Where Do You Fall on the Teacher Continuum?

Jill Thompson is Personalized Learning Program Manager for Charlotte Mecklenberg Schools and President of Edulum. Follow her on twitter @edu_thompson

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” By Anthony Robbins

The last 100 years in the workforce we needed farmers and factory workers. It was okay for classrooms to have a teacher at the front of the room, who was the only knowledge resource besides books, as the internet did not exist. Desks could be in rows because it replicated the workforce.

But times have changed; we must prepare today’s students for a different workforce. We know today’s students will have to create their jobs, not look for jobs. They will compete with others around the globe. They will have jobs replaced by outsourcing and technology if their skills are easily replicated or duplicated. To succeed, students will need creativity, communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and entrepreneurship. They will need to be able to adapt to change, be resilient and able to work effectively in a variety of environments.

How do we do this? We need to empower students to take ownership of their learning but we also need teachers to not be the sage on the stage but the guide on the side. I know what you are thinking — ‘but how to do we shift the role of the teacher as change is hard’ — and you are right. But just because something is hard doesn’t mean that it can’t happen.

teacher continuum

Teachers, instructional coaches and administration need to self-evaluate where they are on the teacher continuum and be purposeful in making small scaffolded changes. Hard work does not happen over night, as educators will need time and so will students. To be purposeful, we need to look at the instructional approaches to create personal learning opportunities for students.

How You Can Shift Up the Ladder on the Teacher Continuum

From Lecturer to Instructor:
Start by creating mini-lesson for your students that are no longer than 10-15 minutes verse teaching your whole instructional block. Implement a workshop model such as balanced literacy, daily 5 or math workshop that have students complete work both guided with others and individually.
From Instructor to Facilitator:
Start by incorporating a rotation model; if you have a few devices or are a BYOT school, try a blended learning model such as rotation station. A rotation model allows you as a teacher to teach mini-lessons to small groups instead of the whole class. The students should be grouped based on learning needs according to your data and each mini-lesson should address those needs. The data can be informal such as an exit ticket or formal such as a pre-assessment. You can also use the rotation model to do student/teacher conferences. If you were doing 20 min. rotations, the other 10 minutes you can conference with a few students each day after the mini-lesson.
I used to make a schedule so that each week I would meet with the students at least once. (See Week Learning Guide Example and Week Learning Guide Template) Examples of the other rotations: students practicing skills with manipulatives/games with partners; at another station they can do independent work such as a playlist, contract or choice board. (*Note rotation station model is different than stations! Stations is where each student rotates through and are learning and practicing the same skills. Rotation station is when the students are going to the same places ‘station’ but are doing work on the skills they need.)
From Facilitator to Coach:
This is the hardest shift and takes a lot of management. In this approach students get what they need, when they need it, not at a set pace. A teacher/coach works on the skills the individual student needs. Students and teachers together make action plans based on the students needs according to a pre-assessment. When a student finishes a unit they can move on to the next unit. There is no mini-lessons but small teaching moments during conferencing and facilitation. Students use playlists and each other to master the skills.

Other ways to help teachers make the shift:

  • Innovation and continuous improvement needs to be embedded in a schools/districts DNA.
  • Everyone needs to understand the ‘WHY’ this change needs to happen and be a part of it.
  • Administration needs to have a safe learning environment that looks at failure as a way to learn. They also have to understand that every teacher is different and will be at different places on the continuum.
  • Teachers need to be coached, supported and helped along in the process on making the shift into the different roles.
  • Have teachers visit other teachers. Seeing it in action helps teachers visualize.

I would love to hear how you as an educator have made the shift in transforming your teaching or how you have coached (as an instructional facilitator or administrator) teachers to make the shift.

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