Every once in a while, I find some teachers who might already know a good deal of the material I’ve been hired to present and teach to the staff. And like a good teacher who teaches strangers every single class period and who keeps potential advanced learners in mind, I always have additional, deeper challenges that I keep in my back pocket, ready to pull out to keep an advanced learner moving forward on a topic. But sometimes, even the advanced material isn’t enough to challenge those who already know even more.
So I’m toying with the idea of making this radical recommendation to the leadership when I find those teachers who truly do know all and more than I planned to address during my visit(s). After visiting with the teacher and seeing what they want, I might recommend they just leave the room (if they want–if they don’t that’s ok too) and allow them the freedom and professional courtesy to let them go on about whatever they’d be doing if they weren’t required to be with me. And I want to see that they still get full credit for the day just like their peers who stay, because it’s obvious they’ve already spent their own time learning what others are catching up to.
How many times have you sat through an inservice of info you already know? And that you already practice? I’m looking at you, you EdTech fiends. Ever had to sit though a social media day, learning the importance of connecting?
Additionally, I don’t want to waste these teachers’ time using them as “helpers” unless they truly want to help out. Of course I want to try to challenge them first with deeper material. The best case scenario is that the person hiring me will tell me I have advanced learners before I’m boots on the ground that day. But that almost never happens. So if I am truly unable to challenge them, given my lack of prep time and knowledge of their existence, and within the confines of the leader’s expectations of the day, I cannot in good conscience hold any teacher hostage.
I want to — I am compelled to — honor the teachers’ previous learning. I want to — I want their leaders to set them free to continue the path they’re already traveling. I want to teach their supervisors that independent learning should be 1) recognized, 2) valued, and 3) and appreciated — oh, and 4) rewarded.
But perhaps my most important lesson of the day will be that sometimes, the most important thing we can do with any independent and motivated learner, regardless of her age, is to simply get out of her way.