Sunday, October 2, 2011

Always our best...

We have a principal in one of our elementary schools that lives and speaks the school motto often to her staff, her students and her parents. The motto is "Always our best!". Wherever she travels throughout her school when she is with students the motto is there also;
"Always our best, children."
Many times we confront the reality of wanting to do our personal best. As we remind children in a school to be focused on this, it would seem simple enough to have a coach constantly with us reminding and motivating our personal best.
In an interesting article found in the New Yorker Magazine, an experienced and veteran surgeon defines the concept of finding one's personal best. He uses an interesting analogy regarding this idea explaining how even professional tennis players use a coach to observe, guide, analyze and evaluate the player in order to reach that elusive potential to be the best player he/she can be. The author seeks to find that same desire to improve as a surgeon. Do we, as educators approach our profession any differently ?
Providing teachers with peer coaches or mentors to offer feedback, certainly nothing new in this regard, but it is hardly ever employed. Most teachers feel a safety and security within their classrooms away from the lingering observations of an administrator. Being able to practice one's craft or teach is the dream of every teacher; unhindered and free to do the instructional situation to one's benefit. But, in this day of professional performance review and high order accountability the necessity of providing feedback and criticism challenges that framework.
There is much to be learned from peer review, and the mentoring possibilities are astounding when we task veteran teachers to work with one another. Every teacher should have a mentor, and every mentor should be working with colleagues to become a true profession.

Gawande, A.( October 3, 2011). Personal Best. New Yorker Magazine. Retrieved October 1, 2011 on the Internet at