Recently I had the opportunity to spend the better part of 12 hours engaged in a series of professional development workshops.  Three presenters offered insight into a particular strand of educational practice, focusing on two primary aspects of our effectiveness as educators.  Two of them looked at issues related to literacy, and the third presenter examined the nature of teacher effectiveness through the lens of a practice known as instructional rounds.  Spending 12 hours immersed in learning and listening, speaking and contemplating the meaning of what we do and what we don’t do as school systems, educators and members of any learning community left me both energized and wondering about the thread that runs through these three presentations.

 

Whether it was children’s picture book author Brian Heinz, founding Director of the Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University Teachers College Lucy Calkins, or Harvard University professor Richard Elmore- all took passionate positions staking out territory that continues to challenge the conventional dialogue taking place in our State and nation when it comes to education.  What became very evident to me was that all of them had a laser like focus on elegantly simple ideas about effective practice.  Raising the quality of student outcomes is about bringing the process of learning forward utilizing tools that capture the hearts and minds of those who teach and those who learn.

 

Evidence abounds that high levels of engagement require skills and dispositions that are practiced the world over in systems and schoolhouses who choose to honor the dignity and respect of the learner and the learned.  Policies, incentives, punitive accountability measures will not yield a more thoughtful and capable teacher of writing.  Nor will these approaches train any observer of educational practice how to zero in on quality instruction.  Passion alone will not win the day either, but a well thought out plan and a skillful practitioner will leverage systemic changes- on a student, classroom, school, or district level.

 

I sat in awe as I listened to knowledgeable practitioners who conveyed messages of hope and expectation which when properly implemented can serve to reach countless young minds in a never-ending quest to improve.  As Dr. Elmore suggested about the question that many educators in Finland would ask:

 

“Is there a challenge that we could create for kids that would surprise us?”

 

This is a much more profound question than any I hear being discussed in the current debate in Albany or Washington.

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Comment by Robert M. Hagan, Ed.D. on April 5, 2011 at 8:35pm
I agree with Mike, you are right on target.  You certainly have me thinking about the last question.
Comment by Michael Keany on April 4, 2011 at 6:59pm

David:

 

As always, you are right on target.  I loved how you turned that last question around to get us to think about the direction that we are heading!

 

Mike

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