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.