When looking at how we can improve our schools and make teachers and students successful, I think developing and recognizing professional capital is a critical component to that success. Michael Fullan and Andy Hargreaves do a great job outline what you can do as a staff member or administrator to cultivate professional capital and use it to create an open and safe environment for better ourselves as educators.
Thinking about professional capital as three different parts: human (talent), social (group) and decisional (judgement) helps put into perspective how achieving it can be done in our own district along with many others. There needs to be a balance of all three and there are definitely elements of each that are important to my goals of integrating new and useful technology to help teachers accommodate their curricular goals.
I believe human capital is at an all time high in many districts especially my own. We have such a large pool of talented educators that hold multiple degrees that schools can tap in order to function at a high level. I hope to do a better job at tapping the great resources I have all around me which is crucial to the success of my own position. Successfully integrating technology for the success of learning requires an understanding of what my fellow staff know and where they want to go and I would be remiss in thinking that other teachers couldn’t teach me something that could benefit others.
Social capital is absolutely crucial to the success of a school and educators can accomplish so much when this is in place. The toughest part is providing sufficient time, structure, and support to allow social capital to help those who are struggling and advance those who already excel. The technology department is making a big push to carve out time in order to collaborate with teachers on many different levels including district-wide, building, and grade-level/departments. It’s our hope that by becoming a regular part of teacher collaboration technology will no longer be viewed as one more thing to do, but another tool that helps accomplish curricular goals and level the playing field for all our teachers. We want to establish a level of trust with our colleagues that enables them to ask us questions and try out things that may or may not work, but we can all learn from and advance.
Finally, decisional capital is crucial to rounding out the success of professional capital. As I stated earlier I think we have a large number of talented, highly-qualified teachers in education, which should be allowed and encouraged to make and execute decisions. I feel like this is one of the hardest pieces to execute well because of the lack of opportunities for educators to actually make impactful decisions and learn from them. If we feel teachers are professionals then we have to treat them as such in order to allow them to grow and be successful. In the technology realm I want to encourage teachers to have the decisional capital
Another crucial concept from the book that needs to be considered is “Teaching like a pro”. This is not an easy task and requires a lot of reflection and humility on the part of an educator. The first step is to “...continuously inquire into and improving on one’s own teaching.” (pg 21) By attending as many PD opportunities I can and working with various committees and teams within the district I hope to reflect on my own practice and bring back new skills and techniques to improve my own craft and raise my and the staff’s expectations. Second step, “...planning teaching, improving teaching, and often doing teaching not as an isolated individual but as part of a high performing team.” (pg 21) Being the first year for my position it has been really challenging to interject myself into the various grade-level and department teams, but we have laid the groundwork to become a regular part of these team meetings even if just to sit-in and listen to what teachers are doing at first and then try to interject ideas we may have to improve the projects and work going on in the classroom. I hope this more regular presence will create a much more effective working relationship with teachers and staff. The third and last step, “...being part and parcel of the wider teaching profession and contributing to its development.” (pg 22) This speaks most to my position and its potential impact on our district and profession as a whole. Utilizing technology is a great way to help teachers collaborate with one another whether in the same building or across the country. By introducing teachers to various tools and social communities (Google+, Twitter, Facebook, etc…) they can connect with other successful professionals to build their own professional capital.
The goal should always be to identify best practices and be on the lookout for new and improved practices that benefit the individual and team they are working with. “Professional capital is about communities of teachers using best and next practices together.” (pg 50) As a technology integrator my main focus is to identify any new and improved practices to share with teachers, but also improve on or work with any practices a teacher may be finding continued success with (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!) One example of where this fits is in looking at the SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition) model for technology use in education. There is no need to move every teacher and activity they do through this hierarchy if what they are doing is successful and effective in its current state. This mentality is also helpful in not overwhelming or pressuring teachers with the need to inject technology into every lesson or activity for the sake of using technology. As a collaborative community of professionals it will become a commitment to working together to achieve excellence for ourselves and school.
The term PLC (Professional Learning Communities) is often thrown around in many schools including my own as a key educational buzzword, but the establishment of such a thing is not easy. It is simply considered one more thing for us to do and not as a vehicle for the improvement of our profession and development of professional capital. “In the best professional learning communities, we will see, strong collaboration and distinctive individuality go together in vibrant communities of innovation and growth.” (pg 111) In my school we have a great opportunity to model this with the development of our Leadership Team to staff and administrators alike. As we work together to address the needs, issues, and growth of our school we can tap the expertise of those around us and even outside of our school and district to have a fully functioning collaborative culture that educators feel safe in.
Professional capital is not easily achieved, but all the elements exist right in front of us to make it happen. It takes a commitment from all the stakeholders to work to improve themselves and those around them for the sake of the students and their educational community. Being one such stakeholder in the new and upcoming field of educational technology I know I can make an impact on cultivating the professional capital that lives in my school and district. “What pulls people in, teacher all the more so, is doing important work with committed and excited colleagues and leaders engages in activities that require creative to solve complex problems that make a real difference.” (pg 150) It will take time, but I am committed to helping make a real difference.
Tech Integration Specialist at the Aspen School District. Level 2 Google Certified Educator. Former 4th grade teacher and Spartan for life! Go Green!