September 28, 2015
(Photo: Center for Inspired Teaching)
This piece was written by Ms. Aqueelha James, Principal of John Burroughs Elementary School (DCPS), a STEM-themed school. In August 2015, Ms. James participated in OSSE and Inspired Teaching’s STEM Leadership Academy. Ms. James has also partnered with SCALE, Inspired Teaching’s science teacher training program, to work with a cohort of Teacher Leaders at her school towards the goal of integrating best teaching practice across all classrooms and lessons.
My leadership philosophy spins off this– you can’t truly serve people unless you love them. I admire the Inspired Teaching staff because it’s clear that they love what they do. Inspired Teachers show that they love their students and their work; they help teachers get connected with the reason they went into teaching in the first place—for the students.
Four of my teachers are now taking part in SCALE: Science Curriculum Advancement through Literacy Enhancement (Inspired Teaching’s year-long professional development program for teachers of science in DC Public Schools). I like that SCALE creates a professional learning community for teachers and have big hopes for my teachers and SCALE this year.
The same way that kids learn best from each other is the same way that adults learn best. I believe teachers learn best from teachers, and my teachers will learn much more from their colleagues than they will from me. By sharing and collaborating, they will find ways not just to re-ignite each other’s passion for teaching STEM, but also to ignite their students’ passion for learning. By sharing best practices, my hope is that they will move from good teaching to glorious teaching.
Glorious teaching is something you can feel. It’s fluid and organic; it’s the teacher facilitating and moving the lesson in the direction of students’ growing interests and understanding with the appropriate end goal in sight. To do this, the teacher has spent time planning and thinking in advance about any misunderstanding students may have, what they already know, and what they don’t yet know. I know glorious teaching is happening when I step into a classroom where children are asking questions of each other because what they’ve just learned is important to them. Children continue having conversations from class to class, talking about what they learned, questioning the author, challenging a hypothesis, or simply trying to make sense of it.
Glorious teaching is not robotic teaching, with the teacher saying, “All eyes on me. I am asking a question. Now it’s your turn to answer.” That robotic teaching is not the fluid and organic teaching that makes kids love to learn. When you do have that fluid teaching, there’s no question about classroom management because the kids are more interested in the content than anything else. Glorious teaching is when children experience genuine interest rather than just being compliant. It’s going back to the idea that kids’ minds are like engineers’ minds, and teachers should take full advantage of that notion. The classroom becomes a place of taking academic risks, and it’s not even considered a risk anymore; it’s just an environment where kids feel free and empowered to share their understanding of content and concepts. It is liberating to see this kind of teaching happening.
My big hope is that with SCALE, we will have glorious teaching spread throughout the entire school. Teachers will collaborate with each other, receive individualized coaching from former classroom teachers (at Inspired Teaching) who love what they do, and together, we will get from good teaching to glorious teaching.