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keeping-bar-high

Do we keep the bar high in education? Do we continuously look for ways to raise the bar? It is not enough to have high expectations for students alone. We have to dig deeper than that. We need to question and reflect much further than that. Our intention to provide quality education is good, even noble, and it is rare for me to meet a pedagogue that doesn’t really care about keeping the bar high.

I often have the privilege of working with schools in which students and staff demonstrate innovation, inspiration, collaboration and, in particular, a transformation of teaching practices and of the learning experience.

In these schools, it is clear that expectations are high, but not just for students. The bar is high for the staff too. Result? For those who decide to take action and surpass themselves, it can lead to transformed pedagogy, and an extraordinary learning experience for students. We see an increase in motivation, the birth of safe learning environments in which students have a voice and learn about things that are important and relevant to them. You know, real life stuff. The teacher is the guide, the students are the explorers. The student who says: “Next year, I want to be in that teacher’s classroom! My friends love it because it’s not traditional. ” Or even “This school is really good. Teachers listen to the students. The students are happy, and the staff is happy! There is no lack of innovation. I want to register THERE! ” Who would not want to hear this? Who would not want to be THAT teacher, to be a staff member of that school?

Viewed From A Different Angle

I recently read Marc-André Girard’s blog post in which he speaks of “teachers who disturb”. Unfortunately, the phenomenon exists in our schools: one tries to lower the bar of another not to be obligated to raise their own. It’s sad for the teacher, and even more so for the students. I sincerely believe that this kind of attitude is going extinct, thanks to the dedication of our school staff, to collaboration and networking, to an increasingly open-mindedness, and to a professional «self awareness».

Have you ever heard the following statements during conversations in your schools?

  • We score low on provincial assessments, but our students do well in their classes (report card marks are high)!
  • The development of learning skills and work habits should be a priority! Our students are not organized or autonomous. Something has to be done!
  • We have the impression that our Level 3 is more like a Level 2;
  • Students are capable of so much more!

What can we do with our students to change these trends? It is often the first question that comes to mind. It’s natural! We are here to guide the students, to help them succeed, to  help them meet our high expectations, right?

Just a minute.

Let’s put on a different pair of glasses. Let’s go back to the four statements above, but this time, let’s keep this question in mind: “What can we do as school staff to guide students and change these trends together? Answer: raise the bar!

Render Unto Caesar The Things Which Are Caesar’s

how-can-we-expect-our-students-to-learn

The quote in this visual reminds me of the famous expression: “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s”. Keeping the bar high is a choice that we all have to make, every day. It is our responsibility; not our employer, not our students, not the parents, or our colleagues.

Keeping the bar high requires an investment of time and effort. I think it also requires a plan. Not a long and complicated plan, but a plan with a target to shoot for and actions will get us there within a certain period of time. And once we reach the target, we aim for a new one. It is the professional learning cycle: continuous, evolving, never static. The great thing is that we can personalize it, customize it to meet our individual growth needs. We can learn pretty much anything thanks to the internet. We just need to make learning a priority. Let’s not forget the great words of Albert Einstein: “Once you stop learning, you start dying.”

Passion

It takes passion to keep the bar high. During an Ignite session, Pierre Gagnon said it beautifully: “Because passionate people do not work, they live.” And living without passion, well, is it really living? One thing is for sure, to teach = to live.

Passion is the fuel. This is what makes our actions «human». It is the nervous system of pedagogy. Without passion, how can we be innovative and inspiring? How can we be motivated to want to improve ourselves? Here is a great TED-Ed Talk by Richard St-John entitled The Power Of Passion. It’s seven minutes well invested!

Find your passion, and the rest will fall in place.

Networking

You don’t need to be alone to keep the bar high. In fact, you shouldn’t work at it alone. Now more than ever, people need to take advantage of the power and benefits of networking. There are different ways to network. There’s social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.), but we also have access to our colleagues with whom we work. Collaborating, discussing, supporting, and reflecting together are activities that help build our capacity and help develop healthy working relationships. Who knows? You may discover your passion thanks to your professional learning network.

Self-Directed Learning

To keep the bar high, we need to be lifelong learners. We can’t expect our employer to meet all of our professional development needs. In my opinion, this is impossible for a school board. It’s up to us to look for and find what we need in terms of professional learning. Everything is possible and within reach thanks to the internet: we decide the what, the how, and the when. Tailor-made learning that meets our individual needs, and is readily available whenever we are ready to learn. Have you ever visited YouTube to learn how to fix something, run a device, or even read reviews on Trip Advisor to help you choose your next destination? These are great examples of self-directed learning.

Faculties Of Education

For me, keeping the bar high is sort of like a philosophy that must be though through before even setting foot in a classroom. We must require the highest standards of preparation and training for teacher candidates within our faculties of education. The future depends on it.

It is vital to connect with the realities of today’s classrooms, as well as the mindset a teacher must have, and the commitments it takes for professional growth. Teacher preparation must not only be anchored in theories, but also in practice. Is developing a professional learning network a requirement? Do we ask teacher candidates to participate in Twitter chats about education? Do we talk about critical thinking, or growth mindset? The other day while reading through my Twitter feed, I found some posts from students from a faculty of education. They were connecting, learning, and sharing thoughts and ideas with other educators throughout the world. How powerful is that?

Hiring process

When we interview candidates for teaching or administrative positions in our schools, how do they demonstrate that they keep the bar high? The hiring process is an ideal opportunity to ensure that we select the best possible person for our students and our schools. As a parent, a teacher, or a principal, I would expect nothing less.

What kinds of questions do we ask candidates during an interview? Do these questions call upon critical thinking skills? How often do we review, modify, or change the questions? Should they be customized according to the realities and the profile of the school in which the candidate would potentially work? Here are some great questions to ask during a teacher interview:

  • How have you become a better person and how do you keep growing?
  • Why is your work and your presence important?
  • How do you plan to contribute beyond yourself?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • How can you catalyze passion in others?

Here is an article that was published on January 10, 2017 in which the author shares interesting statistics in regards to the hiring process. Well worth the read! I would also like to share this article: The 7 questions every new teacher should be able to answer. The author offers some very interesting questions that could inspire you if you are looking to improve your hiring process (by the way, I really like the idea of presenting a professional digital portfolio in an interview).

How do you keep your bar high? I would love to hear some ideas!

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