Supporting Teachers? Put Some of Those Initiatives in Timeout
Supporting teachers is more important than ever. Steve Ventura, author of multiple books including “Engaged Instruction: Thriving Classrooms in the Age of Common Core,” knows the research-backed strategies for how to do it more effectively.
And the strategies that don’t work?
“[Take] into account some of the things that weren’t that effective before the pandemic and [put] those things in timeout,” advised Steve Ventura.
Going further with fewer strategies for supporting teachers was the topic of this PLtogether Lounge Talk with Edthena founder and CEO Adam Geller and Advanced Collaborative Solutions president Steve Ventura.
Ventura, a former teacher as well as school and district-level administrator, laid out the few but mighty ways to help educators, including putting teacher micromanagement and student over-assessment in timeout.
Watch the video above, or continue reading for highlights of the conversation.
Supporting teachers doesn’t mean micromanaging them
“A school community shouldn’t be just a principal and a bunch of followers,” Steve Ventura emphasized.
Instead, school and district leaders should be learning alongside teachers and becoming resources for them.
“What really good leaders do is they learn with teachers,” Steve Ventura said about what the research shows.
This means giving educators the time to practice what they’re learning.
“A [professional development] program will never have as much impact as teacher practice,” Steve shared.
From his background working with John Hattie on Visible Learning projects, Steve knows student achievement is accelerated by the degree of implementation, not by implementing an increasing number of initiatives.
“Teachers need more time to practice what they’ve already been taught instead of bringing new initiatives in,” Steve Ventura said. “Let them go deeper with the things that they know work.”
In addition, school leaders should be building relational trust, a culture of social respect and safety among colleagues, with the teachers in their buildings.
Steve told us, “Control diminishes people.”
Supporting teachers isn’t about micromanagement, but rather enabling teachers to practice and effectively implement strong instruction.
Go deeper with fewer learning targets for students
Another important component of supporting teachers is about addressing what students really need.
“We should be going deeper with fewer initiatives now, more than ever, rather than superficially covering everything,” Steve Ventura stated. “I don’t think that our students need to know everything.”
It’s important for students to properly and deeply grasp concepts instead of mere short-term recall of many topics.
This age-old question of breadth versus depth becomes tricky when testing, such as end-of-year tests, is involved.
Steve says that he believes supporting teachers isn’t about using test scores to evaluate teacher competence. In fact, this is something he wishes he could change from his own experience as a school leader.
“When I was a principal and superintendent, all that mattered was test scores. … But [that] should not be considered the absolute end-all for student achievement,” Steve Ventura shared.
If he could have a do-over, Steve would say to teachers “Don’t worry about the test scores just right now, let’s get the practice in place.”
“I would be focusing more on the practice of teaching and pedagogy and not focusing on a one-time-a-year, high-stakes assessment,” Steve reflected.
School leaders: Focus on less to achieve more
For school leaders working on supporting teachers more effectively, the theme is to focus on less and go further.
Whether that’s fewer PD initiatives and more time for teacher instructional practice, or less standardized testing and more depth for student learning, educators and learners can achieve more when school leaders focus on the research-backed strategies that actually work.
Consider which of your school’s initiatives might need to be put in timeout in order to prioritize supporting teachers.