Unleashing Greatness in Teachers | David Weston | TEDxGrandRapids



thank you very much you guys have got amazing energy in here so I wanted to tell you a little story from when I was seven years old and I was there in my bedroom in London and I was playing with a lego and I was idly creating some form of starship or maybe a vacuum cleaner because I was a weird kid and my mom came into me and she said David what what do you want for your birthday and I've thought about it and looked around the room and I looked around at my Lego and I saw it on my bed my teddy bear and his name was Teddy which is a shame it wasn't Ted right wouldn't have been just so perfect but his so his name was Teddy and I looked to him and I knew straight away and I said to my mum mum I want a blackboard and she was like a blackboard why'd you want a blackboard and I said yeah I really need to get better at my teaching and she was really confused was like what are you talking about and I said no no listen I've been having a really hard time teaching the four times table to Teddy and that was the first time I remember thinking how do you get to be a great teacher what a link right so I came up with this question how do we develop great teaching and it's something that's interested me in my whole life and I started when I was in school I found a few of my old books and I wrote in the back of those books some notes to the teacher how they could do their job better I never shared it with those teachers so thank goodness I got through they actually didn't hate me in the end and I went through to college and I ended up teaching studying to be a teacher now when you study to be a teacher you're in the back of these amazing classrooms and you're watching these other practitioners and I would look at them and say how did you get to be so good how did you get to get all these children in the palm of your hand and I couldn't figure it out I didn't know what it was and I ended up teaching for nine years in high school I taught mathematics and physics over in England and I then went on to start to found a non-profit in 2012 called the teacher development trust and our job is to answer this question how do we develop great teaching so the first thing we need to think about is so what is great teaching right so let's have a look at the ingredients that I think now after looking at this for maybe 12 years I think we'll okay these are the ingredients of great teaching so the first ingredient is perception a really great teacher just knows what's going on in that classroom they're able to look at individuals they're able to understand their emotional state they're able to read the whole classroom they know what the energy level is I remember one of my teachers in a calculus class and she looked over my shoulder as I was writing it she said whoa whoa whoa stop I said what I've done something she said no no but you're about to and she was right we discussed it and she was absolutely right she perceived what was going on with me and my work and one of the reasons her perception was so great not only of the class the children but also herself is because of her knowledge really great teachers have amazing knowledge they understand the anatomy of learning they understand the journeys that we take children through when we teach they understand how children develop into adults they understand how children develop their subject knowledge and also they develop as learners in our schools and they link that to what they perceive but also to what they do great teachers have amazing practice they can use their whole bodies and raise the energy levels or calm it down they can use their voices and if they need to they can pause for effect they can be talking over here while dealing with that issue here and if that doesn't work then there's the death stare it's not just what teachers do though because actually it's the questions they ask it's the explanations they give it's the way they've been creativity to our classrooms they get the students working together in exciting and interesting ways but maybe most important at all it comes down to what's inside that teacher because a really great teacher loves learning a really great teacher loves watching these children grow and develop and understand the subject and they love that feeling of helping the people in front of them and they've got a draw on that sometimes because teaching it's a really hard job and when you've got a really angry child in front of you and you go home at the end of that day you just need to draw on that and say I remember why I love it but we need the teachers spirit so that for me is what a great teacher looks like but the question is how do we develop great teaching that's the big question so I wanted to think about two professions which are very important to me the first one of those is a surgeon now in 2009 I had a life-saving liver transplant to cure a rare condition and I was thinking what did my surgeon do to become great well if we think of those different areas what my surgeon did first of all was to study so the first thing the surgeon did was to understand the anatomy of my body of all bodies they understood the anatomy of disease they understood the progression how you get well how you become ill they understand what they need to know to do their job right and then on top of that it's not just theory because they've seen hundreds of bodies they've seen readings from hundreds of machines they've spoken to hundreds of patients and they integrate that knowledge and what with what they see so it becomes real for them and no matter what they see and what they perceive they know what they're looking at and then they practice and the surgeon who carried out my transplant had carried out thousands of transplants and did a great job because I'm here today and I suppose as importantly that surgeon knows every single day they practice every single day that that surgeon learned they were doing better and better for the patients I've got a strong sense of professionalism now another profession that's really dear to me my husband he used to be a really top dancer and I was thinking well how did he get to be a great dancer I used to do a bit of ballroom dancing dabbling on the side so I like to think I know something too and the first thing we all do in these classes you learn the basics right you go in and you do it you know you learn a little box step in if you're doing ballroom or you start doing ballet I won't try and do that you learn these basics because you want to get the vocabulary of the dance and you build up the theory of what you understand as a dancer and then by watching great performances by watching other dancers by watching yourself in the mirror and on video you learn to integrate what you see with the theory and you close that circle and you understand how to do better at what you do and then you practice and you become skillful and you develop the muscles and the control and use all of these things to be an amazing dancer and you get better and better about helping the audience feel alive in the moment of that performance so that surgeons and that's dancers so let's think about teachers now I've put a question mark here in teaching there is some amazing development that goes on but it tends to be in small pockets when I was a teacher I used to be sent to lectures I used to say be sent on to a lovely hotel really great great sandwiches and I would listen to some wonderful ideas and I would write them all down and I would go back to my school and then I put those notes in the box and I was so busy I would get on with the job and that was the box of shame that had all the ideas that I've got that I never had the time to really use and I didn't even get that many opportunities to go out it would be lectures it would be reading things but no time so what would I do I would look out for any old idea as many teachers do we just look for tips and tricks so a really classic example is five great new ways to use a post-it note in your classroom you maybe wouldn't expect a surgeon to do that right you look for anything to nourish you as a teacher you look for ideas that will help you really grow and develop I joined Twitter and