The Best Teacher in You

How to Accelerate Learning and Change Lives

Robert Quinn (Author) | Katherine Heynoski (Author) | Kate Heynoski (Author) | Mike Thomas (Author) | Gretchen Spreitzer (Author)

Publication date: 06/30/2014

The Best Teacher in You

Be inspired by the personal journeys of seven highly effective teachers― learn how they became transformational leaders in the classroom

* Discover how highly effective teachers bring out the best in themselves and their students

* Be inspired by the personal journeys of seven highly effective teachers― learn how they became transformational leaders in the classroom

* Explore a framework for effective teaching and learning and use it to reflect on your own teaching practice

Blog: A New Way to Think About Your Favorite (and Least Favorite) Teachers

What does teaching look like at its very best? How are great teachers able to ignite a love of learning and change students' lives? What are the keys to accelerating learning for both teachers and students?

The Best Teacher in You provides revealing answers to these important questions. Over the past six years, the authors have worked with highly effective teachers to examine the mindsets, behaviors, and change processes that accelerate and deepen learning. They discovered a common pattern in these teachers' practices. Highly effective teachers stretch beyond conventional foundations of good teaching, such as content, pedagogy, and classroom management, to transform their classrooms into exciting, dynamic places where teachers and students cocreate the learning experience. These teachers cultivate a classroom community that gives rise to transformative learning.

In this book you'll learn from seven remarkable teachers and their stories of learning and, ultimately, deep change. The authors outline a framework that identifies four dimensions of effective teaching and learning that are integrated in the classrooms of highly effective teachers-you'll discover how the framework helps you recognize and release the potential in you and others around you. You can begin using the strategies and tools included in the book today to become the best teacher in you.

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Overview

Be inspired by the personal journeys of seven highly effective teachers― learn how they became transformational leaders in the classroom

* Discover how highly effective teachers bring out the best in themselves and their students

* Be inspired by the personal journeys of seven highly effective teachers― learn how they became transformational leaders in the classroom

* Explore a framework for effective teaching and learning and use it to reflect on your own teaching practice

Blog: A New Way to Think About Your Favorite (and Least Favorite) Teachers

What does teaching look like at its very best? How are great teachers able to ignite a love of learning and change students' lives? What are the keys to accelerating learning for both teachers and students?

The Best Teacher in You provides revealing answers to these important questions. Over the past six years, the authors have worked with highly effective teachers to examine the mindsets, behaviors, and change processes that accelerate and deepen learning. They discovered a common pattern in these teachers' practices. Highly effective teachers stretch beyond conventional foundations of good teaching, such as content, pedagogy, and classroom management, to transform their classrooms into exciting, dynamic places where teachers and students cocreate the learning experience. These teachers cultivate a classroom community that gives rise to transformative learning.

In this book you'll learn from seven remarkable teachers and their stories of learning and, ultimately, deep change. The authors outline a framework that identifies four dimensions of effective teaching and learning that are integrated in the classrooms of highly effective teachers-you'll discover how the framework helps you recognize and release the potential in you and others around you. You can begin using the strategies and tools included in the book today to become the best teacher in you.

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Meet the Authors


Visit Author Page - Robert Quinn



Robert E. Quinn holds the Margaret Elliot Tracey Collegiate Professorship at the University of Michigan and serves on the faculty of Organization and Management at the Ross Business School. He is one of the co-founders and the current faculty co-director of the Center for Positive Organizations. Quinn’s research and teaching interests focus on leadership, organizational change, and effectiveness. He has published 16 books on these subjects. He is particularly known for his work on the Competing Values Framework. He has 30 years of experience consulting with major corporations and government agencies.


Visit Author Page - Katherine Heynoski

Katherine Heynoski is a powerful practices senior specialist at Battelle for Kids. Building on her research with highly effective teachers and principals, she conducts training and develops tools and resources to support educators’ professional growth. At the heart of her work as a researcher and a practitioner is a desire to help individuals, teams, and organizations continuously improve their practice. Prior to joining Battelle for Kids, Katherine worked as an instructor and a research assistant while completing her PhD at the University of Michigan. She has also worked as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt for General Electric.

