Goals, learning and vulnerability
Updated: May 8, 2018
Our Teaching and Learning Team is really excited to be close to sharing the new teacher #rubrics with our faculty. It has been a long process, starting late last year, of reflecting on the relevance of the teacher rubrics created 7 years ago, for a very different faculty and under a different strategic plan, and exploring what might better support teachers as they set their year-long goals. A big part of this process has been eliciting and collating who we are as a community of teachers across 4 divisions and 2 campuses - who we believe we are, and who we want to be – and exploring a wide variety of documents stating what qualities of teaching should be held dear by those in our profession. Needless to say, there is a lot out there. As a pre-cursor to the rubric, we have tried to craft belief statements that capture who we are as teachers at our school. Our rubrics then provide descriptors that are hopefully inspirational so that teachers might connect with an idea and from it spur a professional goal. We are pumped at the potential these new rubrics have for honouring our faculty and their professional growth in a more personalised and meaningful way.
Being in the final stages, it has come time to test-drive the draft teacher rubrics with a group of teachers and get some much-needed feedback before we launch. I made sure to sit down with each of the teachers who took time out to do this, wanting to make sure I fully understood their thinking. In each of these conversations, I got really useful, actionable feedback, and in some, I also sensed a tone. I dug a little deeper and teachers shared a niggling feeling: We can’t be all these things – it’s unreasonable to be evaluated against such a great list. I realised I had been short-sighted in my enthusiasm. The goal-setting process is supposed to embody our belief that we are learners, and denotes we have things to learn, yet setting professional goals, crafting action plans and talking them through with your supervisors (as is the process at our school) is potentially a soul-baring experience. The very nature of setting a goal means identifying areas in which we’d like to grow, which for some might feel like admitting a weakness. Even if we are not being evaluated by our supervisors, we want to be held in high esteem by them, and admitting we are 'weak' in areas might damage that esteem.
Still, here in-lies something of a dichotomy. We advocate for #learning to be a journey where we try new things and embrace mistakes and failures as checkpoints in that journey. Teaching, however, is a profession where fast-thinkers, solution-finders, and high-achievers are valued. They get stuff done. It’s really hard for us as teachers and coaches to embrace those values we preach in our own learning journey if efficiency and achievement are our measures of success. And as institutions, schools need to work on that. But then there is what we believe: if we embrace these values on a personal level, too, then we’d feel safe to get mucky and really learn, not just achieve something with efficiency. And if we’re having trouble embracing these learning values, we won’t be modelling them and making it safe for our students or coachees to get mucky, either. If I think about my part in this, I presume that my learning journey is very public: I walked in to a coaching role having previously been a High School English teacher at the same school. Plenty of people knew my scope had breadth, but it was no secret that I’d scarcely stepped into an Elementary School, for a start. And yet as a #coach whose primary role is to support professional growth I need to be much more purposeful in how I model and share the vulnerability that is learning with my colleagues.
I’m so grateful to have had these conversations this week: the feedback will enhance the teacher rubrics and we will feel more confident that the final product will support teachers as they craft their yearly goals. But these conversations have reminded me to stay cognisant of the fact that learning, whilst exciting and challenging, is also an inherently vulnerable process, and some are more comfortable with vulnerability than others. If we expect teachers to set goals and engage in learning that is meaningful and challenging, we need to cultivate an environment where they can be vulnerable and be celebrated for engaging in that challenge - and embody the vulnerability that is learning ourselves.