The more time I spend in education the more I come to realize that context is everything. It was this post by Cale Birk that challenged my preconceived notions and got me thinking about my own environment.
Last summer I read a few posts by Bill Ferriter about flipping faculty meetings. I was really intrigued with the idea. It seemed cutting edge and in my mind if we could spend more time learning together as a whole staff it would be better for our school. For the first few staff meetings this year I did change things. I put the Professional Learning pieces at the beginning of our meetings and the discussion items at the end. It was fine, but then an interesting thing happened. People began clamoring for more talk time. I began to hear comments about not talking things through “like we used to”.
I forgot about context. I started trying to implement ideas without thinking about the cultural norms of our school.
I am still relatively new to the school (my second year) and Giant’s Head has a long history of innovation and professional learning. It came about through rigorous discussion, often in staff meetings. In order to keep this school moving forward, I needed to provide time to talk things through. Even talking about the structure of school, people make relevant connections to professional learning – it’s cultural. By taking away talk time in our staff meetings, I actually was impeding learning…I needed to provide time to talk about issues that are relevant to the context of our school.
In our last two meetings, we have focused almost completely on discussion items and they have arguably been our two best meetings all year. By having a forum to talk about things, teachers are making connections and in many ways clarifying the vision and path the school is going to continue on. We are looking to pursue some really innovative practices that will allow us to build long-term structures for ongoing professional inquiry (but that’s another post :-))
Being connected to Social Media I am inundated with great ideas. There are so many great things happening in the field. I have to watch my competitive nature (or ego) and not feel the pressure to continually implement every great idea I am exposed to. As an educator I need to be current and aware of great innovative practices, but the more I reflect the more I realize it is even more important to understand how those practices can be tweaked to fit our context. Better yet, gauge the innovation with a critical eye and decide whether they fit the context at all.