Katherine has published in Organizational Dynamics and Research in Organizational Change and Development. She also serves on the board of the Organization Development and Change Division of the Academy of Management. She lives in Dublin, Ohio, with her husband and two daughters.



Visit Author Page - Kate Heynoski

Katherine Heynoski is a powerful practices senior specialist at Battelle for Kids. Building on her research with highly effective teachers and principals, she conducts training and develops tools and resources to support educators’ professional growth. At the heart of her work as a researcher and a practitioner is a desire to help individuals, teams, and organizations continuously improve their practice. Prior to joining Battelle for Kids, Katherine worked as an instructor and a research assistant while completing her PhD at the University of Michigan. She has also worked as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt for General Electric.

Katherine has published in Organizational Dynamics and Research in Organizational Change and Development. She also serves on the board of the Organization Development and Change Division of the Academy of Management. She lives in Dublin, Ohio, with her husband and two daughters.



Visit Author Page - Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas has worked for the past 11 years at Battelle for Kids to improve the quality of teaching and learning in schools across the country. As a senior director of innovation, he has designed tools and delivered professional development to build the capacity of teachers and administrators. Much of this work has focused on the diagnostic and school improvement uses of value-added data. He recently co-authored the book How to Use Value-Added Analysis to Improve Student Learning. Over the past seven years, Mike has conducted workshops and assembled focus groups of high value-added teachers and principals to better understand what constitutes effective practice. This book is the culmination of that work.

Prior to joining Battelle for Kids, Mike served as the director of the Central Ohio Principals' Academy and the co-coordinator of the preservice elementary and middle school Masters of Education program at The Ohio State University. In this role he received a Distinguished Teaching Award. Mike spent the first 12 years of his career as a middle school math and science teacher.

Mike currently resides in Westerville, Ohio, with his wife, Lu Anne, and their dog, Kali. His daughter Emily is entering her senior year at Ohio State University; his son, Chris, is an officer in the US Air Force; and his daughter Lindsay is a nurse and the mother of his eight-year-old granddaughter, Kameron.



Visit Author Page - Gretchen Spreitzer

Gretchen M. Spreitzer is the Keith E. and Valerie J. Alessi Professor of Business Administration at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. She is also the co-director of the Center for Positive Organizations. She joined the Michigan faculty in 2001 after spending nine years on the faculty of the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business. She is passionate about helping people develop as leaders.  

Her research focuses on employee empowerment and leadership development, particularly within a context of organizational change. Her most recent research focuses on how organizations can enable people to thrive at work and become their best selves. She has co-authored six books (including another Berrett-Koehler book, titled How to Be a Positive Leader: Small Action, Big Impact with Jane Dutton) and many articles on these topics. She teaches leadership and change courses to undergraduate and graduate students and executives at Ross. She has been elected to leadership positions in the Academy of Management and the Western Academy of Management. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with her husband, who is a public policy economist, and two teenage daughters.

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Table of Contents

Learning from Highly Effective Teachers

Chapter 1: Becoming the Best Teacher in You: A Process, Not a Destination

Chapter 2: Embracing Connections: Integrating Essential Elements

Chapter 3: Opening the Mind: Embracing Deep Change

Chapter 4: Opening the Heart: Enhancing Relationships

Chapter 5: Empowering the Soul: Developing Yourself

Chapter 6: Empowering Others: Teaching That Transforms

Chapter 7: A Process for Development: Embedding Self-Reflection

Conclusion: Strategies for Moving Forward

Resource A: The Reflect Assessment

Resource B: Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument for Classrooms

Resource C: Appreciative Inquiry Protocol

Resource D: Interview Protocol

Resource E: Online Tools and Resources

Notes

Glossary

Acknowledgments

Index

About the Authors

About Battelle for Kids

About the Center for Positive Organizations

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Excerpt

The Best Teacher in You

CHAPTER 1

Becoming the Best Teacher in You: A Process, Not a Destination

No punishment anyone lays on you could possibly be worse than the punishment you lay on yourself by conspiring in your own diminishment. With that insight comes the ability to open cell doors that were never locked in the first place.

