Thursday, July 29, 2010

Aretha said it best - "R E S P E C T"

Respecting teachers as professionals goes a long way in the journey to transform the classrooms that we are charged to bring into the “21st Century”.

CAM High School in Anita Iowa has the advantage and the disadvantage of being a small school, where $150,000 can outfit the whole building with Macbooks and I easily work with teachers individually.

However, in terms of early adopters in a faculty of 21, we have only a handful to lean on for internal capacity.

After two years with one-to-one computers we’ve seen an increasing energy from staff for the evolving technologies and Web 2.0 applications. What started with the iLife Suite has broadened into many different possibilities.

We all know change is not easy and change does not always come about quickly. What I have found and believe is that mandates, deadlines and requirements placed on teachers can yield results, but also require another round of them once an administrative imposed time frame expires. There are negative feelings and a feeling of top-down pressure that pushes teachers to find the reasons why NOT to change. They don’t own the process, the administration does.

To get teacher buy in they must champion the cause themselves and time must be given to them to collaborate and develop strategies that work for their classrooms. I have rarely been disappointed in the work our teachers do when brought together to share their learning. It immediately sparks conversation and exploration into new areas for each individual teacher.

Our teachers have asked for things, and for opportunities to develop their skills. When we deliver on their wishes you see a step forward in the use and infusion of that strategy or technology into their classrooms. When we don’t, we stagnate or take steps backwards.

Now in year three of our initiative we will give them more opportunities to get together in person AND online. I will show them how to develop a PLN or PLC that may or may not include teachers and staff from within the building.

I predict that this move will motivate teachers as it has motivated my learning by the flood of current, useful and timely materials by them everyday. The respect I get online, in my network is incredible and that same respect will fuel my teachers as it has fueled and inspired my growth.

Will it happen for each teacher and the same time? Absolutely not. So imposing a requirement about how, where and when they should develop their PLN is defeating the purpose of the individual network.

Working WITH them, giving them opportunities to build our internal capacity through external contacts will move small groups at first and identify the few that may be reluctant. Then implementing strategies for those few will not patronize or insult the larger group that have made the change and keep them energized.

Respect your staff as professionals and let the early doubtful comments bounce off. If you keep working with them most will join you in the journey of discovery that happens when diving into a PLN.

That is the support that will assist them the most in moving their classroom into the “21st Century”.