During my first years of teaching in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, my principal said this in my evaluation – Becky is able to put theory into practice. This was a positive evaluation and one I tried to live up to throughout my teaching years. For the most part, I was able to take a theory and make it work in the classroom. I was proud of this.
I could read or learn about a theory or a best practice. I could then visualize it in my head, and I could take it to the classroom and make it work. BUT, for me the next question was – Do I want to put this theory into practice? And if so, do I do it with “fidelity”?
I was never one to blindly follow one person or one theory. I frequently questioned. If I put the theory into practice, I was consistently revising as I saw the impact on the kids and the classroom. As a teacher, I read many books on many different practices and thoughts and ideas and research. No one person has the “secret” to academic achievement and success in life. I try to remember that as I read and try new things. Our goal is to make things work in a way that supports student learning and growth.
The surprising thing is that this principal never told me what teaching practice to use. He did not require me to use a specific practice. An excellent administrator knows a good teacher is knowledgeable of best practice, knows her students, is able to use different practices to help children achieve and develop the whole child. The teacher is able to prove her success with students.
We don’t change a teacher just because we want to initiate a new program. We provide the teachers with professional development. We provide any necessary tools to implement the initiative. We provide help as needed. We encourage and support. All good teachers look at the theory they are putting into practice – they almost always tweak things. Anyone who says they don’t do this is following a practice without thinking and without observing the impact on students. Good teachers are consistently observing and adjusting instruction.
They are so many initiatives and programs out there. Good teachers know not one is the “Gospel”. Probably to an administrator’s chagrin – I have many times not followed a practice with fidelity. I have always found ways to make a practice my own and found a way to make it work for kids. Allow teachers to think, to question, and to adjust. For this is what we should also be teaching our children.