—Parker Palmer         
The Courage to Teach

IN OUR INTERVIEW WITH KELLI, A VETERAN TEACHER WITH 24 YEARS of experience, she told us about her goal of “reaching every student.” While this sentiment is laudable, it also sounded unrealistic, so one of our interviewers decided to push back. He took on the persona of a skeptical colleague and argued that it is unreasonable and unrealistic to expect that a teacher can be successful with every child. Kelli quickly got into the role-play, becoming more passionate as she spoke. She confronted the interviewer: “Why do you have such a negative outlook? It is about you and your expectations for them. You have lowered your expectations. You have given up hope in those kids. What did you think your job was in the first place? It is not about teaching math. It is about getting them to want to learn.”

Kelli’s intensity and commitment brought about a transformation in the conversation. We were no longer in a role-play. We were having the kind of conversation that causes people to listen deeply, reflect, and see differently—the kind of conversation Kelli creates on a regular basis with her third-grade students.

In the exchange above, two things became immediately clear about Kelli. First, she is a person who does not tolerate low expectations. She expects a lot of herself and a lot from others, even interviewers. This also extends to her students. She expects them to do things they do not believe they can do.

Second, while Kelli is a master of her content, she does not believe that her job is only to transfer mathematical information to students. Math is simply a reason to be with her students. She believes that her real job is to create a desire, a hunger, and a love for learning. She expects that her students will leave her with an expanded sense of themselves. They will leave as empowered people, able to learn in any situation.

While Kelli places great emphasis on growth and achievement, she balances it with an equally intense focus on forming and maintaining relationships. Within a few minutes of being with Kelli, we felt like our conversation mattered a great deal and that we also mattered a great deal. We felt both valued and stretched by this woman whom we had just met. She told us that when she was a student, school was a place where you went to “have things done to you.” In contrast, Kelli places greater emphasis on doing things with her students.

The Year from Hell

Kelli believes that her ability to engage her students is a function of her own development. She speaks of a particularly important episode in which her assumptions about teaching were challenged and ultimately transformed. She came away from the episode with a new view of herself, her students, and what it means to teach.

She told us that her first year of teaching was “stellar.” Her second year was “the year from hell.” She had many children who were challenging. One was a “belligerent, mouthy, holy terror.” On a particularly bad day, she saw him crawling on his belly at the door of her classroom. She lost her temper and moved toward him in anger. As he scurried out of her way, she turned away from him, slammed the door shut, and walked to the principal’s office. She told her principal that she could no longer deal with this student, so the student was subsequently removed from her classroom.

This event was deeply troubling to Kelli, so she went to some experienced colleagues for advice. Their advice led to a turning point in Kelli’s career. They said, “You have to realize early on that you are not the key to every door.”

As Kelli recounted that conversation, she became visibly upset. She fought to compose herself and then looked up and said with conviction, “I hated that.” She went on to tell us of a vow she took that day: “I told myself, I’m not taking that. I’m going to figure out how to meet the needs of those kids.

A Vow to Learn

This vow represents a pivotal moment in Kelli’s professional life. She could have taken the words of her colleagues to heart and become disenchanted, but she did not. Instead this painful event became an opportunity. It was the beginning of a lifelong journey of learning. In choosing to take this journey, Kelli has developed the ability to work more effectively with difficult students. “I’ve had other kids like that, but I never had another one of those moments.” She described the work she had to do along the way:

I needed to pay more attention to [struggling students]. I had to figure out what works for them, how to have respect for them, how to use humor to diffuse explosive situations. I learned how to make those kinds of kids feel safe in my room, and I learned how to teach them social skills so the other students would feel safe in the room with such a child. And then I learned that I have to be very parent-savvy. I have to sit down and get the parents on my side very early on. So I learned those techniques, and I’ve never had another year like that. Those seem to be the kids that I’m most drawn to …. I always get those kids now, the most unruly kid, the most disruptive kid, the bully.

