As part of my assignment in my course this term I was asked to dig deeper into the ISTE Student Standards. For the first assignment we are specifically focusing on ISTE Student Standard 1: Empowered Learner. As I was reading over this standard and considering the question that was posed to us, “How can students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences?”, I began to think about how this applied to my current position as a digital learning coach. This got me thinking about what the best and most appropriate supports are for teachers in order to empower them as teachers so that they can best support and empower their students? To help me answer this question I began to look at different resources about empowerment in the classroom, specifically as it relates to technology.
As I began to research and find different resources to help me answer my question, I found myself not so much thinking about the technology but more about the community. In order to support and empower teachers I need to let them know that I am going along this journey with them and that I don’t have all the answers. It is important for me to model what I am encouraging them to do for themselves. My job as a coach is to be their support when they may not feel so confident in what they are doing, just like we support our students in this way when we ask them to try new things. I am still trying to determine exactly what this looks like but I am drawing from some of my past experience in order to support me. In the past I have been able to attend the Best Mentor Academy, these workshops have given me a toolkit for having coaching conversations with people that I work with. I believe that this work has opened my eyes to how important it is to truly listen to what someone is saying and not go into a conversation with a preset course in mind. I think this is important to empowering teachers, the more we can listen to their concerns and allow them to be vulnerable, the more likely they might be to try something new. It is all part of building a safe community within the coaching relationship and then the classroom. Helping teachers be vulnerable can help lead them to as Passeport (2016) says, “rediscovering the magic of learning.”
It is also important to reflect on our practice in order to improve. As educators we ask students to do this yet sometimes have a hard time doing it for ourselves. Just as the ISTE Student Standards ask students to reflect on their learning in order to improve, it is important that we as educators take time to do the same. So part of empowering teachers is supporting them in this reflection. Using coaching language that promotes reflective practice and a supportive culture for learning. This will lead to a culture of reflective practice that can be modeled in the classroom in order to empower students to be reflective. It’s like the saying from the movie Field of Dream “If you build it, they will come” only instead I see it as if we do it, they will too.
I also see this work as being circular. Much of the work to empower students starts outside the classroom. Just like students need to feel supported by their teachers, teachers need to feel supported by their leadership. Teachers need to feel that it is okay to try new things and sometimes get messy with the work. So in order for teachers to feel empowered to do this they need to see “that the classroom practices we expect from teachers are the ones school leaders practice in the various professional development meetings, “Tech Cafes,” email communications, webinars, and social media” (Passeporte, 2016). If we expect our students to take these risks then we need teachers to take these risks which means we need leadership to take these risks with us. So it all starts with leadership, which then impacts teachers so that they can empower their students. Once students are empowered that trickles out into the communities that we live in which then can get funneled back to leadership through different venues.
So while I may not have the exact answer for what the best and most appropriate supports are for teachers in order to empower them as teachers so that they can best support and empower their students. I do think I am at least heading in the right direction. Through constant support and encouragement I can help teachers not just stand on the sidelines as new technology emerges but actually jump in and take action and feel empowered to do so. My job is to help them navigate their way through setting “professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness” (ISTE, 2016). I am also tasked with continuing my own growth and learning as a coach so that I can model best practices when working with teachers.
ISTE Standards for Educators. Retrieved from www.iste.org/standards/for-educators
ISTE Standards for Students. Retrieved from www.iste.org/standards/for-students
Mecklenburger, J. A. (1986). “Emerging” technologies for education. Peabody Journal of Education, 64(1), 183-187
Passeport, F. (2016, June 13). 3 Way to Empowers Teachers and Transform Classrooms. Retrieved from https://www.commonsense.org/education/articles/3-ways-to-empower-teachers-and-transform-classrooms
Washington State Standards for Mentoring. Retrieved from https://www.k12.wa.us/educator-support/beginning-educator-support-team/washington-state-standards-mentoring