What makes a great teacher? There are certainly some simple answers to this question such as: a great teacher connects with kids, a great teacher knows how to design engaging lessons, a great teacher knows how to use assessment to guide instruction, a great teacher has good classroom management, etc. etc. etc. While all of these are essential attributes of a good teacher, to be truly great, an educator has to be the lead learner of the classroom.
Today, I had the opportunity to participate in Writing Workshop training with our Beechwood teachers. After spending much time on this school wide initiative, I can honestly say that I am extremely proud of the expertise and intellectual way that our teachers approach writing instruction. We often give tours of the campus for educators across and outside of our District, so obviously we have reached a certain level of success. That being said, my very favorite quote from a teacher today was this: "I've been studying this for 4 years now, and I still have so much to learn." This is music to my ears. In my role as principal, I don't ever want the staff to feel like "we have arrived..." I love the idea that as we get better and better at our teaching practices, we see more and more ways that we can improve. Isn't this the kind of mindset we want from our educators? I am so happy that my personal children are learning from educators who continue to learn. This is one of the greatest attributes of the Beechwood staff.
So how does a principal foster a teaching culture that values professional development and personal learning?
- Read, read, read (and share your own new learnings).
- Use Twitter to forward relevant articles and ideas to specific teacher teams.
- Always participate in professional development with teachers. If teachers need to learn it, then so does the principal.
- Get into classrooms to practice new learning (This is new for me this year and so powerful).
- Attend at least one administrative conference per year so that teachers see the principal is still honing his/her own craft. Implement new learning right away!
- Reinforce risk taking at staff meetings.
- Give feedback that encourages a growth mindset. I love the SeeSaw App for sending shout-outs to individual teachers. The app allows a teacher to set up student portfolios for a class for free. I simply set up the teaching staff like a class. (This also models a strategy that teachers might use in their own classrooms.)
- Be vulnerable and share when things aren't going well. How a leader responds to a challenge sets the tone for others!