Friday, March 25, 2016

Changing School Culture -- for Teachers

How can school leaders create a culture of innovation, inspiration, and change? How can they help teachers see themselves as change agents – as vehicles, not receptacles; as speedboats, not anchored aircraft carriers? And how can teachers do this for themselves?

First, instead of bogging down every meeting with data discussions or tedious logistics related to the week’s coming events, or allowing a complaint-garden to bloom, school leaders can use email and social media to convey that important information to teachers and use the meeting time instead as a way for teachers to connect on real levels: set up discussion protocols for teachers to share their teaching ideas, solve problems together, or brainstorm ways to collaborate. We are always talking about having too little time; school leaders can help us make our time together more productive by being purposeful and innovative.

In addition, school leaders can implement an initiative like Genius Hour for teachers: supported time to work on a passion project, modeled after Google’s approach. Most teachers would feel empowered by this autonomy and trust. It is a creative leader who finds time for teachers to do something that inspires them simply for the reason that self-directed learning is key to engagement in the overall structure of school. Isn’t this what we always say about students and classrooms? It applies to teachers, too.

Ask teachers what they want and need for professional development. All the collective wisdom about PD points to the importance of teacher voice in selecting their own training and support methods. Help teachers identify goals within their profession and move them toward those goals. In other words, differentiate professional development the way we talk of differentiating classroom instruction so that every participant’s needs are met. In my building, we have been pushing for unconference-style PD where teachers arrive at the meeting with something they want to learn, and other teachers provide the instruction.

Establish a culture of innovation. Ask staff members to contribute ideas for improving the school environment, whether it’s school culture, scheduling, snacks, collaboration, the facility – and encourage collaboration among staff members to solve these problems. Once the educators and support personnel in the building feel the support and interest from their school leaders, they will be more likely to be inventive in their own problem-solving within their classrooms and building environments.

In short, creating the space for teacher agency is a key to empowering teachers and re-engaging those who have abdicated their enthusiasm. Effective managers can and do change school culture.

No comments:

Post a Comment