This is the fifth post in a series where I flesh out why the ideal traits of a PBL teacher are important. Check out the links to the rest of the series below the post.
I am a believer in hard work. I always tell my students that “good work leads to more work.” They always groan the first time that I say it. But then I explain that when you work hard in what you love it leads to more and better opportunities to do what you love. Hard work is often what separates excellence from average.
The Pareto Principle states that in most organizations 20% of the people do 80% of the work. Research has shown this to be true in many different situations and I have observed it in schools and projects that I have been a part of. I think that the self efficacious teachers who fall into the 20% category thrive in PBL environments.
In recent years many teachers have done things outside of the classroom to enrich themselves and their students. Some teachers have started edcamps and other conferences. Others blog, tweet, or post to other social media sites about a myriad of education topics. Some teachers create and run Twitter chats, podcasts, write books, or present at conferences. All of these activities are above and beyond their teaching job, requiring extra time and effort. These actions usually don’t “count” for professional development hours. These activities represent both passion for education and indicate that the teachers are willing to put in the effort that PBL requires.
Authentic PBL projects don’t come in nicely wrapped lesson plans or textbooks with worksheets for every day. High quality PBL involves teachers either designing from scratch or customizing projects that they find. PBL front loads a lot of the planning for what students will be doing. This can seem overwhelming to teachers at first, but if they follow a structured process they discover it is similar to the planning that they already do. But self efficacious teachers are willing to commit to the initial planning because of the pay off of student engagement that comes through the PBL process.
Working on local issues with community partners requires teachers to reach out to local businesses and organizations. This is a huge shift from the “island mentality” of “I just shut my door and teach.” It also is a new skill for many teachers who may not know how to build a network of relationships with the business community.
Teachers who have used blogging, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites to connect with other educators for personal growth often make an easier transition. They are probably more open to new ideas for their classrooms because of the examples that they have been exposed to online. These teachers have also developed some networking skills that help them when reaching out to their communities for partnerships and audience critiques of student work.
Just say “no”
Self efficacious teachers are not heroes who do everything. The best PBL teachers have learned to say no to things outside of their focus area. They do not volunteer for everything happening at school but target opportunities that support their visions and their students. They also say no to busy work. They don’t sit on committees that are irrelevant to learning. They don’t grade as many papers because they use self, peer, and community assessments. They would rather spend their time brainstorming the best projects for their students.
When I think of teachers who are self efficacious, I see people who “make it happen.” They don’t make excuses or look for others to lead. They look for epic, meaningful projects and take them on for their students’ benefit. Their goals are not pride and achievement, but a humble lifting up of their kids to give them the amazing opportunities. Self efficacious teachers are also willing to fight as advocates for their students when they are being treated unfairly or not being given equal opportunities.
Self efficacious teachers give the time and effort to make learning meaningful and relevant to every student in their class.
Links to the rest of the series on Ideal Traits of a PBL Teacher: