As teachers, we serve incredibly long apprenticeships. We enter school as 6 year old children and watch and learn from our grade 1 teacher. We learn to count, to read, and intentionally or not, we learn to teach.
We spend the next twelve years moving from classroom to classroom, teacher to teacher, learning all the time.
When we eventually become teachers, we are the sum total of the teachers who taught us. We take the good bits, vow not to repeat the bad bits, and all things considered, we should be better educators than the teachers who came before us.
Not only are we the total of the teachers who taught us, but the teachers who taught them, and the teachers who taught them and on and on backwards. For example, if each of your 10 teachers was the product of the 10 teachers that taught them, then you’ve gained the wisdom of 100 teachers.
If we project this dubious mathematics back through time, I’d suggest you’re the product of 1 Billion teachers or so!
In summary, you have the collected wisdom of all of the educators that came before you.
Unfortunately, this long apprenticeship is starting to fail us.
The pace of change in our classrooms today means that what worked for the teachers before us may not work for us.
My apprenticeship did not prepare me for a classroom in which every one of my students has access to the internet through not one, but two devices at any point in time. When I was serving my apprenticeship, this was the sum total of screens in the classroom.My apprenticeship certainly didn’t prepare me for a time when absolutely any information could be found by reaching into your pocket and asking “siri” about it. If you got lucky, you might have had a chance here.
I was tempted to put actual paper encyclopaedias here. But I guess I’m not that old.
So where am I going with this? Maybe our apprenticeship just got a whole lot longer.
To keep up with what it takes to be a teacher, we’re going to have to keep learning. An endless apprenticeship. But learning from where?
Go visit another classroom
Try your best to build a culture of classroom visits in your school. You can do that whether you’re the principal or just a regular teacher. The key is to visit with the purpose of learning. Don’t go to criticise, judge or appraise. Go to a person’s class to learn something new. If you do learn something, make sure you thank them for it!
Talk in your staffroom
Ask questions. About teaching. A simple, “how would you teach this?” gets a great conversation started. If you try something in your classroom and it works, make sure you share it with your fellow teachers.
Get onto twitter
If you’re reading this blog you’re probably already on twitter. But are you using it in the best possible way? Gather a large community of like minded followers and ask questions. Shout out to your professional learning community if you’re looking for a new tool or a website. You’ll be amazed by how quickly somebody will have a great answer for you. Don’t forget to share all the great tools you’ve found as well, people will thank you for it.
Learn from your students
Embracing the fact that your students know more about some things is a very freeing aspect of teaching today. Student asks you a question that you’re not sure of. Ask them to find the answer for you and report back. Interested in a new tech tool but not sure how to use it? Why not ask your students for help?
Don’t be scared to try new things
Your class will need to change over and over again in the coming years. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Sometimes they’ll work, sometimes they won’t. But the most risky thing of all is not trying anything new. In today’s society, if you’re not getting better, you’re definitely getting worse.
Good luck to all in your endless apprenticeship.