Going Public: Making Professional Learning Visible to Others
When I took a leave from my classroom to begin work on a graduate degree, I had a number of reasons for needing a change. But as I began to feel recharged by the conversations about theory and practice that I was having with my classmates in graduate school, I realized that there was one primary driver hiding under it all. In a word, it was "loneliness." I really needed someone to talk to about my instructional practices and my students’ learning.
Imagine my excitement (and admittedly some envy) when I learned about a team of teachers from different schools and districts, elementary through college level, coming together to explore their questions about teaching and learning. The Eastern Michigan Writing Project (EMWP) Teacher Research Group has been doing just that for more than a decade. Despite long days in the classroom and, for some, long commutes to attend, the members of the Teacher Research Group come together a few times a semester for dinner, drink, and, more than anything else, thought-provoking conversation. The group’s facilitator, Cathy Fleischer, will tell you that a real strength of this group is that members come from different schools and backgrounds, providing a safe zone for earnest discussion and a broader range of perspectives to draw from.
During the 2011–2012 school year, the members of this group decided that despite potential risks, they needed to share with the world their passion for teaching, for their students, and for their communities. One member of the group said, “We are real people with real challenges, and we have to work through them. It’s important for us to articulate as clearly and fully as possible what it looks like from our seats.” Through the use of video, image, and text, the EMWP teacher researchers have been documeting their learning journey for the purpose of sharing their practices with others. (Follow the EMWP Teacher Researchers Group to see more of their shared learning process)
The process of going public can be a risky proposition, but as Millie Davis recently stated in her Perspective titled Speaking Up, "I was sad for how little the public understands the jobs educators do and for how rarely they celebrate what they do understand." One of my favorite quotes that I took away from a recent meeting of the NCLE Stakeholder organizations, "Together we need to make the most NOISE possible to further NCLE's core beliefs" of:
- Literacy as a shared responsibility,
- Collaborative inquiry as the most effective form of professional learning, and
- Organizational conditions (such as time and resource allocation) are necessary for change.
Contribute your unique and important voice to this growing chorus: