Can We Restructure Some Things?

I have a note that I scribbled in a notebook a few months ago. I have been carrying this note, looking at it often, and thinking about it constantly.  It reads:

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It’s rough (and quite difficult to read)… one of those quickly scribbled thoughts we all have.  I wrote it just days after attending a Stephanie Harvey conference.  I really loved the conference and connected to so many ideas and strategies she shared for bringing inquiry into classroom spaces.

I believe that when teaching through inquiry, the role of the teacher changes.  The new role is that of facilitator, question poser, and resource and media collector.  This is what I cannot stop thinking about, because this new role does not often fit into the old mold very well.

Regarding my note, I actually do not think it as useful to use language like “need”, so I will rephrase my first sentence here, as a question:

What if schools restructured and shifted the roles of the teachers in the space?

What if schools redefined the word teacher?

What if there was not a “homeroom teacher” and other single-subject specialists or integrators (who often are spread incredibly thin working with an entire school).

What if each class/group (multi-age?) of children had a core set of “teachers” with different roles to support them.  There could be:

  • a “facilitator” – the person(s) who is (are) working along side the children on a given day, or for a given unit, or other defined amount of time.  These teachers would be the ones meeting the children where they are at in an inquiry, determining their needs, and posing questions.
  • a “resource/media collector” – this person(s)’ full time job would be locating great, engaging, meaningful resources, media, community events, guest speakers, etc. for the students.
  • The needs of each particular school and community would determine the other roles.  I can think of so many, though!

Could it then be that each role is that “teacher’s” full time job. Even if the roles swap and change over time, each teacher is truly focused on her or his specific role.  I think then, each teacher would have the opportunity to go deeper in her or his work.

In my first years of teaching, in the U.S. public schools, in a highly stressful environment, for lack of a better notion, I would often frame the problems and solutions of schooling in quantities:  “We need more teachers.” “We need less students” “We need more support.” “We need more counselors.” and on and on and on.  With experience in schools, and in life, I am learning that most often solutions are not as simple as adjusting quantities. More or less of the same does not really change a system.

A model of a learning space that supports inquiry could be different than the antiquated lone homeroom teacher (maybe an assistant teacher, too) and peripheral integrator and specialist who have limited scheduled, blocked, or booked time with the students.

Other thoughts:

  • Not sure about these titles I have assigned.  I’m just taking a stab at trying to think through, name and redefine roles.
  • If the job of a “facilitator teacher” was solely to work alongside the students then planning would be also solely about working alongside the students.  I think many of us would be amazed at what this could look like.  How powerful this type of planning could be.
  • Under such a model, I believe that classes, or student groups, could be larger. I believe management would be more streamlined because we could really meet the students where they are at.
  • Such a model could really invite apprenticeship.  Student teachers, community members, volunteers to work under/alongside the teachers in each role.


What do you think?  What am I missing or overlooking?  

I’d truly love to hear.

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