I was at an ice hockey game recently and had to endure a vocal fan sitting nearby who was shouting encouragement/disparagement. Throughout. The. Entire. Game.
His comments were often funny and insightful. But, often they were not.
Either way, he shouted them out for all of us in his section to hear.
This experience made me think about my blog and how, like my fellow hockey fan, I regularly “shout out” new ideas and best teaching practices. And, like my fellow fan, I don’t really consider the wants or needs of my audience. I just write and write. To be fair, I don’t go to my staff lounge and put my laptop into the faces of my colleagues. If no one wants to read my thoughts, they are not obliged to click the link. Nevertheless, I am not an expert and have little in the way of credentials (beyond what any teacher possesses). Am I trying to offer help? Am I just tooting my own horn?
What makes my thoughts special enough to share?
I guess what I am getting at is this: Is there value in average teachers sharing their ideas or experiences?
Here is my belief: I will not advocate putting a laptop in front of a peer during their lunch break, but I will enthusiastically support the general concept of non-experts sharing.
Allow me to back this up with facts. According to Building School-Based Teacher Learning Communities by Milbrey W. McLaughlin and Joan E. Talbert, teachers learn best when they reflect on their practice and learn from each other. Furthermore, teachers who share together as a learning community have a “positive statistical effect on student achievement gains”.
Okay, so working with your colleagues is important. But, wouldn’t you learn more if you focused instead on the ideas and experiences of renowned education experts? Let’s turn to an expert for her thoughts on this: Dr. Ann Lieberman, in the Laureate Education video Characteristics of Effective Professional Development, suggests that schools who bring in an expert to talk to their staff are not going to make a significant difference in their school unless they also provide opportunities for their teachers to think about the new ideas, opportunities to “bridge” the new ideas into the classroom, and opportunities for their teachers to work together.
Clearly, experts + average teachers is more powerful than experts alone.
This also means that an average teacher alone is not enough. For the growth of our own practice and the growth of our students, we need to “deprivatize”. Outside experts are a great source of new ideas. But, we need to meet with our immediate colleagues to talk about how best to implement ideas in the unique teaching environments we work in and the unique student populations we work with.
And somewhere in the middle, there is an average teacher like you and me who has learned something or tried something who might contribute some value to you and your colleagues. If you like, click the link to their site and check out their thoughts. Unlike the color commentary produced by a fellow fan that I was forced to endure at that hockey game, you are not obliged to read more than you feel you need.
And I think that is cool.
I hope you are cool with it too. Happy 2019!