Today was another packed day at the Iowa Mentoring and Induction Institute. There were great conversations and new ideas discussed that it has me swirling and feeling like I need to unpack some of the major themes I heard during the different sessions.
The first theme I think of when I reflect back on today is what Jody Stone said about the state of change in Iowa’s schools. The desire for change is there in many educators across the state that we are now at a time when real systemic change can take place in our schools. This really got me jazzed for the day and for moving forward in what comes next in my small part of the world of education.
The next thought that seemed to keep reappearing was the need to have a change in the type of culture within the school system. We no longer are able to sit back in our classrooms and say, “I’m doing a good job so just leave me alone to teach in my little isolated part of the school.” We all have to participate regardless if we are a highly effective teacher or highly ineffective teacher. But to do this we have to develop trust with one another, both among teachers and with administrators. We need to be able to make mistakes so we can learn from them, but we also need to have the time to observe other teachers’ mistakes so we can learn from their experiences as well. Dan Fox made this very clear during the panel discussion and I couldn’t agree with him more.
Molly Boyle brought up an important point that we need to be intentional with everything we do. The time for trying to covertly influence others has passed. Whether it’s in the classroom or with a group of teachers, the time for being passive has past. We can no longer afford to dance around problems. The time for being blunt and decisive is here so let’s embrace the chance that needs to take place, no matter how ambiguous it is, so we can start moving forward.
Finally, no discussion about effective teaching can be complete without talking about how we measure and assess effective teaching. This was certainly a prominent topic at the Institute, especially with Director Glass in attendance. While there are many paths we can take and argue for or against, there are a few things we do know. It’s not going to be easy, there is no silver bullet to fix all our problems, any teacher performance assessment must take into account multiple measures, and it is going to make some people unhappy no matter which path is chosen. While this may seem like a reason to get down and be less than optimistic about the future, I feel like there is a reason to be hopeful. Hopeful because when we create an assessment system for measuring a teachers’ effectiveness, we will have overcome a challenge that will have required educators from all aspects of the educational sphere to work together and build consensus. While we won’t agree on all aspects, I think we will work together to create an assessment system for teachers that measures what counts and can lead to more highly effective teachers. In the end, we can’t afford to do anything less.