My first problem was that I had little idea what a sustainable teaching practitioner would look like.. even after thinking about it for over a year now. Using less paper and turning off the lights, and teaching sustainability to students seemed too easy and patronising. So without a good idea of what a sustainable teaching practitioner was, I can't clearly think of things I might change in the courses, and other things I do that influence teaching practices as such...
This problem spiraled in me, and is what lead me to questioning the organisational structure and power dynamics that a teacher works in. My first visioning of a sustainable teacher therefore was one who is self determined - out from under the umbrellas, and directly answerable to their "market" - what would it be like to be the rain?
But more importantly, given that I/we are not yet sure what a sustainable practitioner really looks like, I think our teacher training needs to keep the question open, to not try to make a prescribed picture with specific learning outcomes, but to set up processes and practices in which the sustainable practitioner (what ever it may be in the future) has every opportunity to develop.
That said, I'm wondering about 2 tangible practices a teacher might develop that may lead to sustainability in the profession:
1. What if teachers documented their work in such a way that other practitioners can access, interpret and sometimes use or adapt the practices of others more? Think of the valuable teacher observation.. you've been 2 years in teacher training, but nothing taught you more about teaching than those few days you had observing the practice of experienced teachers. In a way, that opportunity to observe is a form of documentation on the part of the experienced teacher, in that at least one person can access and interpret the methods and adapt what they see in their own practice. Trouble is, simple observation doesn't scale very well.
Active documentation of our work such as what we in the edublogosphere have been doing, can lead to new self consciousness, and connectivity with other practitioners, that in turn lead to professional development such as sustainability. But reflective 'blogging' your work isn't for everyone and so it too doesn't scale very well. Publishing lesson plans could be another way, in the open educational resources vein. We can observe teachers rating and using each others materials, and in some instances this openness and sharing can lead to another sort of self consciousness, and connectivity with other practitioners, that leads to professional development. So what I mean by documentation of our work is any form of record making so that large numbers of other practitioners have the opportunity to observe and interact with your work, and critique or develop further your efforts towards more sustainable practice. I think having documentation as a core practice in teaching will improve opportunities for professional networks to connect and more sustainable practices to develop, so long as sustainability is on the agenda - just as edtech has been on the agenda in the edublog arena for the past 5 years or more.
2. The second thought I had so far is for teaching practitioners to become more accountable to the micro economics around their practice. Like the documentation practice, this could easily be used against them, so a very supportive atmosphere would need to be established first for this to work properly, and it would need to be trialed first - in the private performance appraisal process perhaps.
The idea is for the teacher to become aware of all the financial considerations that surround their practice - including triple bottom line accounting. Much the same as a small business or a consultant would manage their own books, a teacher does theirs. They obviously know their income, but I doubt they know the cost of their work station, the rooms they need to teach in, the teaching resources, the support services.. all these are financial costs or outgoings that I think a sustainable practitioner needs to know about - including ecological and social costs. Equally, that practitioner needs to know what income their practice brings. What is the per student government subsidy for each of the courses the teacher teaches on? I am amazed how many people in our organisation don't even know that much? How much do I save (or cost) by working from home a little more? What about my software choices and abilities? What about how little I print, and how little I use the IT infrastructure and support services here? How much funding do I bring in for my research? How much funding do I bring in for projects? How much is my voluntary community work worth? How much income do I generate if I plant and maintain a food garden in the living campus?
So envisioning what a sustainable teaching practitioner might look like, I'm wondering about 2 things:
1. What can a teacher do to improve collaboration and communication with their colleagues, that might lead to better professional development for them and/or others, that might lead to better sustainable practices emerging and rapidly scaling across the sector? (in the absence of a clear idea of sustainable practice at the moment).
2. How self determined and accountable could each individual in the organisation become, and how could we account for all bottom lines in such a way to be able to determine each person's sustainability, and address short falls in a constructive and inclusive way - not by firing, but through self redirection of efforts, professional development or new responsibilities, and welfare nets for those who fail first times round.
Applying this model to myself...
- Clearly I document my work and that has lead to tangible progress in my own and other's professional development.
- Regarding the accountability, I did some quick numbers and found that I am $20 000 short in my financial sustainability. I did not apply triple bottom line accounting to that, so I don't know the unit of income I might be bringing in through developing new courses for other teachers, or by volunteering to help with Living Campus and other things outside my core responsibility.
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