Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Teaching is a profession!

I have been reading an excellent book lately from Fullan & Hargreaves Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School.  The book discusses the idea of developing professional capital within your schools.  This becomes very difficult in the United States due to the nature of our educational system.  Part of being a professional is to have the time to be one.  Teachers must be able to have time within their work day to work together and to be able to reflect.
"In the United States - being a teacher means spending almost all your time just teaching and teaching without time to reflect on and refine teaching." - Fullan & Hargreaves
What profession spends all of their time doing their craft and not given time to reflect on best practice and even more important next practice?
"Expert teachers are always consolidating what they know to be effective, testing it, and continuously adding to is." 
In the United States we spend almost double the amount of time teaching than other more successful countries based on PISA scores.  Our solve has always been to increase the school day and school year.  When we know that other more successful educational systems spend far less time "teaching" and more time being a professional.

What does it mean to be a professional?

Professionals have time to collaborate, research, reflect on best practice and new practice.  Professionals have the continual growth mindset.  They never get stagnant and actively take risks to improve themselves.  Professionals have a collegial responsibility to each other to improve as one.  They make each other better by bouncing different methods off of each other.  Professionals are critical of each other and are able to have crucial conversations without taking it personal.

There are three kinds of capital that comprise professional capital according to Fullan & Hargreaves.

Human Capital: Skills that can be developed within people.  The sooner people start school, and the longer the period of attending school, then the more return on investment for our economy.

Social Capital: Exists in the relations of people.
"Social capital increases your knowledge - it gives you access to other people's human capital."
WE need to increase the collegial responsibility of each other.  Isolation will not allow for our teachers to receive other teachers human capital.  To me social capital is the glue that holds everything together.

Decisional Capital: The essence of professionalism is the ability to make discretionary judgements.

The practice of making good quality decisions increases this capital within people.  Having the time to reflect plays a key role in this area.  Talking with others in your similar role and reflecting on those conversations increases decisional capital.

I always seem to revert back to time and scheduling within my own school.  Our teachers don't have the time to be professionals.  They don't have the time to reflect, to meet with each other, to do research, to use best practices and next practices.  The amount of time a student spends in a seat does not lead directly to student achievement.  The US is a prime example of this.  Lets keep this in mind and begin to allow our public schools the freedom to create innovative schedules that allow for professional growth.

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