Sunday, August 2, 2009

Building Capacity from Within (Part 5) - More Professional Habitudes

Habitude: Courage
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Continuing the previous conversation about Habits and Attitudes around Professional Development, based on Angela Maier's book, Habitudes, I thought that "Courage" was also very important.

When I visit teachers' classrooms, I'm always looking for innovation. I want to see practices that work and dynamic teaching that has a great impact on students and their learning. In turn, I share those practices with other teachers in workshops or when I work with teachers when curriculum mapping, in curriculum design, or in individualized coaching sessions.

I'm never on a "gotcha" mission. I'm always looking for ways to improve upon what we already do as instructors--whether our students are kids or adults. I don't want to ever give the impression that I'm looking for what is wrong--because I'm not. But, I do have to say that I've worked with teachers that feel that I am "spying" or "trying to catch them doing something ineffective" far more often than I would like. This distrust could stem from past ineffective support, to union issues, or the feeling that what they do has worked for years, and who am I to sweep in and offer suggestions for improvement?

What it boils down to, basically, is comfort. Some teacher's are comfortable only within a narrow zone, and other's are comfortable in a wide variety of scenarios and situations.

What does it take to break out of that comfort zone?

It takes courage.

That word always brings up an image of the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz, and I think it's a great metaphor. What kind of lions are lying dormant in our schools? Now, I'm not saying that those with a narrow comfort zone are cowards, by any means, but I am saying that breaking out of that mold takes just one small moment of risk-taking behaviors that a teacher might not have otherwise tried.

So, as far as professional development is concerned, this could happen in two ways. First, by identifying the strengths that a particular teacher or staff might have, you develop the risk taking behaviors in individuals by lifting them up when they do something well. Then, secondly, you develop the risk-taking behaviors by having that person develop professional development for the district to motivate other teachers to take the same risks. The benefit is sustainability, trust, expansion of comfort zones, and ultimately, impact on students' learning.

Sometimes a little discomfort, a little disruption, and a little cliff-jumping has a huge impact.

Nothing reframes our capabilities better than discovering that we CAN do something that we didn't think we could.


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