I just finished reading Data Wise: A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Assessment Results to Improve Teaching and Learning (Harvard Education Press, 2013). It is an excellent resource for school leaders and leadership teams looking for specific strategies for better collaboration.
One quote that really stuck with me is on one of the last pages:
You can expect that no matter how experienced you become with this work, you will always have a growing edge. At this edge, you will be faced with what we call “burning questions” – having reached the limits of your own knowledge and skill, you will need to engage in inquiry in order to move forward. Why not let the same process that is guiding your efforts to improve student learning guide your own introspection about the work of improvement? (218)
The emphasis is mine (hence the title of this post). I like the concept of a “growing edge”. It reminds me of other terms related to being a lifelong learner, such as having a “growth mindset”, “preparing for possibilities”, and taking an “inquiry stance”. We should constantly be creeping forward in our capacities as educators.
But there is also a distinction. If you read the passage, having a growing edge means that our currently used resources, such as personal learning networks and professional texts, may allow us to grow only so much. What it means to me is we have to tap into maybe our greatest source of knowledge as practitioners: Our students.
So instead of just moving forward, a growing edge might also suggest a more recursive learning pathway – one where we come back to where we started and consider both our achievements and our growth. The authors advocate for engaging in classroom/action research. It will not only help us determine the impact of our instruction on student learning, but also lead us to reflect on our own practice and help us improve as a result. Like the lit lamppost at night that also offers a shadow during the day, we have to work smarter and explore the multiple ways our daily work can benefit everyone in the learning community, student and teacher.