12 Comments

  1. George, this is another fantastic blog post, and I love how, behind all of the words, it shows a picture of the real you: an administrator that always wants the best for his students and will consistently support teachers to ensure that students always receive "the best" too. I think that you have a great list here of what all teachers need to become master teachers.

    When reading your blog post, the part that really jumped out at me was your first point about building trust and being in the classroom to support teachers as you build this trust. When I watch the administrators that I've worked with over the past 9 years, I know that you're often stretched in a million different directions and getting in the classroom can be a very difficult thing to do. As a teacher though, it's great to have this constant feedback and support from administrators, as just having you in the classroom when we get evaluated, makes the whole evaluation process that much more stressful.

    I think that master teachers needs support from colleagues (both online ones and in-person ones), administrators, and parents as they continue to develop their skills, and without a doubt, you provide this support and more to them. Through Twitter, thanks for providing this support to me too as I continue to develop my own teaching skills!

    Aviva

    • George,

      As a teacher since 1995, I really liked your post. I agree that it is important to provide support, but also to focus on strengths. As a teacher, I feel it is important to try to make a connection with a student and acknowledge his / her individual strengths.

      I am new to twitter and I look forward to future posts.

      Thanks,

      Mark Molloy

  2. Still loving the black theme, though I have been moving over to white with my beloved brown accents.

    In your remarks about 'trust' you allude to your efforts to become a familiar presence in your teacher's (and student's) classrooms. For an administrator I think that is critical. It builds mutual transparency and helps to dismantle the unnecessary privacy and territoriality of learning and teaching in our public schools. My immediate reaction was this word 'transparency’ but I abandoned as inexact.

    I imagine style or methodology varies from one master teacher to another; however, I like to think learning in an effective master teacher’s classroom is not cloistered nor is the teaching an individual enterprise. The open flexible classroom is not a phenomenon of technological change. It has a long history in education. Good teachers have always recognized the limitations of their classrooms. If students move outward for their learning, then it is also true that the world moves inward. Bad teachers are territorial. Like captains on a ship theirs is the last word and they expect their superiors to respect their immediate authority over their domain. This extends to the courtesies of access to the classroom. For some teachers, visitors of any sort are supplicants at the door and principals transgress propriety with unexpected visits. You can see the teacher visibly stumble and rapidly assess their classroom and its occupants for issues. Principals can enable this response by acknowledging territory.

    It is easy to remember the times an administrator or colleague stepped into my classroom, or a group working elsewhere to manage some breakdown in learning. There is the familiar mortification. You feel inadequate. Often your colleague will actually apologize for intervening. I have had colleagues and administrators apologize for mentoring my students in my absence. As an administrator I recall my own hesitancy to interrupt the flow of a lesson. It was almost as if I was some anthropologist avoiding cultural contamination; Star Trek’s ‘Prime Directive’ perhaps, intervention only in extremis. I think we can do better than this.

    Good teachers are collaborators. They collaborate in planning and they invite a team approach during learning. We acknowledge each other’s expertise but too often pay lip service to sharing responsibility for our student’s learning. Master teachers invite colleagues to learning. I recall meeting my current administrator in the hallway when I went to check on a group. He was perched on the table (did we have a rule about that?) guiding them through a thorny patch, helping them to focus. I felt the familiar twitch of angst. He was doing my job. The feeling of angst past quickly, he was doing his job: teaching. We are partners. Students in the classrooms of master teachers today need to have a sense that they have many teachers at their disposal and that depending on the need, one might be better than another. Master teachers do not impede the learning of others.

  3. George,

    It's tough to think of anything to add here between your awesome post and the wonderful comments so far. I would like to add that an environment where teachers become their best somehow provides opportunities for teachers to bounce ideas for professional growth off of their administrator or teacher team. Sometimes I have an idea that isn't quite formulated but with the help or brainstorming with others I can really grow the idea and myself to take on my own new learning experience that benefits my students. This teamwork takes time and staff meetings must include some collaborative opportunity time. A supportive environment where honesty prevails is also important. I appreciate candor from my administrator, especially when there is an issue with a student or parent. Together as a cohesive team we can brainstorm a solution or even a preventive approach to a potential problem. Sorry for the rambling..lots to think about with this topic!

  4. George, these seem like some wonderful characteristics for Administrators to demonstrate in helping educators in their support of learning. Acknowledging and supporting the role of educators as collaborating professionals seems to sync with the notion of developing capable, responsible learners.

    There is, however, a long history of top-down managing that schools (and those who work and learn in them) need to contend with. While one would hope that ALL school and district leaders are exemplary educators ("master teachers," using your term), and that they are prepared both philosophically and practically to provide the noted characteristics in support of learning in their school, we must acknowledge that this is not always the case, and that doing so might run contrary to other, competing institutional agendas. (Did you see Will Richardson's post today, the one with the Clay Shirky video/interview?)

    If, indeed, we are looking to support the learning of our future generations as creatiive, problem-solving, collaborative, responsible beings, then we need to support their educators in the same way. According them the responsibility, trust, environment, resources, time, and opportunities for collaborative discourse as professionals seems to be oh-so-necessary. Would that every educator (classroom, Admin, Senior Admin) approached their roles with more of a "How can I help?" mentality, rather than the more traditional, systemic top-down direction. You've got a great starting point list. We need more participants (learners, educators, principals, parents, on up) willing (and able, no easy challenge) to collaborate more actively to create the conditions for improved learning.

  5. Like Joan said, it's difficult to add anything that hasn't already been said, so I'll just emphasize some points.

    Trust is vital in any relationship. All that we are accomplishing with our PLNs all comes back to relationships. We are developing friendships and creating an environment where we can grow together. If we don't trust the person on the other side of the computer screen, or down the hall from your classroom, or the student that sits in front of your desk, then learning and collaborative growth will be difficult. When a teacher knows that their principal is interested in them, their growth, and how well the class is doing (not how bad), there is less fear and intimidation when the principal does stop in.

    A lot of teachers at my school over-plan when they know they'll be observed. For one, if you have to plan like that when your principal is coming, maybe you need to make some changes, but two, you should feel comfortable enough to know that your principal already trusts you and your teaching to go on with class like you normally would with out him/her in the classroom.

    In his efforts to allow us to connect at our school, our principal has set aside a day or so a month in which we get to meet with our grade-level team for a few hours (while subs cover our class) and just work together without any other distractions or restrictions. It works wonders.

    A master teacher is a master learner. We are never done learning. Life is too long and our world is too vast to give up learning. Sometimes the ruts we get stuck in are self-dug. Leaders, admin, principals, who ever, need to help each other get un-stuck. A big part of that is leading by example, sharing with others, and forming relationships.

    Another good one GC. Keep leading.

  6. This is what we teachers strive to do for our students. I have always believed that teachers are an administrator's student & should be treated accordingly. you have touched upon a few key ideas that are critical to creating a successful staff & school: administration presence, differentiated PD, & a safe professional learning environment. That would create quite an edutopia!

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