Tapping Into Teacher Empowerment

by Jenn Hayhurst

Click here to view the Wakelet

How do we tap into teacher empowerment? This is a question that I have thought about for a long time. It has been my experience that empowered teachers draw on knowing the curriculum, having an understanding for child development, and a knack for setting attainable goals with students that help their students recognize their own inner stores of power, but I wondered what other teachers had to say on the matter. On September 16, 2021 #G2Great began a conversation about tapping into teacher empowerment, and after reading through the Wakelet it became clear to me that GROWING A CULTURE around empowerment is really the next frontier. 

What if we actively created a culture that was built around teacher empowerment in school?  I imagine that it might be like this, teachers come to school believing that their thoughts and decisions will make a positive impact on the collective good. Every faculty member would know that their expertise would be held in the highest esteem.  From where I stand, teaching is already the best career there is and if it were possible to work in a culture that tapped into teacher empowerment, it would be life changing for our profession and our students.  That is something worth fighting for, and here are some ways we can begin to make a shift towards tapping into (a culture) of teacher empowerment.

Listen to Teachers

Building a school wide belief system stems from an ongoing conversation about how students learn best. Once we have that vision, we can begin to align our beliefs and we can promote a shared voice in the materials that we put into the classroom. One way to promote ownership is to let teachers decide what kinds of materials reflect the shared vision.  Teacher autonomy would stem from having a voice and choice about classroom libraries, based on the needs of their classrooms.

Promote Intellectual Curiosity

It is a goal of many to take a student centered approach to teaching and learning. It is also important  to extend that same stance for professional learning for teachers. Having choice in the kind of professional learning that is received is very empowering.  We need to follow the teacher lead when it comes to learning because each teacher has a different need. Peer facilitated coaching is another way to promote empowerment because having the freedom to visit a colleague and learn collectively is the kind of on the job training that promotes professional growth while tapping into teacher expertise.

Take Action Through Agency

The culture of school does not always jive with the concept of agency. There are so many tasks teachers are asked to complete at school that suck up time and effort. Our focus becomes a checklist of “have to’s” rather than time spent cultivating the craft of teaching. It is hard to feel inspired to take action when obligatory duties take over.  We can strive to make this better. Everyone has to submit lesson plans, but rather than  submitting lesson plans prior to the lesson, submit them after with teacher reflections written in the margins. This encourages deeper reflection while giving administration a better view of what is happening in the classroom.  What went well? What failed? What did you learn? Innovative solutions are out there, let’s devote time and energy to making it happen.

Begin Good Conversations

One tenant of #G2Great is that we believe we move from “good work” to “great work”  in the classroom  (Howard 2012) when we continue to read and act on professional learning. A school culture that embraces a teacher’s desire to learn and try something new is one that is made to tap into teacher empowerment.  Every week, I learn so much from the teachers I work with and the teachers I know through social media. Risk would be a badge of honor, a marker of courageous learners who are trying to outgrow themselves. This would be a culture that would be worthy of the students we teach everyday. 

Never Lose Sight of What is Possible

The culture we live in school is in some part a reflection of ourselves. What if? Two common words that have an uncommon ability to power real change. If you find yourself wanting more, and dream of tapping into your own sense of empowerment; don’t wait, you can make the difference.

No More Random Acts of Coaching #G2Great

by Jenn Hayhurst

To view the archive of the chat click here.

On December 3, 2020, Erin Brown and Susan L’Allier joined #G2Great’s community and led an important conversation about coaching. Their new book, No More Random Acts of Coaching, is part of Heinemann’s Not This but That series. If you are not familiar with this fantastic series, it pairs the expertise of a researcher and a practitioner to give readers tips and insights on how to grow teaching practices that are supported by research.

Needless to say, when I found out Erin and Susan were to be our guests I was extremely excited because I am a Literacy Coach. Then as it worked out, the night of the chat turned out to be my school’s Parent-Teacher Conferences. So I didn’t get to be there live but I did get to read the Wakelet and boy were chatters inspired. I can also say that I really wish this book had been written when I began my career as a coach. Erin and Susan give readers a plan to grow into the coaching role. Successful coaching is not about being lucky. It is about careful planning and lots and lots of preparation!

There are three tenets that ran through the chat. When I discovered that I got chills because they are what coaching is really all about at its core: curiosity, communication, and responsiveness.

Curiosity

Being inside a classroom when a teacher is making connections with students, tucking in expert moves that accelerate learning is something to admire and wonder about. Being part of that process, even when things don’t necessarily go as planned, is thrilling. So many questions are born from those experiences: Why did that work? What was unexpected? Why do you think that happened? What did students do when that happened? Coaching and curiosity really work hand-in-hand.

Coaching isn’t about fixing. It’s filled with respect for the art of what happens with students in a school every day. A coach’s appreciation of a teacher’s strengths allow for real learning to happen during their conversations.

Erin Brown No More Random Acts of Coaching

Communication

Coaching requires precise language in terms of feedback but is also open-ended and generous to support deeper learning. We learn a lot by listening. Every time we paraphrase, we allow teachers to hear their own words come back to them. Pausing and making reflections are essential parts of the process.

We sometimes forget the research-established idea that when teachers, principals, and coaches work together to create a climate of intentional, ongoing professional learning, the likelihood of student literacy growth increases!

Susan L’Allier No More Random Acts of Coaching

Responsiveness

Whether a teacher or a coach, both roles are really about being responsive to the needs of learners and making meaningful connections. Whether it is a child or an adult we all want to be heard. This is a very important takeaway for anyone considering what it is to be a coach.

Let me send out a huge thank you to Erin Brown and Susan L’Allier. Thank you for joining #G2Great and thank you for this beautiful book: No More Random Acts of Literacy Coaching.