Learning and reflecting on practice as a teacher and leader
Lieberman and Friedrich write “teacher-leaders constantly seek to broaden their knowledge base. They read widely and stay informed of new research and professional literature related to the field. They reflect on their teaching and on the work that they do with their peers. They constantly seek to improve their teaching and leadership practice. They emphasize they do not have all the answers and often turn to others.”
In my research, I noticed these teachers being reflective practitioners and leaders throughout and turning to others for further insight and support. Meenoo talked in our interview about how she values this process of learning and reflecting and sharing among her colleagues. She said that the points of inquiry – where there are new questions and new answers – are what interest her.
Chad told me that he began to blog with others at Coop Catalyst when he was new at his school because:
I was trying to figure out how I was going to be a more democratic teacher and have a more joyful classroom and blogging to a certain extent was an act of writing my self into existence as the teacher I’d like to be.
Bud, like Chad, also referred to his blogging/writing starting when he was trying to figure out something in his classroom for his students. He said that he is still doing that too, ie. consciously “thinking about stuff” in front of others where there is opportunity for response and dialogue around these ideas and questions too.
Lacy talked about the public nature of the work surfacing both the “hard parts of teaching and the hard parts of writing.” During the course of this study she worked hard with her colleagues to surface inquiry about both writing and teaching through facilitating a small group to draft, respond, and eventually to publish their individual, and collective, converations about their work on the NWP Digital Is website (see: Digital Is (K)not).
About the (k)not they write:
If Digital Is, what is digital (k)not? Is digital work new and innovative or just the same ole hogwash, only stored in digital clouds? What are those (k)nots and tangles that tie us up and hold things together? … This wondering—this thinking about the cultural work that digital stories do—surrounds the work of the Urban Sites group of the UNC Charlotte Writing Project. This wondering complicates and supports our teaching—this wondering sustains our community—this wondering pulls us into reflection, inquiry, and action.
Taking on the opportunity of a shared writing prompt to reflect on her learning, writing and teaching, Meenoo posted this on #engchat:
I write to remember and to forget, to understand and explore and to play with ideas roaming my mind. I write because sometimes it is easier to speak to a page than a person. I write even though it is not easy at times.
I write because as a teacher of writing, I want to experience the struggle, anxiety and pain of having to produce writing on demand. I want to remember the experience of feeling less-than-confident about what you’ve produced often at the request and demand of others.
Over the past few years, my writing has become more public. This was not a natural evolution in my identity as a writer. Even now, I have fears and hesitations about sharing my experiences as teacher and learner with the larger world. Nonetheless, I find value in the feedback, the continuing conversations around a topic. My ideas gets better when they are shared with others. This is why I write.
Occupy Wall Street also was a topic of shared inquiry for some during this study. Situated in New York City, Paul and his students took the lead, along with colleagues around the country, in learning more about it as part of a larger “Local Knowledge/Global Attitude” curriculum. Again, using the forum of Teachers Teaching Teachers to engage colleagues across the country, Paul inviting Chad along with many others to talk about what was being learned from OWS that was important for teachers and learners (see: Learning from Occupy Wall Street). At the same time, a “mission” in Youth Voices for students and colleagues was created to further support collaborative and partcipatory inquiry for those who were interested (see: Occupy Youth Voices).