it was at the end of 2010 I think it was really exciting for me this amazing community of educators and I sort of loads of ideas and I would read blogs and I would take ideas and I'd go back in the classroom so one day I went back in the classroom and I turned around to the whiteboard and I draw two really big circles on the board and it was a big Venn diagram and I turned around I was like right class we're gonna do this new thing today it's gonna be great it's gonna really help us fifteen year old boy at the front of the class said oh mr. Weston it's one of your Twitter ideas I was like yeah yeah it is he said what's it gonna be next week and he was right I used to just so many new ideas I would grab little shiny ideas like a magpie and use them in my class but genuinely I never really developed Deptford I never did because no one gave me the time to really think about these ideas and when we don't give teachers time to take these great ideas and turn them into a great practice we get frustrated with our teachers right we say you should be doing a better job for our children so the answer must be accountability we need to hold you more to account put more pressure on you so what we're going to do is we're gonna observe you I'm gonna send someone into the back of your classroom for 30 minutes in that time they're gonna have a little grid and they're going to tick off how good you are and this is gonna tell us everything we need to know about your knowledge everything we need to know about your skill everything we need to know about your practice and your perception and we'll give you a grade and we'll say that's how good you are as a teacher maybe not good enough you need to get better or if we're really lucky they might take one set of test scores from our children and say that is everything I need to know about you as a teacher and it's going to put pressure on you you need to do better now what sort of crazy world do we live in when we don't give teachers the time to engage with the great ideas that are out there but instead we put more and more pressure on them to just get better anyway I spoke to a gentleman in Grand Rapids last night and he said his wife is a third-grade teacher and she's been teaching for 30 years and she is frustrated because this year she's gonna spend 20 days doing tests and why is she spending those days is it to help her children is it to help her or really is it just to put pressure on her just to be better it's a crazy situation we're in now when we look at the research on how good the quality of development really is in our schools then we find it's not good this is a study from England and they looked at they sampled from the national database a large sample of different professional development opportunities available to educators there and they ranked them in for quality levels and the very top quality level they called transformative it's exactly the sort of learning that we want our teachers to have and this is what they found this diagram will show you the proportion which was that top quality versus everything else 1% 1% of what was on offer in that snapshot 2 educators in this one in England was of that highest quality the top quality to help those educators be better at what they do now that's shameful but the research would suggest that's true around the world the u.s. the UK we don't give our teachers the support they should have and the result of that is this this was a great study from Kraft and Pepe last year and they looked in North Carolina at a load of teachers and they said well let's look at the impact they have through their career on our children so this first graph shows that those teachers they sort of sink or swim they improved for the first couple of years and then after that they pretty much stagnated those teachers year-on-year really didn't change the impact they were having on those children and you know they were trying you know they were working hard but the environment around them was low-quality for development then they looked at the high quality environments and not only did those teachers improve more initially they continued to get better every single year at helping the children in their classes now we have an interesting question for ourselves do we want our schools to be low quality development environments for our teachers or do you want them to be high quality where every year every teacher is going to be helping our children do even better than the last year now we've got a choice to make at this point because the children in our classes are the teachers of tomorrow and they were looking at us as teachers and saying do I want to be you do I want to become you do I want to join this amazing profession and there's the teachers in the classroom now we are letting down because we are not giving them the support and the development that they need and that they want but we can do great development and this is drawing on a big international body of research as well as schools that I've seen when we go round and we audit these wonderful schools and great development has a few key ingredients the first thing we do is we help teachers really understand the children in front of them we help them in diagnose where these children are on their learning journey and understand what these children need and understand what they will need to inspire them and understand what their barriers are and then we let teachers problem-solve at the moment we take our teachers and say look at this great teacher here just copy that now I tell you I would not have been happy if my liver transplant surgeon had just watched someone great and they say just copy that you'll be fine somehow with teachers apparently this is not a problem maybe we maybe just because the damage isn't so visible right but when great teachers development involves letting teachers work in teams problem-solving identifying the barriers for the children in front of them and helping them overcome those barriers drawing on the evidence of what really works and helping improve their teaching and it's a wonderful experience and they get to collaborate they work with each other they work with experts they work with consultants and researchers and as professionals they work together to solve these problems diagnose the issues and be amazing creative inspiring teachers and then we have the professional culture when our schools are places where our teachers will thrive when our schools are places where the teachers have respect well we give them the space and the time to work with each other as professionals where we say the way to help you be better at what you love is to support you and not hold you accountable and put more pressure on you and we have to develop this culture because we want teachers who are perceptive to our children's needs we want teachers who are knowledgeable about what really works we want teachers who are incredibly skillful no matter which child is in front of them and maybe most importantly we want teachers who are joyful and they will come into those classrooms and they will bring that joy and inspire the next generation our children to be the best they can be now I worked with a teacher recently in our network of schools in England and she told me a wonderful story she said I'm a gym teacher and I have gym class and I see loads of classes all the time and there was one girl who would always bring the sick note she would always say I forgot in my kit she would always say I just can't do it and when she was in the class she would sit back she didn't want to engage I never had the time to understand her and work on her issues and help her but we organized with her school to give her that time we organized with her school to give her that time to work in a team and she talked to that student and she talked to the other students and she read great books and research and she tweaked and she changed and she refined and over time she figured out how to deal with this child's issues and now this girl is so inspired she goes to gym club after school what if we could get that for every child because the fact is if we want the best for our children we need to do the best for our teachers let's do it together thank you you

