Wednesday, September 11, 2013

3 T’s of Learning and Support

I feel incredibly lucky because my job is all about support.

Support entails partnering with teachers, listening, sharing my experiences and ideas, and rolling up my sleeves and taking risks alongside them. Support is about the relationships that are built with a shared, vested interest. Both individuals (teacher-teacher, teacher-coach, teacher-consultant, principal-coach, student-teacher) work together with a common intention. There is no blame or shame in support. There is honesty and authenticity. Support is essential.

My colleagues and I created a framework that helps us, and the educators we work with, think about different levels of support. We call it the 3 T’s-- teach, tend, tether. We use a gardening metaphor because it is about helping living things thrive. We see our job as helping teachers (and their students) grow and bloom. The 3 T's guide us whether we are supporting five year olds, fifteen year olds, novices or very experienced educators.

The first T stands for Teach. What we mean by teach is to tell or show learners how to do something. For example, this might be a writing minilesson where we demonstrate a revision strategy. When we teach, we are planting seeds. We don’t learn simply from watching but the seeds of knowledge are planted and we are ready to go try what we saw. Teaching is usually directed by the teacher and learners mostly watch and listen. Of course anyone in the class can become the teacher of a particular skill or topic.
Teaching: teacher is in front, planned, doing

The second T stands for Tend. What we mean by tend is to help learners clear away obstacles and implement strategies in their own way. This might be working through a challenging part of a text, generating an idea, or thinking through a problem. As teachers we are often sitting side-by-side when we are tending, as we do the work WITH the learner. In the garden this looks like pruning leaves, getting rid of pests, and making sure the plants have enough water. The seeds have been planted and we want to help them grow, but we know there will be some tending along the way.

Tending: side-by-side, co-created, may be planned, doing

The third T stands for Tether. Many plants in a garden need to be tethered to a trellis, beam, or other plants to help them grow. The tethers are connections that can either help or hinder growth. As a gardener, you can’t just look at each individual plant on its own, but you need to step back and look at the whole. Is there enough space for each plant? Are some plants shading out others? Are plants connecting in ways that work (tomatoes and basil thriving together), or are some plants taking over others? As teachers, it is important to observe and take in the whole the class. Which students are making connections? What topics, genres, or units are students connected to? Are there connections that seem helpful but some that might not? We examine the tethers, help students do the same, and make decisions about which ones are worth keeping and which ones should be let go of. The role of the teacher is to bring awareness to the whole classroom community and make decisions that foster positive growth.

Tethering: on the sideline, observing, not planned, being

When we think about how to best support students or teachers, really anyone who wants to learn and grow, we try to incorporate all 3 T’s. I encourage you to take a look at your classroom and think about which of the 3 T’s you regularly use to support your students. Our blog is called Teach, Tend, Tether because we hope to document, share, and celebrate real life examples of all 3 T’s.

1 comment:

  1. These three Ts are brilliant. Looking forward to reading more.