Becoming a Better Teacher

elephant 2One of the many reasons I LOVE my job as a Teacher is the endless opportunities it presents to enrich the lives of young people.

Like most teachers I know, I do not treat this lightly.  Kids are the most precious part of any parent’s life and we are entrusted to do the best by them, and for them, in every single interaction.  And so we should.

The mission statement of our school is to enable quality learning every day, in every experience, for every learner for life.  No mean feat!

The key words being quality and every. The task of ensuring we teachers are at our best every day, in every experience for every student is a challenge for sure, but one we must tackle with courage, determination, imagination and some humility.  Accepting we are not perfect, that we will have bad lessons, days, or even weeks is an important part of our emotional approach to this wonderful profession.

But ask yourself; are you constantly looking to improve? Do you actively pursue and seek out new ideas? Are you willing to take risks with your teaching, just as you ask your students to take with their learning?

Only you can answer these questions.  If you answer in the affirmative then you are no doubt pursuing excellence and “becoming” a better teacher.  I never get tired of saying that I thought I became a Teacher when I graduated from university with my teaching degree, I understand now that I am, and will always be, “becoming” a Teacher.

There is a lot of buzz these days about life-long learning, both encouraging this in our students and also modelling this as teachers.  Without any hard data I would guess there are a lot of teachers out there who could be described as ‘coasting’.  Comfortable in their basic ability and happy to roll out programs and practices year to year. The slightly self-satisfied, “If it’s not broken, why fix it?” policy.  If they are honest they would admit this, and I know for sure the students in their class(es) would certainly sense this.

The road to becoming a great teacher is dotted with many tempting parking places.

What we do have evidence of is that teachers tend to improve fairly rapidly in their initial two years of teaching (Rivkin, Hanushek & Kain 2005).

Why is this?

The reason for this, as suggested by Dylan Wiliam, is that the environment of teaching is so difficult, you are forced to improve. You get better because the environment is making you improve.

I actually remember this feeling. The Initial years of teaching are what we may call ‘a steep learning curve’.  Making lots of mistakes, but also learning a lot in the process.

But what happens after we achieve basic mastery of the ‘difficult teaching environment?’

Well the research suggests that all teachers slow and most teachers stop making any significant improvements to their practice after their first 4 years of teaching.

In simple terms, they steer into one of those parking spaces and settle in for the next 40 years.

I wonder why so many are willing to accept this. I do not have the answer.

I know some common complaints may be that professional learning or development is boring, not relevant, fails to achieve a sustained impact on practice etc etc.

I do not subscribe to these types of complaints.  These are to suggest that improving your practice as a teacher is someone else’s responsibility.  It’s not.  It’s yours. And you owe it to all those faces staring back at you on a daily basis to be your best, or at the very least in search of your best.

Recently, I have been handed the privilege to present to other #PhysEd professionals at the 2013 ACHPER International conference here in Melbourne, Australia.

Making PE Fizz Workshop Blurb

I am both excited and humbled by this opportunity to share ideas and to explore some of what I am currently doing in my classroom as well as analysing some of the things I have shared on the pages of makingpefizz.com.  I have no doubt this will be wonderful learning opportunity for me.

While I plan to include practical everyday strategies that teachers can take away and use immediately, I am even more interested in tapping into how THEY can take ownership of their own professional learning via observing and sharing with colleagues, using social media and pro-active professional learning networks like peplc.net.  It is important to me that teachers attending realise the potential that THEY have to make a difference and that they ‘keep on keeping on’ long after my little workshop concludes.

One thing I know is that I’m certainly still becoming a teacher and don’t have all the answers.

What I’d like to know is, what things have you learnt that changed your teaching? What kinds of professional learning have made an impact on you?

As I plan to offer advice to a group of teachers of various experience, what advice would you offer me?

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3 thoughts on “Becoming a Better Teacher

  1. Hi Ross,

    Love your latest post and its relevance to our current Professional Learnibg Programme.

    I would love to set this latest post as our assigned reading task this week. How do you feel about that?

    Your Post has such a significant message and I’d love to unpack it further with our staff during our PL sessions.

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