How do we supervise the facebook teacher?

This year I was fortunate enough to be involved in the Microsoft Partners in Learning Program (MSPIL) and collaborate with 19 fabulous schools across the nation. The opportunity of being involved in an extraordinary program has given my school a theoretical underpinning for wholistic change.

My last blog was about how I work. Now it’s time to look at middle management in a school and how they work. The traditional primary school will have supervisors looking after stages. I guess this model came about by the stage segmentation of NSW Syllabus documents. However, I can recall the same model since the start of my teaching career, and still replicated in many schools across the nation. This model is fine if it works well in a school. However, after I presented recently at Sydney University on the final day of an undergraduate teacher education course, I realised the teachers coming out of university are vastly different from when I left in the 80’s. They are connected via social media, know how to access information and can readily self-direct their own learning. Sounds familiar!

The changing nature of teachers has meant that we really need to look at the supervision practices in our schools that reflects a 21st century learning environment. We cannot get away from policies, practices and procedures that requires teachers to be supervised but it is how middle managers go about doing it that needs to change.

Teachers today need a supervisor that acts more like a mentor and coach rather than a line manager who will clinically goes through a checklist. Being part of the MSPIL program has enabled me to undertake the Microsoft Peer Coaching course. The emphasis of this course was about asking reflective questions, steering teachers to resources and professional readings, and to provide an environment where innovation and creativity are all valued, celebrated and shared. This doesn’t mean that we have a free for all. Rather, it’s about providing teachers with the opportunity to build their pedagogy that meets their learners need, and to utilise data to support what they do in the classroom.

Teachers today need a supervisor that they can discourse with, and help them scaffold their understanding of pedagogy. As self-directed learners, teachers know the difference between advice and ‘advice’. They can easily go on line and surf the web to verify the advice given to them or even collaborate with other colleagues for a second opinion. Instead of providing words like, “this is what I do” or “attend this course”, supervisors are better served by asking “why” questions to facilitate discovery learning, understanding and reflection.

Finally, teachers today need supervisors who utilise 21st century skills and ICT as part of their daily work environment. Far too often I have attended conferences and heard the buzz words from leaders such as ‘innovation’, ‘creativity’, ‘thinking outside the square box’, ‘getting outside of your comfort zone’ and ‘risk taking’. However, it’s not the words that count but the ability for supervisors to demonstrate the words in action that’s credible. Teachers need to see supervisors as being innovative and creative in their own teaching and learning. They need to see supervisors working through processes, reflecting on their program and prepared to make changes when difficult classroom moments occur. They need to know that by supervisors demonstrating, they too can have the presence of mind to be innovative.



6 thoughts on “How do we supervise the facebook teacher?

  1. Again, my first thought is I would change to be a primary school teacher, if you were my supervisor 🙂

  2. Thanks for the thinking you have reflected in your blog. I like the way you have shifted the focus of feedback from advice to coaching. I think this is really powerful and has traction well beyond the classroom, as it is an excellent way to conduct all professional relationships. Coaching distributes the power base to, the decision making is left with the owner but they have the good fortune of the wisdom of a leader who can assist them to shape their thinking.
    I think early career or graduate teachers would accelerate their learning if they are connected to a leader who places high value on coaching to learn and learning to coach.
    Go John Goh 😉

  3. Like Lisa says in her comment, thanks so much for the thinking you have reflected in your blog – really valuable! I think things can even be taken a step further than what you are suggesting. Ultimately, I believe that a transformation can (and is) happening at the moment where ’21st Century teachers’ themselves, regardless of their age, position or experience feel empowered (and more than ‘ready, willing and able’) to create for themselves “the opportunity to build their pedagogy [in a way that] meets [not only their] learners needs [but their own needs as life-long learners as well], and to utilise data to support what they do in the classroom” – to in fact know ‘how’, (like you say) to ask the “‘why’ questions, to facilitate discovery learning, understanding and reflection” themselves; that teachers ultimately have an inherent ability to create and map their pedagogical progress.
    To some extent this has been forced on 21st century teachers who work in Schools were perhaps their ‘supervisors’ aren’t at the place where they need to be yet (and you acknowledge many aren’t) to recognise the position that every 21st century teacher is in nowadays to justify their place on the ‘world teaching map’. Particularly because, like you say “[teachers] can easily go on line and surf the web [etc.] to verify the advice given to them or even collaborate with other colleagues for a second opinion” The PLNs of todays educators are becoming the truest support network and/or ‘guide’ to help the 21st Educator thrive.
    Definitely, teachers can benefit highly from having someone to guide them in the right direction, and whether that is a Principal, Middle Leader, Colleague, or professional friend or network established face-to-face or online, I definitely agree that it is essential for school leaders to have the capacity to perform such a role. Ultimately though, 21C teachers, regardless of their position, not only stand side-by-side with their students in the creation of the most dynamic educational spaces, but also side-by-side with their professional colleagues in their own evolution as life-long learners. It should be a much less ‘feudal’ and much more collaborative/empowering process more than ever before.
    Given the significant evolution of 21C learners and learning spaces, one must question the need for the term ‘supervisor’ in Schools today. Futuristex2014 in itself has been created by an educator who felt compelled to conduct his own review, exploration, model & presentation as to the point he had reached as an educational leader, because the skills, vision and pedagogy evolving in him were being somewhat limited by the relative confines of the current ‘system based’ processes. An exciting collaborative project has developed from here that does not rely on the approval of ‘superiors’ simply embraces life-long learning, learners and the exponential potential of dynamic, collective learning spaces and will.
    Learners and Teachers necessarily dream big these days, the world has given us that opportunity. I am easily convinced that, just like children and adolescents are being given the chance, and recognising the scope that they have, to create their own evolution inspired by the dynamic learners around them, first-year out teachers, experienced teachers and leaders, are all now in a remarkable position to be inspired by each other and do the same. The nature of University Teaching degrees is of course key in embedding and upholding this, but for all my years as an Educator, and however many people I lead, I would rather not classify myself as a ‘supervisor’ because I believe that the term has the power to less so empower teachers, and more so impede.

  4. Just a quick question on your post…do you think every teacher needs this? Every single one? I guess I am thinking about students in a classroom and to be successful, some students need different strategies. Not forever but to be successful. I think that it is tough to say that every teacher would be successful with anyone solution. What do you think?

    I loved your blog post and agree with it a great deal, but that being said, that question popped into my head as I was reading it.

    • Hello George
      when you ask the question: “do you think every teacher needs this?”, what “this” are you referring to in the blog? I’m trying to connect your comment back to the blog and not sure what you are referring to.

    • George
      I think the supervision models used in many Oz schools have been one dimensional and doesn’t take into account the nature of the teacher. We talk a lot about how children learn and often forget about how teachers learn.

      Given my context of mostly younger teachers who are straight out of Uni with heaps of enthusiasm and a drive to learn, the coaching and mentoring model seems more applicable than the clinical supervison model where everything seems like a checklist.

      As for every teacher, the answer is No. Teachers that are really struggling will need a lot of input, explicit directions and guidance. The good news is that we do have national standards for all teachers need to attain. The
      underperforming or inefficient teachers don’t progress too far these days
      in our system – well not on my site at least.

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