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?