Renier sat there describing his last week and the journey he had taken in preparation for leading our weekly team meeting…
“I wondered what ‘Best Practice’ really meant. So I did some research and found out that it means a ‘wide range of individual activities, policies, and programmatic approaches to achieve positive changes in student attitudes or academic behaviors’. I connected this to what we have been reflecting on in swimming with our students. I came up with some cool ideas.”
He then went over how he had used his ‘inquiry’ into best practice to drive an activity on the students’ fears related to swimming during a lesson. He shared how the students were engaged and taking full ownership of their own learning. He talked about how he had used the data the students gave to shape his teaching of the content. And how, in addressing the students’ fears, they were motivated to set goals and reach them. It was apparent – the kids were excited and so was Renier.
Isn’t that what good education, what an authentic IB and PYP, is all about? Engaged inquiry. Goal setting. Acknowledging and addressing barriers to learning. Focusing on best practice. Reflecting. Thinking. Researching. And all of that was just by the instructor.
Good education in indeed.
How it happened?
At each staff meeting we take turns as a PE department to share a best practice which relates to teaching and pedagogy, one that we can implement in our classrooms immediately. At first it was a struggle getting people to buy in, to want to take time out of their busy schedules to come up with something useful for the team. There were plenty of weeks where the response was, “Umm. Was I supposed to do that this week? Oops. I forgot.”
It would have been very easy to accept defeat and accomplish what most meetings accomplish… nothing. But I stuck it out and continued to encourage them each week.
Then one week someone brought in a video they found on YouTube. The previous week I had mentioned that one of our team members uses videos effectively when she is covering content which she is not strong in herself. She showed us a video, explained how it was useful, and explained how it fit with our teaching standards.
“Where did that come from!?!”, I thought.
The constant encouragement had apparently started to take root. Our next few meetings showed that increase in enthusiasm and effort form the team. They weren’t simply looking at what was useful for their own teaching but they then began seeing how they could help others grow. Most of the practices that were being shared were things already in place in their teaching. They were reflecting and looking at their own strengths and how those strengths could benefit other members of their team.
Once you have people believing that they have something worthwhile to bring to the table, those people are much more comfortable and confident in taking risks. “Adult Risks” in my experience are usually related to a fear of failing in front of their peers. We can bungee jump off bridges, and sky dive out of airplanes, but ask someone to share their thoughts and expertise with their colleagues??? No dice.
In order to take the sting out of sharing, we need to take the fear out of failure, in our meetings as well as our classrooms. Getting teachers and students to take risks happens slow and it happens in an environment where people feel safe. In the end, it is only when we trust those who set up the bungee or who put together the parachute that we feel comfortable enough to throw ourselves into the air of great unknown.