Kelli told us that when a difficult child shows up in the school, her administrator says, “Let’s put him in Kelli’s room because Kelli will know what to do with him.”

Deep Change

As she pursued her vow, Kelli learned to feel, think, and behave in new ways. She gained new capacity. She went through a learning process that transformed her understanding and aptitude. Robert Quinn, in his work with organizational leaders around the world, has identified two kinds of change that individuals experience: incremental change and deep change.1 In our lives and in our work, we frequently make incremental changes: We make adjustments, we elaborate on a practice, we try harder, and we exert a greater degree of control. In other words, we attempt to solve the problem using the assumptions we currently hold.

Deep change is more demanding because it requires the surrender of control. It tends to be larger in scope, discontinuous with the past, and irreversible. It involves embracing a purpose and then moving forward by trial and error while attending to real-time feedback. Quinn often refers to the process of deep change as building the bridge as you walk on it.

Kelli knew she wanted to go to another level of performance. She wanted to flourish even with difficult students in the room. To acquire this capacity, she had to first reach for a higher standard and not compromise on that standard as her colleagues advised. Then she had to make a vow to engage in deep change. She moved forward in real-time, experiential learning.

When people move forward in this way, old assumptions are challenged and new ones are constructed. When the new assumptions lead to success, learning often becomes exhilarating. People feel empowered by their success and believe that they can do what Parker Palmer refers to in the epigraph as the ability to “open cell doors that were never locked in the first place.”2

Slow Death

We often avoid deep change because it can be difficult and unsettling. Ultimately, this avoidance can lead to disengagement, or what Quinn calls “slow death.” When Kelli’s colleagues told her that she could not expect to be the key to every door, they were unwittingly inviting her to “conspire” in her “own diminishment.” They were inviting her to become an active participant in her own slow death.

What these well-meaning colleagues were doing was understandable. They were trying to comfort Kelli in a time of distress. This pattern is a common dynamic among friends and in organizations of all kinds. When people like Kelli aspire to excellence, they often meet adversity and become frustrated. To relieve her distress, Kelli’s peers advised her to lower her aspirations. In education, as in all the other industries, this response is a phenomenon that can turn armies of idealistic young professionals into disenchanted victims of the system.

As you think about this dynamic, it is also worthwhile to consider your students’ aspirations. Many of them may already travel the path to slow death. Sometimes an entire community of students can be locked into assumptions that prevent them from empowering themselves. What they believe about their ability to learn greatly hinders their own development. Their experiences and the assumptions that result from them can become “cell doors.” They may “know,” for example, that the act of trying will result in embarrassment and failure. Students who make such assumptions may show little interest in learning. In every industry and in every organization, there are personal and cultural assumptions that lead people away from deep change and toward slow death. Daily conversations that reflect a victim mentality regularly invite us all to the path of slow death.

The Best Teacher in You

Kelli’s story illustrates an important point about deep change. Because she engaged in transformative learning, she grew in self-efficacy, or the belief that she could succeed in a demanding situation or activity.3 More specifically, she is now confident that she can learn to teach any child in any situation. Addressing an imaginary problem child, Kelli told us, “If you are defiant, I will get you. I will figure out what makes you work. I might not get tremendous growth and I might not get engagement every day, but I’m going to get something out of you. I’m going to be your new best friend.”

While the statement suggests that Kelli is an empowered person, it also suggests that she is an empowering person. She subjects her students to high expectations, and she also partners with them to help them grow into more-effective versions of themselves. Because she has experienced the realization of her own potential, Kelli sees potential in all of her students and feels compelled to help them change the limiting assumptions that they make about themselves.

