by Irene Fountas, Author and Director of the Lesley University Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative
In a culture of teacher growth, the educators in a school value their expertise and seek opportunities to expand it. They value teamwork and how it contributes to the achievement of all the students in the school. Think for a minute about the characteristics of your school culture.
- What are the professional learning expectations for you in your school? In other words, what is your understanding of what is expected of you in terms of continuous professional learning and what should you expect of your colleagues?
- Are the expectations for professional learning by the educators communicated in a written document so everyone who works in the building has the same understandings and expectations of each other?
- How generous are you in sharing your teaching and supporting your colleagues? How would your colleagues describe you as a team member?
These key questions are at the very foundation of a culture of professionalism in a school. The professional educators seek to continuously improve their expertise and appreciate every opportunity to interact and converse with each other about teaching and learning. The teachers understand that you don’t have to be a bad teacher to get better and they insist upon and value opportunities to grow their craft.
In schools that value collaboration and a growth culture, teachers and administrators see themselves as a team. They strive to get better and are committed to helping their colleagues be as good as they can be. They take collective responsibility for student outcomes and use language that reflects their stance. For example, they talk about “our school” and “our students” and student achievement is a reflection of the team’s efforts.
Every teacher in the school is viewed as a leader who is committed to solving problems together. A positive stance about the team’s ability to create change and improve student learning is the norm of the school. And of course, if you have the privilege of a resident coach for the team, everyone benefits from having a colleague in the role of supporting the continuous reflection and growth of all team members.
These are worthy goals for building the professional capacity of your school, but as we all know, school improvement is a journey that takes time. The key is to be moving in the right direction.
Take stock with your team as to how well you work together and make a plan to take steps that will foster better teamwork and more opportunities for continuous professional learning. Your commitment to your professional learning, to each other’s learning, and to teamwork will surely benefit the students you teach.
If you would like to view our professional development opportunity this summer for administrators that focuses on school culture, our What Every School Leader Needs to Know About Good Literacy Teaching and Effective Literacy Coaching, K-8 seminar runs August 10-13, 2015 at Lesley University: http://www.lesley.edu/center-for-reading-recovery/school-leaders-training/