The Turnaround Teacher

In all the talk of turnaround schools, the qualities of the teaching that such schools require, sometimes called turnaround teachers, gets short shrift.  It’s the classroom as black box again, the black box that Wiliam and Black cracked open so well in their seminal article “Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards through Classroom Achievement.”

Some of our coaches have been using the work of Bonnie Benard to help teachers think about learning partnerships with students. At the heart of true formative assessment is the idea that students need to drive their own learning. Teaching isn’t something you do to students, if you want them to learn, it’s something you do with students.  Some students come to school ready to drive their own learning, thanks to deeply committed and usually well resourced parents. Other students don’t have those advantages. If we only teach to the “ready” students, and write off the others, then we tend to reproduce existing social inequities.

Bonnie Bernard writes about the Turnaround Teacher (or mentor) as someone who helps a student build resiliency, which is a critical aspect of readiness to learn.  It encourages a growth mindset, self-efficacy, and responsibility and passion for one’s own learning. the three key components of the resiliency that a turnaround teacher fosters are:

  • Connection: to the school community, a meaningful sense of belonging
  • Competency: not just relationships, not just being a “popular teacher,” but relationships that empower student cognition by showing students where they are already strong and where they can go next, and meta-cognition, their awareness  of themselves as learners on a path of growth
  • Contribution: students have opportunities to influence and change their environment, make a valuable contribution to things that matter to them and their families and friends

Schools might have to spend a long time getting teachers together in meaningful discussions about students to develop ways of enacting these three environmental factors. They may have to work through difficult conversations about race, class, and culture to build a school where all faculty and staff and willing and able to reach out to students in the ways that are needed to create an environment that fosters student resilience.

These kinds of relationships that foster resilience are the basis of practices of formative assessment, which are often discussed as merely technical practices (test, analyze data, plan instructional intervention, retest, etc).  If the child and their growth as a self-directed learner, and all that is needed to foster that, is not behind this process, it will not result in real learning, real growth for students.

This entry was posted in achievement gap, Changing the Discourse, education reform, Effective Teaching, Equity Pedagogy, racial equity, Relationships, school improvement and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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