When a teacher is with students in a way that is empowering to them, the students can transform. When this begins to happen, the transformation in the students loops back to the teacher and another transformation takes place. The work of teaching becomes the joy of teaching because they are in a mutually empowering relationship. Teachers experience the most powerful of all rewards in this kind of relationship—the realization of their best self, or the best teacher in them. Kelli explains it as follows: “I breathe students. They are my life’s blood. I am not whole without them. They bring me joy. They make me frustrated. They make me cry. They give me hope. When I invest in them, I become the best me.”

Transformational Influence

Kelli told us that teaching is about “helping children grow.” Kelli said that she can teach a child to read or do math, but that is not what her kind of teaching is about. Her kind of teaching is about helping each child internalize the desire and the ability to learn. With fire in her eyes and conviction in her voice, Kelli stated, “I am the key to every door.”

In other fields, such as business or government, the few people with this kind of confidence, passion, and capacity are called transformational leaders. They know how to engage people in learning that alters their assumptions and mindsets. They help individuals and groups grow into more-effective versions of themselves. They know how to release potential that is unrecognized and unrealized.

In telling us that she is “the key to every door,” Kelli is not claiming that she moves every child forward every minute that they are in her classroom. She is claiming that she is able to enter an elevated state of teaching and learning. She accepts responsibility, faces challenges, and adapts. She does this with confidence, knowing that she can form a relationship with every child; and because of her capacity to do this, she is able to move each child and the class as a whole further than would normally be expected. Kelli has mastered something that can help every teacher become the best teacher they can be. That is why we have written this book.

Two Views of Teaching

Kelli kept surprising us. She kept recounting stories that exceeded our expectations and challenged our assumptions. The same thing happened in our interviews with other HETs, so we began to ask what assumptions are commonly made about the process of teaching.

Because the conventional assumptions of a culture are often reflected in that culture’s language, an examination of the dictionary is a good place to start. To teach is to instruct, train, school, discipline, drill, or educate. Consider the meaning of each word.4

Images Teach: to impart knowledge or skill to

Images Instruct: to provide with knowledge, especially in a methodical way

Images Train: to coach in or accustom to a mode of behavior or performance

Images School: to discipline or control

Images Discipline: to train by instruction and practice, especially to teach self-control to

Images Drill: to instruct thoroughly by repetition in a skill or procedure

Images Educate: to develop the innate capacities of, especially by schooling or instruction

These definitions suggest that a teacher directs and controls the classroom. Teaching is a process in which a more expert person imparts knowledge or skill to a less expert person. The student is in a lower position in a knowledge hierarchy. The student is expected to perform to an existing standard or acquire an accustomed mode of behavior or performance. The provision of knowledge is methodical. The student is subjected to discipline and control. The process may be repetitive and should lead to the development of self-control on the part of the student. We call this view the directive perspective.

In books it is common to create an image or list and then use it as a straw man. The image is then attacked and replaced by a better image. This book offers a second image, but it does not denigrate the directive perspective. Great teaching is built on a solid foundation of expertise, direction, control, discipline, and repetition. We need the assumptions and the skills of the directive perspective. They are essential to teaching.

The second perspective that we develop later in this chapter is not better than the first. Instead it supplements the directive perspective with additional capacities that make teaching more effective. It values the directive perspective but moves beyond notions such as discipline and repetition. Great music, for example, is a product of more than mechanics, scales, and simple melodies—it is ultimately about finding a unique musical voice and the courage to express it. To do this musicians have to risk, experiment, learn, and create. In their performances great musicians are deeply and dynamically connected to their instrument, their music, and their audience. Similarly, great teachers are deeply and dynamically connected to their subject, their content standards, their evolving practice, and their students. In these dynamic connections, there are feedback loops. Knowledge is not only disseminated but also co-created. The teacher and the student join together to generate knowledge. In this process both the teacher and the student grow.

From Novice to Master

Novelist and philosopher Robert Pirsig asks why, in a given activity, some people obtain normal outcomes while others generate outcomes of higher quality. To answer the question, he uses the metaphor of the motorcycle mechanic. He suggests that not all mechanics are the same; the quality of their work varies:

Sometime look at a novice workman or a bad workman and compare his expression with that of a craftsman whose work you know is excellent and you’ll see the difference. The craftsman isn’t ever following a single line of instruction. He’s making decisions as he goes along. For that reason he’ll be absorbed and attentive to what he is doing even though he does not deliberately contrive this. His motions and the machine are in a kind of harmony. He isn’t following any set of written instructions because the nature of the material at hand determines his thoughts and motions, which simultaneously change the nature of the material at hand. The material and his thoughts are changing together in a progression of changes until his mind is at rest at the same time the material is right.5

Pirsig is claiming that there are master mechanics (just as there are highly effective teachers) who produce extraordinary outcomes. They do more than act upon an object with expertise. Just as Kelli is “with” her students, the mechanic is “with” the motorcycle in a relationship of reciprocal influence: “The material and his thoughts are changing together in a progression of changes.” In this learning relationship, the machine and the mechanic are both altered. The machine is being repaired with excellence while the mechanic is also becoming more excellent. The work of the master mechanic is an intrinsically motivated labor of love because when he does his work, he also produces a better self. He is expressing the best mechanic in him.

Mastery in the Classroom

Excellence is a dynamic process. We take the liberty to rewrite and then elaborate on Pirsig’s account with respect to a master teacher to describe what these dynamics look like in the classroom:

Sometime look at a novice teacher and compare his expression with that of a master teacher whose work you know is excellent, and you’ll see the difference. The master teacher isn’t ever following a single line of instruction. He has a plan, but it soon becomes a rough guide as he begins to respond to students’ needs and to improvise. He is fully present, making decisions as he goes. The master teacher is absorbed and attentive to what he is doing even though he does not deliberately contrive this. His actions and the actions of his students are in a kind of harmony. The master teacher’s ongoing assessment of his students determines his thoughts and actions, which simultaneously change the nature of what and how students are learning. The teacher and the class co-create a process of reciprocal, real-time learning. In doing this they are becoming a learning community. This process continues until the teacher’s mind is at rest and the particular lesson is concluded with excellence. Both the students and the teacher leave the lesson having had a deeply meaningful learning experience.

As this process unfolds, the teacher recognizes needs, facilitates discussion, builds trust, and inspires spontaneous contributions. The natural hesitancies within students and the natural disparities among students begin to diminish. The conversation becomes more authentic, more engaging, and more reflective. Listening becomes mutual, and students expect one another to contribute.

As in Kelli’s story, the classroom becomes a place where students engage in activities that they find relevant and challenging. The teacher improvises and encourages creativity. As the teacher relaxes overt control, the students take ownership of their learning, and leadership shifts seamlessly from one participant to another. Through discussion they explore the big picture and continually question assumptions. Students begin to see from multiple perspectives. In this heightened, collective state, students arrive at creative, joint conclusions. Participating in the process not only builds knowledge but also increases self-efficacy. Students see more potential in themselves and in their world, and they begin to more fully believe in their own capacity to learn and create. They feel more empowered and experience the love of learning. So does the teacher.

As you read our adaptation and the accompanying detail, how did you respond? Did it challenge some of your basic assumptions? If it did, you may have felt skepticism and disbelief. Yet most of us have been part of a group in which this kind of “magic” emerges. We invite you to keep an open mind. As you read The Best Teacher in You, if something surprises you, first note exactly what it is. Suspend judgment and then open yourself to possibility. Ask yourself how the surprise might help you enlarge your assumptions and expectations regarding the practice of teaching.

Interconnected Perspectives

Our elaboration of Pirsig’s account suggests that teachers—like motorcycle mechanics—need the directive perspective. But if they seek to accelerate learning and change lives, they need to do what Kelli did. They need to be able to transcend their directive assumptions and move into the realm of co-creation. These two perspectives are shown in figure 1.1.

Two Views

Each of these perspectives provides a set of assumptions or lenses for making sense of teaching. Looking through the lens of the directive perspective, learning is a technical process managed by a teacher. It tends to be about content and control. The teacher is in charge—a person in a position of hierarchical authority, who sets high standards while maintaining order. Planning, assessment, and achievement are emphasized. We use the acorn as a metaphor to capture the essence of the directive perspective because it provides the foundation for good teaching. A new teacher often uses the directive perspective to build his or her confidence and capabilities to create an orderly classroom. While the acorn or directive perspective is an important starting point, it comes to life only when it grows into something more dynamic. The directive perspective can be broadened over time to grow into the co-creative perspective.

As the teacher and the students commit to a common purpose and form high-quality relationships, they become a system that has emergent possibilities. Emergent means something that is embryonic, like a seed, that can then sprout, grow, or develop into something more complex, like a tree. We include the image of the seedling to reinforce that the more dynamic perspective emerges from the acorn. Without the acorn the tree cannot sprout and flourish.

Figure 1.1 Two Perspectives of Teaching

Images

When individual minds become fully engaged and integrated around a common purpose, collaboration can move to a higher level. Learning can grow into something more complex. The group can learn in ways that the individual cannot. When the group is functioning at a high level, the individual may feel that he or she has become part of something bigger than self, something worthy of sacrifice.

When this happens the social structure can transform. In the conventional hierarchy, the belief is that the teacher must hold students accountable. When collaborative learning occurs, students may begin to hold one another accountable. At this moment of transformation, the teacher can move beyond the role of disciplinarian. The network of relationships becomes more flexible, and the classroom, as a functioning whole, can acquire the capacity to co-create and learn more deeply.

To bring about the co-creative process, the teacher becomes a facilitator of learning. In this role the teacher pays attention to relationships and works to create a culture of collaboration, a context that is more likely to give rise to full engagement and accelerated learning.

Kelli gives an example. To establish a culture of “what it is to be a learner” at the beginning of the year, Kelli sets a tone of respect, teaches her students how to be effective listeners, and makes them feel valued. Facilitation involves providing challenge and support, asking questions, and moving back and forth in directive and nondirective ways to enable students to join together in the process of co-creation.

Connecting the Two Views

The kind of improvisation a master teacher employs cannot occur without sufficient underlying structure. Teachers still must teach content. They still strive for high achievement. They continue to focus attention on individuals, assess performance, and engage in all the aspects of practice listed on the left side of figure 1.1.

What changes in the co-creative perspective is the teacher’s stance relative to students. The teacher is willing to surrender control until it is again necessary to take control. In the directive perspective, the focus is on the teacher and the teaching. In the co-creative perspective, the attention is on the learning of the student rather than the knowledge of the teacher. The co-creative perspective focuses on who the student is becoming and how the teacher can serve as a mediator between where things are and where things could be.

Kelli provides an example of the interconnectedness of the two perspectives. At the beginning of the year, she tries to quickly acclimate students to the rules and the routines of her classroom. Kelli helps students understand the parameters for what and how they will learn. Efficient learning depends on the structures and the fixed processes of the directive perspective. At the same time, Kelli invites students into conversations about “how much you learn, how fast you learn, and the ways in which you learn.” She wants to give students a sense of purpose for their own learning. Learning progresses as a journey that Kelli and her students take together.

Teacher Development

The two perspectives also have implications for how to help teachers improve. From a directive perspective, teacher development is more likely to focus on honing skills related to planning, classroom management, and pedagogy. This perspective assumes that particular practices reliably produce particular outcomes. Professional development in this perspective relies on experts to provide teachers with scientifically validated solutions to predictable pedagogic problems. All of this is true, but it is also partial by itself.

In the co-creative perspective, a classroom becomes an adaptive organization. It consists of people in relationships with one another. Each student is an interdependent actor with the potential to learn, teach, and know. Learning accelerates and is deepened when a teacher forms high-quality relationships with students. Learning accelerates further when students form high-quality relationships with one another. To achieve this level of relationship, the teacher continually clarifies purpose, increases authenticity, practices empathy, and opens to the co-creative journey.

Teacher development, in the co-creative perspective, is likely to focus on reflection, self-assessment, interaction, experimentation, and learning from experience.6 Teachers engage in activities that challenge them and invite them to examine their own assumptions and beliefs. They are encouraged to empower themselves to explore, appreciate, and integrate alternative assumptions. These experiences enable them to think and act in more complex ways. As they build these capacities, they better understand how to empower students and accelerate learning. Here a teaching practice is not so much a solution to a problem as an opportunity for experimentation, engagement, and learning.

In the co-creative perspective, development is not teaching teachers to know; it is teaching teachers to learn. As a teacher develops the capacity to think and act in more complex ways, his or her effectiveness increases because effectiveness is a function of being in the present and learning to adapt and create in real time. The objective is for the teacher to acquire adaptive confidence and transformational influence.

Reality

Researchers suggest that 10,000 is the magic number of hours needed to attain mastery.7 If a gifted pianist, for example, puts in 9,000 hours of practice, that person is likely to have a less luminary career than a gifted musician who puts in 10,000 hours. Ten thousand hours seems to be a threshold.

By the time we graduate from college, we all have more than 10,000 hours in classrooms observing teachers. This extensive socialization means we are all deeply rooted in the directive view of teaching. As we have seen, the directive perspective is at the heart of our experiences, language, and culture. To access the co-creative perspective, we have to undergo deep change and experience transformative learning. In this book you will find stories, concepts, and tools to help you do just that.

Summary

Highly effective teachers like Kelli have daunting challenges. They work with the same students in the same schools with the same resources as other teachers. Their organizational context is hierarchical, conflictridden, and politically charged. And while these challenges lead some teachers to feel frustrated, discouraged, and dissatisfied, highly effective teachers somehow learn to perform at high levels.

Through our work with HETs, we have tried to make sense of what accounts for their extraordinary impact. To do this we have drawn from a number of different scientific literatures to develop some hypotheses about the integration of the directive and co-creative perspectives. This book shares our theories with you. Chapter 2 introduces a framework that will help you more deeply examine and reflect on HETs’ journeys from novice to master teacher so that you can begin to apply these lessons to your own teaching practice.

ImagesPLANTING SEEDS

1. Kelli says, “It is not about teaching math. It is about getting them to want to learn.” What are the implications of working toward the one purpose versus the other? How might the two purposes be integrated?

2. Kelli started out well, but her students changed and her assumptions did not. This led to failure and frustration. Her friends advised her, “You have to realize early on that you are not the key to every door.” When have you received or given such advice? What arguments justify this advice? How is accepting such advice conspiring in your own diminishment?

3. Kelli made a vow that took her on a new path. She states:

I needed to pay more attention to those types of kids. I had to figure out what works for them, how to have respect for them, how to use humor to diffuse explosive situations. I learned how to make those kinds of kids feel safe in my room, and I learned how to teach them social skills so the other students would feel safe in the room with such a child. And then I learned that I have to be very parent-savvy. I have to sit down and get the parents on my side very early on. So I learned those techniques, and I’ve never had another year like that.

How is this kind of learning different from the procedural learning to which we are more accustomed? What are the key requirements for this kind of learning? What does this suggest about your most pressing frustrations?

ImagesGROWING YOUR PRACTICE

1. What is one specific practice you can undertake in your next week of teaching to build momentum on the journey to the co-creative perspective? Use the right-hand column in figure 1.1 to help you identify a specific practice. Be specific about when, who, what, and how you will get started.

2. Following Kelli’s advice, identify one student whom you would like to reach in a deeper way. Find out what he or she is interested in and use that interest to build a relationship. If it is not something you know about, approach the child as if you are the learner and you want the child to teach you about his or her passion.

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