Teaching is a lot like acting, a high-energy, performance profession that requires a person to act as a role model. But when teachers go through training and professional development, the performance aspect of the job is rarely emphasized or taught. Acknowledging this aspect could be a missed opportunity to restructure ways teachers learn new skills and tactics.
Actors, musicians or acrobats spend hours perfecting their craft because that’s how they improve. Teachers on the other hand, are often asked to identify teaching tools and tactics they’d like to try and to reflect on how those new elements could be integrated into the classroom.
“Knowing what you want to do is a long way from being able to do it,” said Doug Lemov, managing director of Uncommon Schools, a non-profit school management organization and author of Teach Like a Champion and Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better in a recent Future of Education conversation with Steve Hargadon. He started trying to improve teaching by identifying the best practices of exceptional teachers and giving workshops on those “gold nuggets” to less experienced teachers. While many teachers found what they learned helpful, they couldn't put the new methods into practice.
“Every other performance profession prepares people by practicing and breaking things down into sections,” said Lemov. So he shifted his professional development workshops to emphasize practicing good teaching strategies rather than just thinking about them.
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Those first workshops were a learning experience in building on skill sets. Lemov remembers in one of his first groups, teachers pretended to be unruly students in a class taught by another teacher present. The teacher tried to give her lesson as her “students” misbehaved. She was unable to do so; they were throwing too many challenges at her at once. “What just happened there is she practiced failure,” Lemov said. “She just got better at losing control of the classroom.”