Two weeks ago I had the absolute pleasure of traveling to Doha, Qatar as a consultant for Qatar Academy. I have to admit, it was a little ironic, being invited to speak about 21st Century Literacy at the school where Julie Lindsay is Head of Information Technology. I mean, really, who knows better about 21st Century Literacy and global collaborations than the co-founder of the Flat Classroom Project? She’s the one mentioned in The World is Flat, not me!
But, that’s the interesting thing about schools, isn’t it? Working together day in and day out, we often lose sight of the experts in our own midst, and can’t see the trees for the forest, so to speak.
One common remedy for this problem, in international schools, is to bring in some new trees every year. We spend about 6 months out of the school year actively recruiting the absolute best of the best, selecting the top candidates in their field, interviewing and weeding through the hundreds of applicants for each position. Then we proudly share our spectacular staffing for the coming year, ensuring that everyone both inside and outside of school knows what amazing new teachers we have on board.
And then the new year comes, those outstanding new hires get to work, prove themselves, show their stuff, and by October or so they’re part of the institution. Everyone’s heard their message, their voices become routine, their ideas stitched into the fabric of daily life at school.
Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a little longer than those first few months to create change, sometimes it takes a little more than those first few months to really get that message across, sometimes those first few months go by in a blur and you’ve really only scratched the surface. Yet once someone is established within the daily routine of a school, their voice becomes less powerful to those who work in close proximity to them.
So how should schools go about fostering constant change and growth within the faculty, if, as seems to be the case, even expert teachers gradually stop feeling energized by each other’s ideas the longer they work together? The answer can’t be to simply wait for the new hires to inject some excitement every autumn. Schools need to keep their teams of teachers working productively for personal and institutional change throughout the year, whether they’ve been working together in the trenches for two years – or twenty.
That’s where the power of the “outside voice” can really make a difference. There’s something special about having someone who doesn’t sit in all the faculty meetings, who you don’t see in the hallway every single day. There’s something exciting about knowing that there are other “experts” that are recommending the same thing that your stellar staff are talking about. There’s something enticing about that “outside voice.”
So, although I am fairly certain that I didn’t say anything that Julie hasn’t already said, and while I know that there are a number of amazing staff at QA that have been working diligently on the exact type of issues I raised during my two days on campus, I think that my “outside voice” was able to make an impact – just by virtue of the fact that it was an outside voice.
Julie and I talked about creating a network of “outside voices” that can come and inject some excitement into our international schools. Teachers who are currently in the classroom, working with these tools every day, who know the ups and downs and ins and out of teaching and learning in a 21st century classroom in an international setting. Instead of (or in addition to) sending groups of teachers out to conferences, from which new information can be filtered back to the rest of the staff, what if we brought these practicing experts in, to deliver a consistent message to the whole staff within the comfort of their daily working environment, with their tools and their on-site experts? What if we could rotate through each other’s schools, presenting and consulting on our individual areas of expertise, ensuring that the momentum that starts each August continues through until June every year? What if all of the teachers in our schools (those with an RSS reader, and those without) could benefit, in person, from the learning that some of us read about online every day?
Tags: julie lindsay, qatar academy, 21stcentury, consultant, professional development, training, internationalschool, 21st century literacy, collaboration, learning, creating, vision, philosophy, understanding, framework, embed, technology, curriculum, planning, development, professional development, training