Let’s face it, in nearly every case, the rule of human behavior is that we “do” what we “know”. Apply that rule to educators and what you have is applied practices with students based on the approaches used with these teachers in their youth. Or worse yet are the practices that administrators apply to them in current professional learning experiences. The focus; therefore, should be on what our educators and administrators currently “know” and “do”.
Unfortunately, many in education "know" whole group professional development in which they march in stride with their peers in spite of their varied background knowledge. They also “know” identical evaluation systems regardless of their professional growth needs. The list of common, generic practices in education is unfortunately a lengthy one. In many cases, we are creating practitioners who treat groups of learners as single entities, as that is how they are being treated.
As the district and building leaders, we must help educators to embrace varied ways to learn and assess based upon needs of the individual learner. School and district leaders must differentiate professional development days by providing choice and voice in ways educators can improve their personal practice. Administrators can also vary their evaluation approaches and goal setting by differentiating for individual teachers. In doing so, they model that there is indeed more than one way for an individual to attain and demonstrate proficiency in their skills and practices. Ultimately, if we want our students empowered to “do” things differently to achieve proficiency, we must ensure our educators “know” the power of individualized approaches in their own learning and achievement.
By being bold and courageous enough to guarantee personalized approaches between administrators and their teachers, the culture of a building can shift to students knowing the same! Bold and courageous teaching and learning will occur when the adults of a building share a vision of how their own learned is taking place. Our systems will evolve to look like blended learning environments, master/competency based credits, flex based classwork/scheduling, student goal setting/tracking and project-based units of instruction. These uncommon practices dedicated to mastering skills will cause a shift in paradigms for students and adults.
We cannot change behaviors in education without changing what we all know. To do better by students and allow them to be successful through personalization we must know a new approach to supporting our educators.
If we believe all kids can learn and do so at different rates, we must honor this first by believing the same is true with the adults that work with them daily.
Special thanks to Schoolcraft Elementary Principal Matt Webster who co-wrote this piece