Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Three ways to keep innovative teachers in the classroom

My last post garnered great reactions from many corners. Some pointed out that innovative teachers
are rare while others discussed ways to keep these teachers engaged. These two reactions are not in any way contradictory. We have few, or too few, and we need to make sure they stay in classrooms long enough to have a real impact on their students, colleagues, and school.

While I have no direct research on innovative teachers (would love for one of my students present or future to pick that up!), I am using some of my own experiences, as well as the work on motivation and rationality.

1. Let them innovate. Create a space that teachers who seek to try new ideas can innovate without looking over their shoulders. One such example is the classroom structure one fourth grade teacher created in Bellevue NE. It has to be ok for some classrooms to look and be different as long as learning happens and they meet standards.

2. Challenge teachers. Innovative teachers need to be challenged. They need feedback and honest conversation about what they accomplished. Yes, we need to celebrate their creativity, but we also have to provide tough questions and room to discuss their concerns. Sometimes we celebrate our innovative teachers and miss the fact that they may be less sure of what they are doing than they let on. Moreover, innovative teachers sometimes rush from one innovation to the next without firm results. They need the challenge to do better to think about evidence for learning this challenge will keep them going and improving on existing practice. The challenge needs to be in the format of a low-stakes critical friend group.

3. Let them learn. Innovative teachers seek out professional development. Support their efforts to get the right PD by making sure they have control over their PLN. It can be more formal such as graduate degrees, and conferences or less formal in EdCamps, and Twitter.

If we want to keep innovative teachers in the classroom for a while longer (they will not and should not stay forever) we need to act and provide them space, feedback, and opportunity.

No comments: