Sharing Effective Practices with Teachers

If I were to go back to being a classroom teacher, I think I would be one of the best teachers ever…not because I think so highly of myself, but because as a principal, I get to see the best practices in classrooms every day. I could take the best from each teacher I’ve seen and put them together to be a Super Teacher with effective strategies for everything!

As the instructional leader of the building, I feel it is my duty to share with my staff the great instructional practices I see in our building. We have excellent teachers doing amazing things each day. During their grade level/PLC meetings they collaborate and share with each other, but sometimes I think they don’t realize how much they really have to share with each other. Or they don’t realize that some of the great things they do are obvious to them and assume everyone is already doing them. So, how can you get your teachers to learn from each other? How can you get everyone to implement effective strategies that are already great for learning for students in your building?

One way is to have teachers observe others. This is difficult to get started, because teachers do not want to seem like evaluators or feel like they are imposing on each other. I encourage my staff to observe others to gain ideas and many have done so as we have gone school-wide with our literacy framework of Daily 5/Cafe. In addition we require our probationary teachers to observe their mentors twice a year (and mentors to observe their mentees twice a year). I have recently read how leaders like Shira Leibowitz are having their teachers observing each other by having learning walks together as a team.

An even easier method, that doesn’t require classroom coverage or extra time on the teachers’ part is in your weekly memos. I have previously posted about how I utilize my staff blog to past a Monday Memo and Friday Focus post each week. I originally learned about a weekly memo from Todd Whitaker as a way to share great practices with staff. When you share a practice with staff in a memo, it is just the beginning of a learning process. Good teaching in the classroom follows a whole-part-whole approach, as does my practice of sharing great instructional practices with teachers. When I highlight great instructional strategies in my Monday Memo each week, it is the “whole part” introduction to all staff. The next step is getting into classrooms for walkthroughs…you wouldn’t believe how many people I see trying the strategies that I mention in my Monday Memos. When I see this, I praise the teachers for their efforts and for the student learning I see as a result of it. I then follow up with the “whole part” again in a memo after a while again highlighting a particular practice, why it’s effective and thanking staff for being willing to try new things.

I’d love to hear how other principals encourage teachers to try new effective strategies that their colleagues are already successful with? How do you encourage your staff to learn from each other?

This is a cross-post from PrincipalJ.net

Images from Discovery Education and Yue’s Blog

5 comments for “Sharing Effective Practices with Teachers

  1. March 19, 2012 at 12:56 am

    I created an internal blog called, “It’s all about learning…” and I write short posts after classroom visits. I try to name the learning by using standards and I hope that teachers will talk to each other after seeing the examples. The challenge that I have is that very few people are following it so most go unnoticed. Subscribing to blogs is not a huge part of our culture yet so I have to find ways to work through this. We also have PLCs meeting regularly and they post their work on a site for all to see. Thanks for the ideas.

  2. March 19, 2012 at 9:34 am

    I like the kind of regular attention you are giving to instruction in your building with the use of your memos. By sharing best practices you are bringing to light what you value and the good work of the many teachers in your school. You are building a learning culture. It would be interesting to survey your staff to find out what their ideas are for strengthening the learning culture in your school. I have my thoughts about that with respect to the school I teach in, but I have no idea what my colleagues would say. Finally, you’re right about teacher talents and skills, the only way I really know about my colleague’s teaching is through the comments I overhear from students and parents–we would all be so much stronger if we shared our knowledge and understanding more often.

  3. Lorraine
    April 4, 2012 at 5:26 am

    Hello,
    I am interested in interviewing a principal for a school project in my Master level supervisory course. If anyone is interested in answering 10 questions, I would appreciate it immensely.
    We can do an instant message or Skype.
    Thank you to any administrator who can help an upcoming principal.

    • kothandaraman
      June 4, 2012 at 1:14 pm

      i am principal, The velammal International School, Chennai, India.

  4. David
    April 25, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    I think that it is seductive to think that because one has observed many effective teaching strategies that one could also successfully implement them in the classroom. It’s rather shockingly arrogant. Even the term “best practices” is rather ridiculous. Best practices for whom? Under what circumstances? I think we all agree that trying new things is something that good teachers are willing to do, but that also suggests that there are no truly “best” practices. It makes it sound like all the teacher need to is learn this handful of tricks from other teachers and everything will be sweetness and light. Sharing is a great idea, but what works for one person often is not translatable to another. We should be willing to try something new, but also be willing to set aside techniques that aren’t working.

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