I was struck by a conversation I was involved in with our leadership program participants last week. We began to reminisce about the teachers who had taught us and some of the practices that were considered the “norm” in those days! Each of us could recount many examples of those teachers who made such a positive difference in our lives but we could all also relate practices that would be considered abusive in today’s world. Corporal punishment, throwing chalk, shoes or anything else to get one’s attention, kneeling on rocks or simply being called out and belittled are practices that needed to be changed! And thank goodness, they have changed!
Unfortunately, we’ve linked the word change to everything in regards to education reform. We have come to accept the notion that in order to improve education we must change this or change that. Consequently, the use of the term change in education, which is difficult in any regard, comes with a heightened negative connotation and causes many educators to fear and resist the notion. Common sense and strong research literature drives why we needed to change the “chalk throwing” exercise, but what about other teaching practices.
When one of the teachers in our cohort mentioned the term “evolving practice”, I was struck at the how much more positive it was compared to “changing practice.” It may seem simplistic, but I believe it will assist us as we continue to transform education. Evolving practice can be categorized as:
- Accepting our role as professionals
- Being reflective on our own practice and responsive to the needs of our students
- “Honing our craft”
- Affirming what we do well and revising what we don’t
- Internal not external
- Accepting our role as learners not just teachers
Over the past decade we’ve made some necessary changes that support educational reform. There are still some changes that need to occur from a school, system and societal point of view for education to be truly transformed. However, teaching practice must evolve to lead that transformation. The evolution of teaching practice requires a learning paradigm. We can no longer survive on only the art of teaching (relationships) but must fully accept the science component of teaching. Just the advances in brain research alone, should force us to teach differently. The evolution of teaching requires a concentration on reflection. We should no longer do what we’ve always done, but instead seek to employ more effective and efficient pedagogy. Our reflection allows for proactive thought rather than reactive action. And finally, evolving practice reminds us that although assumed competent, we must strive for far more than this minimum. We must evolve to demonstrate the highest level of professionalism and provide teaching practice that ALL students deserve.