If I were to go back to being a classroom teacher, I think I would be one of the best teachers ever…not because I think so highly of myself, but because as a principal, I get to see the best practices in classrooms every day. I could take the best from each teacher I’ve seen and put them together to be a Super Teacher with effective strategies for everything!

As the instructional leader of the building, I feel it is my duty to share with my staff the great instructional practices I see in our building. We have excellent teachers doing amazing things each day. During their grade level/PLC meetings they collaborate and share with each other, but sometimes I think they don’t realize how much they really have to share with each other. Or they don’t realize that some of the great things they do are obvious to them and assume everyone is already doing them. So, how can you get your teachers to learn from each other? How can you get everyone to implement effective strategies that are already great for learning for students in your building?

One way is to have teachers observe others. This is difficult to get started, because teachers do not want to seem like evaluators or feel like they are imposing on each other. I encourage my staff to observe others to gain ideas and many have done so as we have gone school-wide with our literacy framework of Daily 5/Cafe. In addition we require our probationary teachers to observe their mentors twice a year (and mentors to observe their mentees twice a year). I have recently read how leaders like Shira Leibowitz are having their teachers observing each other by having learning walks together as a team.

An even easier method, that doesn’t require classroom coverage or extra time on the teachers’ part is in your weekly memos. I have previously posted about how I utilize my staff blog to past a Monday Memo and Friday Focus post each week. I originally learned about a weekly memo from Todd Whitaker as a way to share great practices with staff. When you share a practice with staff in a memo, it is just the beginning of a learning process. Good teaching in the classroom follows a whole-part-whole approach, as does my practice of sharing great instructional practices with teachers. When I highlight great instructional strategies in my Monday Memo each week, it is the “whole part” introduction to all staff. The next step is getting into classrooms for walkthroughs…you wouldn’t believe how many people I see trying the strategies that I mention in my Monday Memos. When I see this, I praise the teachers for their efforts and for the student learning I see as a result of it. I then follow up with the “whole part” again in a memo after a while again highlighting a particular practice, why it’s effective and thanking staff for being willing to try new things.
I’d love to hear how other principals encourage teachers to try new effective strategies that their colleagues are already successful with? How do you encourage your staff to learn from each other?


2 Comments

Melanie Meehan · March 18, 2012 at 1:38 pm

We shared this with our principal and she loved it. Teachers can learn so much from each other. I have kept some of the other posts you referenced in this one as part of my internship portfolio. Thank you for all that you share!

Tia · March 19, 2012 at 4:37 am

Hi Jessica,

You know, every time I read your blog I am inspired by what I read. Thank you!

To encourage staff to learn from one another, there are a number of things I have done in the past. This year is very different because we have had a year of job action, which has meant very little communication with the teachers, unfortunately. There have still been some informal sharing though – more talking with teachers one-on-one about particular strategies other teachers may be using. Prior to this year though, I have been a part of:
– having teachers share at staff meetings
– providing teachers with collaboration time to share with one another – usually using a school goal as a focus
– sharing during primary/intermediate meetings
– providing time for teachers to observe one another – in our school, and in other schools.

I wanted to start a blog for teacher – well, I did, but because of job action, I had to put it on hold. As part of the blog, I was going to start a wiki entitled, something like, “Caught you doing something great…” Because it would be a wiki, anyone could add things other teachers are doing. I was also planning to add things that I observed – even photos of projects completed by students. Well, that was the plan. It will have to wait until next year though.

I did start a blog called our school Success blog for parents though – where we focus on the wonderful things that are happening each day at our school.

Thanks for the inspiration, Jessica!

Tia

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