Small Steps

I’m going to tell you something that you already know. Teaching is hard.

Why is it hard? Do you have a few hours… There is so much going on all the time!

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In addition to all the curriculum and activities, it seems like the school is the place where all the other people involved in children’s lives need to meet them as well. This is why I called my podcast Intersection Education. At times it seems as though the school is the intersection of children’s lives. It is the place where the people and influences meet.

Not only do teachers need to be knowledgeable about the topics we traditionally associate with education, like reading, writing, numeracy, and assessment. We are now expected to be experts on a bunch of topics we had no idea that we were going to need to know about when we signed up to be a teacher.

Mental health, inclusion, physical literacy, bullying are examples. We need to have children play on technology and in nature, as much as possible at the same time as we need to increase their stamina in desks to be able to move into the next grade.

I recently attended a conference where one of the keynotes may a great case for including interior design principles in our classroom. A great message, but it seemed like just another thing to add to the list.

In addition, teachers cannot just focus on the things they need to teach. They need to know what social influences are acting on their students as well.

We recently had a group of students who were inexplicably absent for a few days. We were trying to think of all the things that we had done in our class that might have made them not want to come to school. When we finally heard from the parents, they told us that the video game Fortnite had come out and that they had allowed the kids to go on a 4 day bender.

It seems like everything is accelerating and we are along for the ride at times. By the way, I don’t think that this feeling is particular to education. Most other professions seem to think the same thing.

All of this leads to many teachers feeling overwhelmed.

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I see the main problem is that teachers believe they need to be experts on everything… right now. Not only do they think they are behind but they don’t know how to become experts.

The question they should be asking is: “What do my students most need me to learn?” and “What is the first step to becoming better in this area?” We need to focus on one area at a time and concentrate our attention on the areas that we think will have the most impact.

This idea of taking of taking one step at a time is not new. Applications like the fitness program “Couch to 5km” have revolutionized the small steps approach to improvement.

This the reason that I believe that Learning Sprints has the power to revolutionize how we get better at education. This way of approaching professional learning concentrates on small improvements over a period of time. It gets us to focus on the areas where we feel we will have the most impact and it cues us to put in place assessment tools that will let us know if we are “changing for the better” or “changing to be different”. It also leans on research to focus our efforts on the strategies that have the highest chance of having impact.

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No one needs a change for something to do. This is why knowing whether a change we make is truly better is important.

In the end, I think this gives us the sense of hope. The opposite of feeling overwhelmed. We can be what our students need us to be, but in small manageable steps, over a period of time.

We don’t need to be a master tomorrow, but eventually. We can get better everyday.

Take the first step.

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For more information visit the #learningsprints community at LearningSprints.org

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