12 thoughts on “Unleashing Greatness in Teachers | David Weston | TEDxGrandRapids”

  1. Making teachers great: stop all the pointless Ofsted inspection, stop all the relentless testing protocols, LET KIDS FIND OUT THINGS FOR THEMSELVES. 2-3 hours of direct instruction a day, NO HOMEWORK, the rest spent on self-directed learning activities. There, solved it for you in 17 minutes less than this showpony did.

  2. Does anyone knows where to find the research on the high/low quality envirement for teachers? I really want to know if i can set up a similar research in The Netherlands.

  3. Talk started out very well. However, quickly began to become too drawn out. Watch the YT crowd quickly attack; it's fine I think it's important to express different opinions; in fact, when someone already sees "nice talk, great talk" why duplicate or triplicate message. Also, I have to say, he disclosed something about his orientation, for no reason. Why? I don't get that; so many lecturers, few really disclose that, unless it's a specific story which illustrates an important point in their talk. Anyway, no issue with ppl's orientation of course; it's a free world. However, it's unnecessary, why ""just because"". cheers luv to all

  4. I loved this talk. I am a teacher in North Carolina. The biggest problem we face is our state legislature does not value teachers as professionals, and places so little importance on what we do. We make very little money, have extremely long hours, and continue to see benefits slashed, and funding cut time and time again. These legislators are actively discouraging advancement in public schools, and trying to promote private charter schools as these schools and their corporate backers put more money in the legislators' pockets. They do not care about either our teachers, or the children we teach. Frustrating hardly covers what we feel.

  5. I truly hope the audience was filled with administrators and teacher leaders. They should have the boldness/ingenuity to propose alternative scheduling for teacher collaboration with experts, each other, and successful practitioners. Great lecture Mr. Weston.
    JD Booth

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