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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 26-Jan-07


Friday 26-January-06 

A learning environment

My wife is a teacher and is fortunate enough to be in a department where learning happens in the staff room as well as in the classroom.

Too often, teachers are expected to teach perfectly, from day one onwards. There is some tacit assumption that you learned all you needed in college and that, once in the classroom, you will know what to do. Of course nothing could be further from the truth, but few schools and fewer teachers will admit that lessons seldom match with the lesson plans.

In my wife's department, breaks and get-togethers certainly have their fair share of gripes and grumbles. Truculent teenagers, problem parents and even other staff all get knocked at some time or another, yet a significant amount of serious support happens too.

It might start with one person saying a lesson went really well. Not showing off, but surprised just how well it went. The response is less likely to be congratulatory (and certainly not envious) as inquisitive. And, importantly, it is as likely to be the head of department as a more junior teacher.

By showing that she is never too old to learn (she is nearing retirement), the head of department is signaling to younger staff members that it is both acceptable and desirable to learn from others. She also is likely to report at a future meeting how she tried the method described, reinforcing the message of real learning from others.

Even more important than sharing success, they also discuss their failures. And with classes full of hormonal teenagers, these are not uncommon. Both emotional and practical support is given. If necessary, the head of department will take up discipline problems, although she and others will often give practical support in offering ideal to deal with the problem.

The school is improving its results, year on year, and I am not surprised. If other departmental heads are spreading learning in the same way, then the only direction is up.

And imagine if such learning happened across other schools, and even across other organizations and industries--what a great nation it would be.


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