Let teachers create something that fit’s there personality…don’t force them to be something they are not. ~ Dr. Robert Marzano
Lately, a great deal of discussion has been dedicated to the skills that we want our students to develop as they move through the 21st Century. It seems, as it should be, that in spite of the challenges of standardized testing, the educational community has embraced a broader idea of the skill set required to educate the “whole” student. I have weighed in on this with a post of my own, Five Skills for 21st Century Learners, and have been asking readers to share their ideas on through a Google Spreadsheet. Overwhelmingly, respondents have focused on terms such as collaboration, creativity, empathy, innovation, adaptability, resourcefulness and communication.
As we continue to advocate for a shift in thinking with regard to how we prepare students for a shrinking world (with complex problems), I believe it is also time for us to change our thinking related to how we train teachers, provide professional development and, ultimately, the degree of autonomy we allow them to have in their classrooms. If the skills we profess to be beneficial for learners are truly meaningful and desirable for 21st century students, then shouldn’t our teachers be modeling these skills, and thus be given the latitude in their classrooms to do so? I am not arguing that this isn’t being done, but I don’t think it receives the attention it deserves. State and national standards, benchmark assessments, state standardized testing, schedule restrictions, administrative expectations (as well as many other issues) place constraints on the innovation and creativity of our teachers.
As you are reading this, over 9,000 educators have descended upon the city of San Francisco for the annual Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) conference–seeking to gain knowledge, learn from colleagues, network and gather new ideas that will benefit their students. It is an awe-inspiring site to see so many teachers, committed to their chosen career, taking the time to grow as educators. As professionals, they deserve enough autonomy to practice their trade in a manner that they feel will meet the needs of their students. I am not advocating for a free-for-all. It is obviously healthy for schools as institutions to have direction, and therefore individuals may have to sacrifice for the greater good. Neither am I suggesting the elimination of accountability. Instead, I am emphasizing that we be mindful of the restrictions we place on teacher creativity giving them adequate opportunities to make decisions, as professionals, about how they teach.
Today I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Robert Marzano speak at a pre-conference session called: Supervising the Art and Science of Teaching. During his presentation, Dr. Marzano referenced research related to what truly makes people happy when it comes to their work. The following three points were emphasized:
- Choose something complex and become very good at it.
- Affect people in a positive way
- Have a lot of autonomy – express yourself creatively
Based upon the first two statements, we should have a lot of happy people in the education profession. As Dr. Marzano pointed out, it is the third statement that is troubling.
We recognize innovation and creativity as essential skills for students growing up in the 21st century. Let’s be sure our teachers have the opportunities they deserve to practice the full spectrum of their profession. I am more than optimistic that they will not disappoint.