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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Teaching Teachers

How do you teach someone whose job it is to teach others? How do you instruct the instructor in a way that promotes growth and incites excitement among educators? How do you evoke urgency in professional development?

A colleague of mine had always done an activity in his class called "Teach the Teacher." He would allow each student in his class (junior/intermediate) an opportunity to choose a skill or talent they had and teach it to him. He would try to learn the skill and then demonstrate it in front of the class. The students loved the chance to be the teacher and control the focus of the activity. Plus, he lowered his 'guard' to show a person who is willing to learn and take risks. These are the kinds of things that we need in our classroom practice.

Teachers are inherently critical when being taught (as experts in the field). They are appalled by workshops delivered in a single-sense focus (i.e. auditory => listening to a speaker), since they are constantly be asked to incorporate differentiated techniques with multi-sensory approaches in their daily lessons. I've attended differentiated instruction workshops that were more of a sit and listen - instead of actually using DI to show the potential of a lesson format. To avoid these hypocritical types of situations, it is vital that presenters of workshops are using the latest and most effective techniques themselves to 'hook' teachers - just as we are attempting to hook students.

At the end of the day, teachers are academics who have chosen to teach as a career - and vocation. They are self-directed learners who crave knowledge in many different ways and are willing to invest a great amount of time and energy to hone their repertoire in the classroom. Give them respect in your workshops by providing a forum for their opinions. In my experience, most professional development comes from collegial discussions and experimenting in your practice - not initiatives delivered 'top-down.' We all want to do an effective job and then receive the recognition in some way of our prowess and victory. Whether this credit comes as an administrative 'thank you' card, a kind note from a parent, or a smile from a struggling student - it allows you to keep things in perspective in these times of change.

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