Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How TRANSPARENT are you?

Hello, friends. I know that I have started my first few blogs with mentioning my Twitter network of educators, and at the risk of sounding redundant (a writer's sure-fire no-no) I must do the same again. As a result of this social networking tool, I have been privy to Transparency in its finest form in the past few weeks. My Twitterverse consists of staff developers, administrators, teachers, and teacher coaches who are brave and willing enough to be as transparent as possible in order to elicit meaningful feedback from other educators and content experts to improve their instruction and leadership in the best interest of both teachers and the profession and their students as well. As difficult and scary as it may be to put yourself out there, I believe that the single best way to improve your instruction is through eliciting feedback from your peers. This is, of course, the guiding tenet of a Professional Learning Community, which I desperately want to facilitate in my new role as a director of curriculum and instruction. Gratefully, I am fortunate enough to have colleagues to show me the way; educators whom I can thankfully also call friends, that are willing to grow professionally and are not only brave enough to publicly share what they do in their daily practice but who also beg for and welcome feedback from others frequently rather than wait for that "official" APPR to reflect on their practice.

How transparent are you? The colleagues and friends I reference are out there, and I mean really out there, on the world wide web, doing things like posting tweets on Twitter and links on wikispaces describing their experiences and eliciting immediate responses to their practice. With a simple tool like those aforementioned they post a link and receive nearly instantaneous responses from other experienced practitioners "in the trenches" who long, just as much as they do, to improve practice and gain ideas for how to apply theory to real-world practice in ways that present the best benefits to kids.

There is much discussion in the realm of education about this notion of transparency. Some key questions surrounding this notion include: How can we KNOW that any approach or strategy we employ truly works? How can the whole sector benefit from particular instances of good practice? What are the elements or components of good and effective practice? What outcomes do good and effective practice produce? Within what contexts do these good and effective practices exist? and How do we remain objective in providing meaningful feedback to those who elicit our reactions, thoughts, and ideas about our practice without being overly critical?

I don't have the answers to these questions. However, networking with the right people who have like desires to find these answers and be reflective practitioners has provided me with opportunities to begin to find the answers. If we truly are life-long learners who are dedicated to and passionate about improving what we do for kids, may we all be brave and willing enough to be transparent and share what we do with others in the best interest of our students and teachers.

8 comments:

Theresa G said...

Great questions here Kate! I have to admit that at times I stop to think if I am being too transparent in what I think about and politically how it might impact my work. But then I realize that we ask teachers to do that each time they are asked to create a web page or welcome another adult in their classroom. I firmly believe that learning is social, yet as a profession educators seldom feel comfortable throwing open the doors of their classrooms as a means of continuing learning. I too am thrilled by our little Twitter group - and remind myself each day how we first became connected!! Thanks for sharing this post and pushing my thinking as well!

Angela said...

I agree with Theresa--it's hard to know how much to share and what the ramifications of that will be. That whole bit about safety being essential is really true. That, and thick skin sometimes too. I really find that sticking to some kind of protocol has helped, and I'm grateful to have been exposed to one that works at Communities for Learning. Which you should join. I might have mentioned. Like. Four. Thousand. Times. Now.

Fisher said...

Why in the world is transparency not introduced in college courses before the practice of teaching begins? Those of us who understand the value of professional growth understand the need for transparency. How can one grow without it? What bothers me is that much of the educational world is still opaque. No one sees in, and no one sees out. It's island mentality at its finest, and leads to teachers who feel personally attacked when approached with opportunities to develop themselves professionally. It's sad, but the reality is that we have to bring order back to education, in the form of developing each other and lifting each other up. It reminds of a sermon that my pastor did years ago--one that's stuck with me through the years because it resonates in several ways: In your life, there will be pillars and caterpillars. The pillars hold everything up so the caterpillars can crawl through. Many caterpillars become pillars eventually, but sometimes they just continue to crawl. Transparency leads to pillar building--self reflection, positive interventions, even Angela's recent post on tuning protocols all lead to the same place: professional action, professional leadership, and ultimately a HUGE effect on student learning and achievement. Awesome post, Kate!

Fisher said...

We were all writing comments at the same time...hee. hee.

Kate Ellis said...

Thanks, my friends, for your thoughts about this post. It is truly because of you that I have grown so much in my practice and in providing support to teachers and I am ever so thankful to have you in my network. Mike, I especially like your reference to pillars and catapillars...what an awesome metaphor for what is happening in education today. I love my Twitter friends!

joe damato said...

Kate, I just want you to know how right you are with your observations on our need to be open and honest with ourselves and others. Too often we feel that we have everything right, and forget that by sharing ideas we improve not only ourselves but each other.

As for our preparation as educators, it is sorely behind. Mike is right on the money, college prepares us to stand alone, not share and develop collaboratively. The funny thing is that we are preparing children for a world of collaboration, and yet educators on the whole do not embody the very skills we need to teach. Why is it that we want to be left alone in our room? Is it fear of not being all that we hope to be or perhaps the fear that we have so much to learn?

This transparency is not only about out instructional practices but in looking at how we can better help kids. It seems like the whole movement to RTI is going to force the issue for openness to suggestion and reflection on practice. How do we help those who are caterpillars transform?

Great blog entry!

Rob Currin said...

This is a very interesting concept. I did not know that such a label existed. Hiding and hoarding our best practices is selfish and leads to closed doors. As educators we are charged with opening as many doors as we can and making new doors where there were none. This idea of transparency is one that I will carry with me. Thanks to professional networking, I feel that I have finally been roused from a short educational slumber. It’s time to share!

Kate said...

That's awesome, Rob! I'm glad you've joined our network on twitter and in the blogosphere and I'm glad you are willing to share and learn from others. I hope you can inspire others around you to do the same and continue to widen your circle of learning.