Schools are gearing up for the 2013-2014 school year. Teachers are returning for their beginning of the year meetings, class lists are being scrutinized and classrooms are being transformed for Meet the Teacher Night. But in the whirl of all these activities we need to remember to take care of ourselves – professionally.
It is easy to get caught up in the negative conversation about our profession. With the constant discussion of standardized testing, teacher evaluation processes and the new common core standards it is important to think outside of our individual classroom and remember our school teams – our professional learning community (PLC). For those of us who work in PLC's, we know that the process can be contentious. We have to constantly remind ourselves that the work we do is a journey requiring reflection along the way.
Like most teachers, a majority of my summer is spent reflecting on my practice and looking for improvements that I can implement in my classroom. I was pleased that one of my summer readings provided advice related to my PLC and classroom practice. In their book, Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching In Every School, Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan make a compelling argument that we focus on building “professional capital” — the process of leveraging our human, social, and decisional capital to achieve shared goals. They provide an excellent roadmap towards what they see as the goal of "reculturing" (changing our professional relationships to improve what we do). One of the most helpful aspects of their roadmap is a list of ten things that we can do in our schools/classrooms:
- Become a true pro: Give attention to study, practice and learning from colleagues.
- Start with yourself and examine your own experiences: Is what you are doing working?
- Be a mindful teacher: Is your teaching aligned with your beliefs and values? Do you take time to consider what and how you are teaching – be open-minded? Are you developing your professional expertise and do you sit down with colleagues so you can take collective responsibility?
- Build your “human” capital through “social” capital. Working with your peers enhances your learning as well as your teammates.
- Push and pull your peers: Do you trust processes as well as people?
- Invest in and accumulate your decisional capital: What judgments are you making about teaching, learning and children and do you get feedback about your practice and reflect on it with peers?
- Manage up: help your leaders be the best they can be: Reduce polarization and achieve greater partnership.
- Take the first step: Is there something worth starting – take the lead and start it.
- Surprise yourself: Find 30 minutes a week to teach something different.
- Connect everything back to your students: Everything comes back to them.
Here is my challenge to you. Pick one of these items (my personal favorites are #9 and #10) and keep a journal about your progress (remember that failures often lead to learning). Come back in a month and post an update to this blog and tell me about your experience. Remember, every step we take as teacher leaders is bound to pay off in building our professional capital and improving student achievement.