Imagine Schools in Which Teachers Are Students
Sparks, Dennis, Journal of Staff Development
In this issue of JSD, Mary Ann Smith describes (p. 10) how teachers who are members of ongoing groups improve their teaching of writing by demonstrating and discussing effective classroom practices, writing and sharing drafts of their writing with colleagues, and engaging in professional reading and discussion with peers. These processes, Smith says, "generate and build knowledge and community among participants."
In another article (p. 47), ReLeah Cossett Lent offers another approach: "At every faculty or department meeting, as well as at all study sessions, allocate time for writing, if for no other reason than to demonstrate the importance of this vehicle for deeper learning and reflection."
As you read the articles in this issue, you will notice time and again the critical importance the authors place on reflection as part of professional learning and school culture. Because writing is a kind of frozen thought that can be carefully examined, it provides a process through which individuals and various groups can uncover hidden assumptions, gaps in knowledge or understanding, and faulty logic. In addition, writing offers a way to bridge the knowing-doing gap as teachers consider what they already know about the topic at hand and consider whether that knowledge is expressed in their daily practice.
The implications of the ideas and strategies presented in this issue extend beyond writing instruction, however. While previewing the articles, I found myself imagining what it would be like in schools if a substantial portion of teachers' learning occurred in the manner and spirit suggested here: teachers seriously engaging with each other and the subject matter they teach in ways that lead to a deeper understanding of that subject, a greater awareness of the learning methods that promote their learning of challenging content, and the cultivation of teaching strategies that are successful with struggling students. …