Saturday, September 13, 2014

Five Year Plan

The question of the day for the Reflective Teacher Challenge is, "How do you envision your teaching changing over the next five years?" This is one of the questions that compels me to come up with a more precise answer than simply saying, "I will be a better teacher".  A step in the right direction would be able in five years to claim the title of "teacher-leader", to be a stronger teacher leader. A bit more precise, if unclear. 
Indulge me as I write my way into clarifying what I mean by being a stronger teacher leader. 
I want to lead, to be one of those people who are at the forefront of implementing new strategies, new tools. However, as strong (Effective? Is that the word I'm want?) leader, I wouldn't be suckered into trying something new for the sake of being an early adopter, as sexy as that sounds. I will have developed a strategy, a set of questions I can use to figure out if I'm being deluded by bells and whistles, or if a tool actually improves learning. Does the new tech enhance learning? Will the new group-work scheme increase opportunities to learn?  An effective teacher leader can tell if a new tool or way of thinking merely appears to be "innovative" or a "game changer". Transformative doesn't necessarily mean embracing "new" for the sake of "new".  
I want to be someone who is open to trying to things. I want to be fresh in my approach. At the same time, I want to be wise enough to figure out if I'm being seduced, drawn to shiny objects rather than practices that actually make a positive difference. The changes I make won't be cosmetic or trendy. 
I say all this because I'm in the midst of making pretty big shifts in the way I teach. I'm using more digital tools than ever before. I'm moving away from lecture to more of an experiential approach. I'm moving away from prescriptive tasks, textbook lessons and projects toward more inquiry based, student-centered writing situations. It's been exciting. Feedback and assessments are positive. 
At the same time, I admit that my attraction to using social media and digital tools is about the flash and fun. And the move away from lecture to more collaborative work, from the "sage-on-the-stage" approach to "guide-on-the-side" coaching approach, has everything to do with how engaged students are, how much joy it looks like they are experiencing. The question that persists is, are these strategies - technological, pedagogical, and andragogical - making learning better? Do these approached enhance instruction, or do they just look and feel good? And how can I tell? 

In five years, I hope I am increasingly reflective and intentional with my teaching practice. I admit - this sounds just as vague as my earlier iteration, just as packed, Yet the act of writing about my intentions helps me unpack the layers of meaning embedded in my desire to be an "effective teacher leader". And writing about it, as I'm doing now and throughout this blog challenge, is a concrete practice i can use to keep on reflecting, to keep on asking these important questions.