As we contemplate the improvement of our craft to benefit the children we teach, it can be useful to reflect on the language we use to describe the journey. Recently, I began to notice how often I read the term or use the term “school change” and began to think about a needed shift in language.
In a culture where all professionals are committed to the learning of their students, every teacher uses the knowledge they have to provide the most effective teaching they can. Every teacher is doing what he understands. So I began to think, the goal is not to change, but to grow. Nothing we do as teachers is wrong. Our teaching actions represent our best understandings at a particular point in time. Instead of spending time feeling badly, we need to focus our efforts on growing and supporting the growth of all members of the school community.
In their book Learning Places, Fullan and St. Germain describe schools as “learning places” or places where learning thrives.
- Educators recognize that school improvement is complex.
- Teachers are supported to engage in ongoing critical inquiry.
- Educators have a shared purpose, a common base of knowledge and develop a common language.
- Working as a team to recognize problems and plan actions, educators engage in a variety of collaborative activities.
- Educators take shared responsibility for student learning.
- All members seek to expand their knowledge through professional reading, study groups, conferences, research, affiliation with universities, professional organizations, coaching sessions and professional development sessions.
- All members of the school community are invited to pool their knowledge and experiences to make informed decisions that best serve the school.
These critical elements should resonate with you as you think about your schools’ journey of growth. As you think about the culture of your particular school, contemplate the factors that will support a culture of teacher growth – one that honors everyone’s efforts, but also brings energy and passion to the goal of continued learning. In the words of Fullan and St. Germain, think about whether your school is a “learning place.”
Fullan, Michael and St. Germain, Clif. (2006). Learning Places: A Field Guide for Improving the Context of Schooling. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.