Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

The Stigma of Sharing

No one would be interested. It's not good enough...  

As educators, one of our greatest challenges is establishing a safe and supportive classroom environment, one that provides our students with the skills and confidence that is necessary to take the "risk" of sharing their learning with their peers. In a previous post, I commented that we can't ask our students to do something that we aren't willing to do ourselves. We ask them to recite a poem, to solve a challenging math equation, to run an extra lap. And yet do teachers lack the confidence and support to do the same? And even more unsettling, do some face criticism from their peers when they do take the "leap" of sharing their ideas beyond the walls of their classroom?

As department leader of Learning Partners, I spent a good portion of my time encouraging and reassuring teachers that their ideas are indeed "good enough". With the support of our department team members and our Administration, it has been a gradual process of building a climate of trust and openness, where teachers feel valued and supported to take the risk of opening their classroom doors. At Sullivan Heights Secondary, teachers are able to share their lessons and activities via a "Collaboration Calendar". As well, we are now in our third year of "Teacher Drop In". As such, I've been fortunate to visit many of my colleagues' classrooms. As in all schools, there is amazing, imaginative, innovative teaching and learning happening. And yet quite often when I ask a teacher if they would be willing to contribute by adding their lesson to the shared calendar, they typically respond with, "Well, it's really not that interesting..." or "It's actually not very good."

Similarly, as I helped to coordinate the Ignite presentations for the Surrey School district's "Engaging the Digital Learner" series, one of the biggest challenges is finding teachers who are willing to share with their colleagues. Is this an admirable modesty, a lack of confidence, a fear of judgement by ones' peers, or a combination of all of these? And is this unique to the teaching profession? Why is it perceived by some as immodest, even inappropriate, when teachers share their ideas?

I would argue that in the same way that we support our students to take risks and to share their learning, we must be willing to support and encourage our colleagues do the same. We wouldn't dream of ridiculing a student who takes the step of standing up in front of their peers to sing a song at an assembly, or who posts a video that they have created. We encourage this. We recognize it as an important skill, a milestone, a celebration of learning.

Are teachers obligated to share their learning with colleagues? No. But should they be supported to do so? Absolutely.

       

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