Teaching is a practice. We practice teaching. We have an obligation to do our best, but that will ultimately change as we… practice. If we want to apply ‘best practice’ to teaching, then we need to look at ourselves as role model learners. We need to be relentless learners striving to be our best. We need to be self-reflective, we need to seek advice from our mentors and teachers, we need to engage in learning conversations, and we need to share our enthusiasm for both teaching and learning. We need to ‘practice teaching’ to the best of our ability.
Alec Couros said in the comments,
“Best practice” makes three big assumptions.
1) That best practices exist, that there are in fact ‘best’ practices.
2) That these practices can somehow be extracted, mostly oblivious to the style of the teacher, the student, the learning environment, the social environment, the cultural environment …
3) That these practices can somehow be transferred, used by other teachers, in other contexts.
These are huge assumptions, ones that de-emphasize “teacher as compassionate human” in favour of “teacher as technician”. There needs to be a balance.
Darren says, “I think beta is the best we can do in education“. This really strikes a chord with me as I reflect on our Inquiry Hub school’s inaugural year.
I agree with Darren that while we can implement some key guiding principles, we shouldn’t necessarily be talking about best practice. More practice can always help us improve on the best way(s) that we currently know of. So, in effect, the current ‘best’ usually isn’t the future best practice. This leads us to being in perpetual beta, experimenting and doing things differently.
In recent posts on Looking Back, and Leadership and Capacity, I’ve shown my propensity to be reflective. I think that like Darren, I see myself as ‘always beta’, but a state of perpetual beta seems to be both essential (as a lead/model learner in a learning organization) and also exhausting (as someone tirelessly tring to make things better).
‘Doing Differently’ based on a reflective practice is key to future success… It is also a curse in that ‘good enough’ is never good enough, and our best can always be better. I’m not sure how to do this well (yet), but measuring and appreciating our successes (even the small ones) is a mental health issue that I think many of us need to work on. Life is too short to constantly feel like ‘things need to be better’ and not feeling inspired that we are doing the best that we can with the time and resources that we have… As are our students and colleagues.
In his post, Do Over: 5 Things I’ll Do Differently, Jeff Delp reflects on some key ideas to help guide him as he strives to focus on what really matters. He quotes Goethe:
Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.
I think that being in perpetual beta requires a certain balance. While we are constantly trying to focus and improve upon things which matter most, we need to celebrate our accomplishments even when we reflect on how much better things could (potentially) be. Products eventually move out of beta and although there are tweaks and upgrades, the beta phase is over. Perpetual beta means ongoing iterations and trials, coupled with continual learning and improving. We just need to remember to appreciate how far we’ve come and not just focus on how far we still have to go!