Thursday, 15 November 2012

Mixed Messages...

What happens when Mum says to her son that he is not allowed to watch television whilst eating dinner, but then, when Mum is away, Dad says that it is fine? What message is the child getting about whether it is OK to watch television whilst eating dinner? A mixed, inconsistent one! The child will likely have less clarity about the appropriate decision / action to take, as they are getting mixed, inconsistent messages from the adults that are leading them.
The same concept applies in classrooms - teaching staff that work collaboratively need to be 'on the same page' regarding the messages that they are giving their students. We don't want to clog up the working memory of students by requiring them to decipher between conflicting messages that they are receiving from the adults that are leading them...  

At my school, we have recently undertaken another Instructional Rounds process and the 'Next Level of Work' that the team identified was the need for greater consistency of approach between the adults that work together in classrooms
We are very fortunate to have a high proportion of para-professional staff, who work as tutors or assistant teachers in co-operation with our teachers. This provides higher levels of support for our students, but, in some cases, gives rise to potential [though unintended] inconsistency of message and approach that we are using with our students.
There are a couple of main reasons why this issue exists:

  1. Little opportunity for planning and communication between teachers and the para-professional staff, who are often employed casually and paid by the hour [i.e. they don't spend much time at school before or after class time... ], but also often swap between classrooms during the day. Both of these factors make them a bit 'hard to catch' for busy teachers... 
  2. Less professional knowledge and understanding of para-professionals, compared with the teachers they work with. Our tutors are not tertiary-qualified professionals, so they naturally don't have the same professional awareness of the range of strategies teachers use from time to time, or the particular purposes of these strategies. If they do not empathise or understand the strategies being used by the teacher, they are more likely to revert back to what they are comfortable with or have become accustomed to from their own experiences.


How do we address this?  

By speed dating, naturally... 
Well not really... At a feedback session to staff, we paired up tutors with teachers on 'dates' and gave them two questions to ask their perfect match... 

We have also flagged the need to 'build in' some planning and communication time for tutors in 2013, by way of employing them for an extra period of time each week, which would be outside of class times and designated as time for meeting with the teachers that they predominantly work with.

Although not very romantic... hopefully it will help us improve the consistency of approach our adult staff are employing in classrooms, as well as avoid the mixed messages that can sometimes be sent to students and the resulting confusion that they may feel... 

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