by Dr. John J. Franey, CEO/Founder of Developing Difference Makers
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As a dedicated educator focused on making a difference in the world of education, I believe strongly in the following eight tenets of education:
1) Never lose sight of what all of education is about – making a difference in the lives of children. The vast majority of educators went into teaching because they were committed to have a lasting, positive impact on children. On a daily basis they work long hours after the school day has ended, get paid far less than what they should earn, deal with kids who are just not happy to be at school, and serve as an “at school” parent, confidant, psychiatrist, motivator, and friend to children desperately in need of support. As educators, we too often get caught up in political issues of union rules and difficult colleagues, and lose sight of why we do what we do. Even though you might not see it right away, you will make a difference in the lives of your students.
2) Contextual factors matter in education and lead to a need for differentiation. No aspect of education means more to me than the focus on contextual factors and differentiation as the method to more effective learning environments. No two learners have had the same set of experiences or the same set of contexts in their life, and thus the differentiation of learning is a necessity. The ability to individualize learning to address contextual factors makes a difference in the development of a learner’s capacities and abilities.
3) Infuse real-life learning about diversity, social justice, and equity into learning environments. Education is not merely about academic performance, but rather the development of life skills that learners can take with them throughout their life journey. By infusing learning about diversity, social justice, and equity through real-life situations and experiences, learners are able to develop a system of values that can enable them to excel in myriad environments that offer vast levels of diversity.
4) Consistent, high-quality professional development is crucial. PD can no longer be stand and deliver, ‘one-size-fits-all’ approaches that fail to follow-through on learning. Teachers and administrators need consistent opportunities to develop their learning through programs that center on their application of learning in school environments and collaboration with their peers. Traditional forms of PD need to be replaced by reform methods of PD that include opportunities to implement into practice, collaboration with peers, recurring sessions stretched over many months, and coherence to school goals and needs.
5) Blend theory and reality into developmentally appropriate learning experiences. Educators need the opportunity to blend theory and reality into their learning experiences. Merely memorizing theories or ideas will do little to change or strengthen their practice, and thus they need the opportunity to engage with theory through real-life situations and experiences, test theories in their practice, and build a strong foundation. All learning experiences and PD programs should be attuned to human developmental theories and should take into consideration how people learn and what their needs are at various levels.
6) Build communities of learning where all stakeholders are collaboratively working towards a common goal of excellence. Collaborative learning is a key to success for learners at all levels as it enables the opportunity for learners to develop their understanding of others, their ability to work with others, and to learn from the experiences and perspectives of others. Building bridges to all stakeholders, including parents and community members, enables an environment to exist that ensures learners are being supported from all of the people in their lives.
7) Educators should be constantly striving to develop and implement innovative approaches to education. Educational reforms and innovations have been a constant throughout the history of education, as they provide the opportunity for the school system to grow and change with new generations of learners. PD programs should strive to support school practitioners in finding new and innovative methods to engage learners and improve students’ learning outcomes. While “tried and true” instructional practices are great, there is a constant need to connect with the children of today who are learning and engaging differently.
8) School leaders should be committed to continuous development, transformational change, and organizational renewal and change. While educators often focus on what is happening in the classroom, there is a need for school leaders to be also working to develop the organization for greater effectiveness. School leaders need opportunities to learn theories of organizational behavior and change, how to build strong school cultures, and how to effectively lead organizations that are centered on life-long learning, continuous growth, and constant development for all stakeholders.