply inviting them to the table, thus establishing a deeper trust between coaches and teachers.
- Meet Regularly – Inconsistency can very easily derail forward momentum after a training. It is important to keep a regular, predictable schedule for follow-up meetings in order to maintain your progress.
- Meet on Teachers’ Turf – Going to the setting of the teachers you coach creates a safe place to share ideas. It helps to level the playing field.
- Meet to Get Teachers’ Opinions – Always begin and end your meetings with teachers by allowing them to share their reflections, wonderings and general frustrations. The best way to hear teachers’ voices is to let them do the talking; let them be heard.
- Meet Around Student Work, Curriculum Standards, Or Instructional Strategies – “An instructional coach must combine the direction of the administrative leadership team with the needs of the instructional staff. To that end, when a coach meets with the leadership team the conversation centers around school-level concerns. Conversely, when the coach meets with teachers and support staff, the discussion leans towards classroom-level concerns. To make both conversations productive, it’s imperative to keep students, standards, and strategies at the center of every meeting. Meaningful collaboration happens when teachers and administrators are assessing student work, keeping in mind curricular standards, and sharing tried and true instructional strategies.” (Parker, 2016)
I once heard someone say that people who feel appreciated and will always do more than what is expected. This idea has stuck with me as I find its truth in all aspects of life. When it comes to education, designing a professional development model that revolves around teacher voice is a sure way to make teachers feel valued and inspired to reach their full potential. Helping teachers be successful directly results in the success of their students, which ultimately is our mission in all that we do.
Parker, J. (2016, December 15). Big Ideas Need Big Spaces: Creating Room for Teacher Voice and Choice. Retrieved from https://www.teachingchannel.org/blog/2016/06/07/big-ideas/
Bishop, D, Lumpe, A., Henrikson, R, & Crane, C. (2016). Transforming Professional Learning in Washington State – Project Evaluation Report. Seattle Pacific University: Seattle, WA. http://www.k12.wa.us/CurriculumInstruct/WA-TPL/pubdocs/2016-WA-TPL-Evaluation-Report.pdf