Acclaimed author and Hunter College professor Laura Baecher eloquently compares a teacher not seeing a video of their classroom to an artist not seeing their work. Even with the shift to distance learning, Laura sees the importance of using video as a coaching tool. This is part 1 of a 5-part PLTogether Lounge Talk conversation with Edthena founder Adam Geller.
Here is a transcript of their conversation.
– Hi and welcome to PLTogether, this is another Lounge Talk, I’m Adam Geller, founder and CEO of Edthena, and today we’re talking with Laura Baecher. She is on the faculty at the School of Education at Hunter College, and she is also the author of a book that I’ve got right here, “Video in Teacher Learning” We’re gonna be talking about that for sure, Laura, thank you so much for joining us.
– Thank you for having me, I’m looking forward to speaking with you.
– Well, let’s kick it off with some good news. I will admit, I’ve stolen that from John Krasinski, but hey it’s a good place to start. So you know, the question here with some good news is, can you bring us into the story of an educator or someone that you’ve been collaborating with that really is kind of fueling you right now and getting you excited about what’s to come in the upcoming school year.
– Yeah, I think one of the things that’s been really exciting and positive throughout this whole period of COVID, is that because so many of us, maybe like you Adam, who work to support teachers, but are not in the classroom ourselves right now, we wind up taking up a lot of the floor or the space in terms of professional development. And because we ourselves, aren’t in classrooms right now, teaching online or having to do the pivot to emergency remote teaching. Teachers, classroom teachers, are the experts, which they always have been, but I think this moment has given classroom teachers so much more of a voice. And so I’m thinking of for example, there was a teacher who was attending a webinar that I was giving on how to support parents of English learners during this time. And she was just a participant and she was sharing how she uses an app that helps her translate and communicate really quickly with her parents. And everyone was really interested in it and I asked her after the webinar was ending, you know, would you be willing to do a webinar about this yourself? And, no, no, no I’m just a teacher, you know, I’m just a kindergarten teacher, I couldn’t do webinars, but you have the information, you have the knowledge. So she agreed to do it, I did the Zoom part, so she didn’t have to worry about that. And she did a fabulous session, just sharing her practice on how she’s been reaching parents, she showed the participants who came to her session what she’d been doing. And afterward she said, you know, I feel so uplifted in this time to really connect and so many teachers use social media, all kinds of forums to bring expertise together, but I think more so than ever. Right now, teachers are turning to other teachers, you know, how are you handling this? What are you doing? And I hope that that is a positive that we stay with, that momentum can keep growing of really teacher-led learning.
– I like the flag that you kind of threw for the teacher when you said that she said, she’s just a teacher, that’s one of those phrases that I always jump on when I hear it. I’m like, you’re not just a teacher, you are the teacher, you’re the expert, just like you said.
– So teachers and admins right now are knee-deep, maybe waist-deep in the planning process, there’s a lot to change so that there is a plan for the learning ahead, rather than it just being a reaction. And I suspect it’s going to be easy for folks to say, gosh, there’s so much to worry about and kind of push PD aside. What would you say are the risks with that mindset?
– Well I think in a time of change that we’re really in right now, it’s hard to see it, but I’m sure in a couple of years we’ll look back at this as an important moment in education. Because not only for what I’ve just said earlier about teachers really rising up to lead each other’s learning, but obviously, the dramatic shift to distance learning. And when we think about let’s say, coaches, administrators, supervisors, who really want to help their teachers grow and strengthen their practice. But they haven’t been in the classroom for a while. And now, we really see this power dynamic shift, because let’s say, Adam, you’re coming to observe me, you’ve never taught in a distance format, I’ve quickly become an expert on Google Classroom, let’s say, I’m running synchronous and asynchronous sessions with multiple groups, you really have to step back and learn from me. So I think it’s a really nice time again, for professional learning that we know has to be situated, it has to be teacher-driven, it has to be sustained, those are really important factors in effective PD. We have it right here in our communities, in our contexts, where teachers are dramatically advancing in their knowledge and skills because of course, necessity, but that growth can really help us see again, how much energy that gives to a school community, and to really harness it and instead of trying to use old ways where we try to impose programs, practices, onto teachers, it’s really a chance for us to shift and to learn in communities, where there’s that interchange and mutual support.
– It’s interesting when you think about that expertise that you’re talking about that teachers are building. It really and you’ve kind of labeled it the changed power dynamic, but in those relationships between the teacher and the coach or the team leader or the school leader, it is really interesting to consider how those folks are, they’re the extra outside perspective at this point, and the extra thinking cycles, but as you said, they can’t claim that they’ve done it, because most likely they haven’t done it. That’s a really interesting place to be from a professional development structural perspective. Your book is about video and using video to drive teacher learning, this is a topic of course, that’s near and dear to my heart. So you know, let’s think big picture for a second, why is video important? Why should this be on the top of a list of things that administrators are thinking about bringing into their professional development systems right now?
– Well, in a way those first two questions that we just discussed really lead into this, because if we take now, some new paradigms and we say, teachers are really the ones who know what they need, what they need to learn, and where they are and that me, as that coach, facilitator, school leader, I’m really here just to offer space, to facilitate what that teacher is going to learn and need and what their journey is. And what the premise of the book is, is just that, that video is the only chance that teachers ever have to see themselves. And it’s so basic, it’s so obvious, it’s so simple, and yet, teachers go through their whole career, always hearing about their teaching through someone else’s perspective. So, that becomes disempowering, if we want teachers to see their work as intellectual and own their work, then we need to let them see what they’re producing. So I talk about in the book for example, let’s say you have an artist who’s painting and you’re supporting that artist and you’re giving them feedback and telling them all about their painting and what parts of it are really strong and effective and which weren’t. But the artist can’t see their own painting, how effective is that really, as a feedback conversation? And yet we do that continuously. Now with, especially in these moments where teachers happen to be teaching synchronously online, which is not always the case, of course. But where they are, it’s even easier to video than ever, because I don’t have to drag a video camera into the room, set it up, worry about the audio and all of those factors, Zoom, Google Meet, any of these online platforms that you might be working in with a small group of students, you can easily select record. And the teacher for sure, owns the video, they can watch that video, they can analyze it even briefly, get a sense of how things were going, which is always really hard to do when you are in front of a classroom. So I think that the big picture is really teacher empowerment, teachers being able to get that curiosity and interest and exploration of that rich classroom environment that they’re in. And because we’re in these new types of environments, the feedback, as we said before that we’re getting, maybe using rubrics or checklists or look for that were based on face-to-face traditional teaching. And now we’re in this really different fluid space. So allowing teachers the opportunity to view and review is really the point of the book. And I think it’s even more natural in a way to some of the distance teaching contexts.
– It’s the first time that I’ve heard you explain the painting metaphor and I really like it and I’ll be crediting you when I share that idea with others. Laura, thank you so much, we’re gonna take a quick break. For those that are watching or listening to this conversation, you can hear more at Pltogether.org, and we’ll be right back with more Laura, thanks so much.
– Okay, sure.