How have you helped your teachers understand the importance of teaching skills and not simply content?
7 tips for helping teachers prioritize skills over just content:
- Collaborative Teams: Answer “why do we do what we do?”
- Value Everyone and Explore Diverse Cognition!
- Share Best Practices: The answer is often “in the room!”
- Active Engagement: Make sure learners are “in”volved!
- Be the Model: A Principal is the lead learner in the school!
- Build a Positive and Productive Culture!
- Create a Community where Stakeholders, of all Ages, LOVE to Be!
Over several years, I’ve watched a shift take place in our school’s professional conversations. We’ve moved from what we teach, to how our students learn. As the principal, I’ve guided this path with intentional dialogue on best practices. We now ask critical questions about “why” we do what we do. Giving teachers time to work in teams, observe colleagues, and to contribute to the success of each other has truly broadened everyone’s view of “possible”.
Our school team values the strengths of others. We celebrate differences in scholars and thinkers. Teachers ask students key questions such as “what do you notice, what are you wondering, why, how, explain?” Taking the time to listen and process actually models 1) problem solving, 2) metacognition, and 3) risk taking. As trust grows, students take risks, and productive struggle becomes the norm.
Across realms of expertise, teachers share tips of the trade regarding curriculum, and in addition, exchange assorted teaching strategies. Some of the most important things I’ve done as the school principal to encourage these practices is to 1) provide teachers time, 2) hold the expectation, 3) and be present for the work. Leading the discussions, learning aside the team, and placing a priority on these skills makes it happen. The principal must be seen as the lead learner for their school.
As a school, we have learned that to reach levels of application, critical thinking, analyzing, and grasping new ideas students need to be trusted to communicate, collaborate and make decisions. Our children need to be “in” the learning, not just taught. Skills will develop and grow as the learners willingness to risk grows. While working together, teachers need to be “in” the learning, valued, and heard. Teachers are then, ready to grow. As the principal, they need to see you growing, risking, and learning too.
Added to all else, the magic ingredient is 1) building positive relationships, 2) creating a safe classroom climate, and 3) modeling expectations in the full school culture! If we expect student success to surpass content barriers, we must provide them 1) time to safely explore, 2) the opportunity to understand other points of view, and 3) encourage each to share their unique perspectives. We value whole child success, the significance of strong relationships, and the critical need to build trust.
21st century skills are demanding, yet, with the right mix of supports, any learning community can not only hit the bar, but surpass it. Students engaged in schools that truly believe in them, make them feel valued. By giving a learner a voice they begin to love learning. Overall, you want your school to be a place where students want to be, where teachers love to work, and where parents feel valued as partners. This is what it takes to move far beyond “just content.” What more could we ask for?
Melissa D. Patschke, Ed. D. (Missie) is a twenty-eight year veteran of public education. For 19 years, she has worked as a school principal. Currently, Missie is the lead learner or Upper Providence Elementary School in the Spring-Ford Area School District, Royersford, PA. Missie is dedicated to advocating on behalf of "what's right for children and schools." She is passionate about the power of the school principal to positively impact student learning and change lives. Missie has hosted several national webinars as well as published articles at the state and national level featuring best practices for school principals. Missie is active in the National Mentor Certification Program and serves as a representative voice for principals in her role as the NAESP Zone 2 Director.
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Culture Re-Boot: Reinvigorating school culture to improve student outcomes by Leslie Kaplan and William Owing
Professional Learning Communities at Work: Best practices for enhancing student achievement by Richard DuFour and Robert Eaker
The Speed of Trust by Steven R. Covey
School Culture Rewired: How to define, assess, and transform it by Steve Gruenert & Todd Whitaker
You’re Smarter Than You Think: A kids guide to multiple intelligences by Thomas Armstrong
Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that put students on the path to college by Doug Lemov
Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire: The methods and madness inside room 565 by Rafe Esquith