An incredible challenge—how else could you describe our expectations for today’s classroom teachers?
The challenge begins when students arrive on day one. Teachers know that their students come to them at very different levels of development. Some are gifted. Some may be disabled. Each one has a different learning style. And we’re not even discussing what goes on at home.
I was a teacher way back when. I shudder to think how I would teach my five now-grown children today. I wouldn’t know where to begin!
The Proficiency Model
The current system is dysfunctional. If you’ve got 25 kids in your classroom, all kinds of upsets and trauma can occur during the school year. Illness. Divorce. A death or injury to a parent or loved one. Substance abuse. The list is long. But count on it—these will, in fact, happen.
Yet somehow, magically, we expect teachers to take all these diverse students and diverse situations and get them to a predetermined level by the end of the year. Sheer madness! Welcome to public education’s proficiency model.
The Growth Model
Teachers on the front lines know the proficiency model is flawed. That’s why they oppose performance evaluations. Can’t you hear them? “You’re going to tie my performance to my students’ performances? Come on! That’s not right! That’s not logical!”
So the question becomes: What is logical?
What we are seeing from the nation’s most rapidly improving schools is a shift from a proficiency model to a growth model.
How It Works
As most of you know, the growth model takes each child from where they are today and moves them as far as they can in the time that they have. Simple!
Not quite. The growth model will force the classroom teacher to fundamentally change how she does her job. No longer is she “the sage on the stage.”
But technology will smooth the transition. Students today have lived their entire lives in the 21st century. They are used to today’s technology. They are comfortable with it and use it practically every waking hour.
Teachers working in a growth model school use technology as almost virtual teaching assistants. With the right technology and the right software, the teacher becomes the manager of the instructional process, not the disseminator of knowledge. She breaks down her classroom into like-minded groups or teams and moves from group to group, helping, showing, encouraging. She transforms the learning process.
Repeat After Me: Culture Trumps Strategy
How do you get there? It takes work, work which can’t be done in one- or two-day personal development sessions. You must create a new culture which supports finding a different way. Those of you who know me also know my signature saying: Culture trumps strategy. By that I mean: Until you can change your culture, any strategy you adopt will ultimately fail.
Here’s How to Get Started
Creating a new culture is a deep, ongoing process, but the experts at the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE) can show you the way. Creating a growth model school will also be the focus of our upcoming signature event, the 25th annual Model Schools Conference, held June 25-28 in Nashville. Please consider joining us so we can help show you how to create an effective educational system – one which benefits all students.