Teachers Aren’t Meant to be Islands
The ISTE 13 conference in San Antonio is now over. I wasn’t able to attend this year, although I was amazed with the amount of digital sharing that occured during the conference. I was able to follow the #iste13 hashtag which provided me with links that were directly associated with conference keynotes, slides, sessions, speaker notes, videos, pictures and a multitude of useful information. This type of generous sharing should happen in education more frequently.
I’m now reflecting on how schools and teachers share resources with each other. I’ve experienced sharing through social media and have a variety of experiences sharing ideas/resources in schools. When comparing schools and social media PLNs, I find differences in the volume and quality of sharing that occurs. I’ve observed teachers that actively share resources with their PLN through social media, but not so much in their school and vice versa. There may be reasons behind this that are directly associated with how many people are in your PLN compared to the amount of staff in your school. Regardless, the amount of sharing within a school truly depends on the culture. Some teachers are very private with their resources and ideas, while others will freely handout their resources to anyone who asks. I believe the reasoning can be partially tracked down to who completes the work and a fear that their resource wouldn’t be used correctly.
Current teacher evaluation systems that include VAM may also play a role. VAM scores seem to be making a splash and are unintentionally causing teacher competition. One byproduct of competition is often isolation, which causes a decrease in sharing as teachers are numerically pinned against each other. This culture negatively impacts teachers, students and the community. I believe teachers aren’t meant to work in isolation. One of my newest PLN members, Victoria Olson said, “…we are not intended to be islands, yet many of us are.” I believe that quote is spot on and applies to educators everywhere.
How do education leaders encourage sharing and collaboration?
I believe every staff member has something that they can share, regardless of their position in a school. Sharing often brings opportunities to innovate as one idea is built upon another. Sharing also empowers teachers to find additional resources and possible teaching strategies that may help their class. This sharing may strengthen the trust between teachers and school teams. It may also encourage teachers to begin to direct their own learning, as Dean Shareski says in his post. Teacher and administration sharing sessions can benefit many stakeholders and can lead to brainstorming opportunities. This is not a top-down approach and isn’t necessarily consistently embraced, but it can yield positive results. Administrators should encourage sharing with colleagues (like this) and incorporate staff sharing moments during scheduled meetings. Sharing shouldn’t be seen as being narcissistic. George Couros expands on this idea in his post. Sharing your ideas/strengths also validates that we’re all learners attempting to improve our practice. Having a dialogue about the sharing is essential in the process and may improve teaching practices. No matter who you are, or what experience you have, there’s always a way to become better at your craft. Starting off the school year by sharing ideas/resources can help build a solid foundation that encourages additional sharing. What should be shared? This depends on the school and leadership. Here’s a rough idea list:
- Education Journals
- Education related books
- Experiences over the summer
- RSS feeds
I have respect for administrators that share what they’ve learned when they were teachers. I believe that sharing these experiences and resources have potential to build a positive rapport between administrators and teachers. This modeling may help motivate others to share as well. When sharing becomes the norm, administrators can encourage teachers to participate and even lead professional development sessions with their staff. This type of professional development has many benefits.
How do you promote collaboration and sharing with your staff?