Re-imagining our teaching practice: how do we begin?

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Dana’s words, “Who dares to teach must never cease to learn” serve to open this conversation about how a teacher’s ongoing professional learning can and should modify, enhance or wholeheartedly change their teaching practice.

Let’s get that conversation started.

  • Accept that change is disruptive, causes friction and takes time, so approach the possibility of changing your teaching practice through an appreciative lens.
  • Acknowledge while some of your teaching practices are effective, there are some students who, despite your best efforts, experience limited success or become disengaged. These students are the impetus for a change in practice.
  • Gather information about each of these students: Review work samples, formative assessment results and classroom discussions with a perspective of possibilities rather than a perspective of problems:
    • Ask: What is this student’s “known”? Regardless of the student’s level of achievement (high, average or low), recognize that the student’s known is the foundation on which to build.
    • Ask: What does this student need to know next? The answer to this question lies in scaffolding on the student’s known.
    • Ask: What is the community knowledge of the student and what are the interests of the student? Acknowledge these as foundational funds of knowledge.
  • Use a student interest and/or fund of knowledge as an anchor for the next steps lesson. Regardless of the interest, a student interest can anchor new lessons in any subject area. Check out T’s story.
  • Rethink the lesson planning process by re-imagining the sometimes “solid walls” of lesson plans, curriculum and your existing practice as louvered walls that open to allow new ideas in.
  • Plan a lesson that looks and feels different from your traditional practice. As you begin, keep Dana’s words in mind: Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.

    • Remember to keep an appreciative perspective in place.
    • Check out social media for research based conversations on topics such as educational change, literate identity, funds of knowledge, teaching that builds on the known, etc.
    • Talk to your colleagues.
    • Try something new. A good start point: Reduce the introductory “teacher talk”. Begin the lesson with music, artwork, an outdoor experience or a video.
  • Anticipate an enthusiastic response from the student(s), but be prepared for a less than enthusiastic response. Change is disruptive for students as well, so there may be friction. You may feel under attack, but don’t take this personally.
  • Keep trying – remember that a student may have taken years to build up this level of disengagement, so the switch from disengaged to engaged can be a long journey. Persevere, confer with colleagues and remember to keep an appreciative perspective.
  • Keep expectations high. The goal is for each student to feel real success, not to be prompted and helped.
  • Provide the student with feedback asap. Be honest and provide evidence. Start with an acknowledgment of the student’s known, “I notice that you can . . ” and then a direction to the new, “The next step is . . . “. For a simple but very effective method of recording student progress and providing feedback, check out our Meaningful Feedback in Minutes.

Finally, each disengaged child has the right to start again, so keep a journal of successes, partial successes, and moments that lead to frustration. Write and reflect on each entry with an appreciative perspective.

For more conversations about education, please visit: Beyond the Apple . . . Reframing Conversations in Education  or contact us at







About Beyond The Apple

Beyond the Apple provides everything a Professional Learning Community needs! Designed to follow Beyond the Apple's Tenets of Adult Education, our videos re-ignite the excitement of professional conversations among educators in the classroom, university, colleges and professional training. Our free teaching and learning resources provide a follow up with more information that is current, research based and practical.
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