What If We Supported Staff In Breaking The Rules?

Last week, I started on anotherย #5days5words blogging challenge. For a little variation, this year I decided to focus on five questions instead of five words. I have not committed to blogging every day, but instead, sharing my five questions before the end of August. While I took a few days off from blogging, my third question came to me last night. Some questions are worth sleeping on though, and that was true for this question.

As I’ve blogged about before, I’m once again the Camp Power Summer Curriculum and Site Support Teacher. Camp Power provides a unique opportunity to focus on both student growth as well as staff professional development. This year, Carrie, the other site lead, created a form, which made all of us more accountable for our goals. Being the educational troublemaker that I am, I didn’t fill out my form along with all of the other staff members. I really wanted to wait and see what they decided to focus on first to help me narrow my focus.

It was when I was looking through many of their responses that I realized something that my previous principal, John Gris, spoke to me about many times, but never really registered until now:ย these types of goals should really be about our professional development, and not about our kids.ย What?! Every time that I filled out one of the many templates for John, I couldn’t get my head around this point.ย Shouldn’t we be focused on kids?ย We should, but we also need to focus on how we can improve. So if our goals are based around something that we’re already doing, or already know how to do, then where is the learning in that?ย 

For the first few days of camp, I largely just watched what was happening in the classrooms. I got involved with the kids, I informally modelled some different approaches, but I did what I also find really hard to do with children:ย I kept quiet and I observed.ย I knew that on Wednesday after camp, everyone would be deciding on goals, and I figured that I could target my support around these goals. That’s when I realized how hard it can be to truly focus on professional growth.

On Wednesday night, I read the goals many times. I did a lot of thinking. On Thursday, I went back into the classrooms, and I watched some more:ย focusing on programming and environment.ย My summer position is unique, as I have the opportunity to work with instructors, highlight areas of need, and help with programming decisions. Just like with children, I know the value in a constructivist model for adult learning.ย How could I make this happen? I decided to try something that I find challenging, and approach some staff members, discuss their current goals, and have them look more deeply at their program:ย how might their goals vary to target their own areas of need?

Something amazing happened through this discussion:ย I realized that it was me that was stopping the growth.ย Not intentionally. But inadvertantly through my initial professional development focus on our Board’s Phonological Awareness Screener. I just wanted staff to see how they might identify student areas of strengths and needs, but instead, many instructors were so concerned about academics that some important Self-Reg considerations were lost. As soon as I gave the instructors the permission to look beyond academics, their goals, their environment, and their programming completely changed. On Thursday night, I sent out this tweet.

Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about Self-Reg for educators.ย What stressors might be atย play that make eductors reluctant to take risks?ย I know that we don’t want to tell teachers to “forget about academics,” but is it our concern around scores that has us stopping the risk-taking that might ultimately lead to better academic results? For my next question, I’m wondering,ย how might we support educators in breaking the rules, and what might be some benefits in doing so?ย Some of us may already be comfortable with a little rule breaking, but others are not. After just one day though, I already see tremendous value in encouraging this kind of risk-taking. I think that my professional goal for the next few weeks is to support staff in taking risks —ย big, small, or otherwiseย — and working through the discomfort. I wonder if this kind of supportive risk-taking may lead to staff supporting colleagues in even more of this risk-taking as a new school year approaches.ย Imagine the possibilities!


2 thoughts on “What If We Supported Staff In Breaking The Rules?

  1. Hi Aviva, I read this last night, but wanted to wait until I was on the computer to comment! (In other words, I have a lot to say & didn’t want to type it out on my phone!) It can be very tricky to separate our own learning needs from our goals for our students. I hadn’t really thought that much about it until your post! I had an opportunity to be literacy coach a few years ago and, like you described here, I had to help teachers identify their own goals. Usually they were related to what they wanted to do in class. For example, if the goal was to help kids with their reading, the personal goal might be to improve reading conferring skills. I think it’s an important distinction. I love that your role in this camp allows you to focus on the adults, not just the children.

    I was also thinking about how I am a person who needs a long time to get comfortable enough to speak up and share my real opinions with a staff of my colleagues. I hadn’t thought it of with a Self-Reg lens before! It is hard to be be a rule breaker, and it’s hard to be the person who is always talking. But I think it is important that we do speak up instead of silently being annoyed by something.

    • Thanks for your comment, Lisa! I think it can be really tricky for educators to separate their own learning needs from those of their students. This summer program is really making me think about this. I wonder if thereโ€™s a way to support educators in really digging deep to identify our own learning needs.

      I also agree with you about speaking up: both in terms of the difficulty in doing so and the importance in doing so. Somehow I find it easier to speak up in my blog posts than in person. I think I value the additional reflection time first. I also like expressing questions and wonders as part of this reflecting to encourage conversation, and somehow I find that easier to do through writing. I wonder how others feel about this. Thanks for continuing the conversation!


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