Action Steps to Build Professional Capital

Chapter seven of Professional Capital concludes with a call to action for teachers, building or district leaders, governments, and international organizations. For the purpose of this final reflection I will focus my thoughts on how to incorporate these strategies to best support teachers and building leaders.

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Over the past two years this book has become one of my favorite professional reads. For me it holds the same standing as other practice changing titles like Classroom Instruction That Works, Mindset, or Visible Learning. I find myself drawn to the optimism of Hargreaves and Fullan and the practical steps we can take from our position of influence. A final thought about this book: Don’t cheat yourself and merely read chapter seven. Sure, you could skip to page 154 and begin mining the teacher guideline section for gold, but you will miss out on the passion and purpose behind the author’s formula for professional capital. Assuming you read this series of posts to this point… I’ll tackle a few guidelines for teachers and building leaders.

TEACHER GUIDELINES

Become a true pro. Examine your own experience. Why wouldn’t you? Unless you don’t know any better. All the more reason for us to commit to wide scale capacity building and step out of our comfortable zone regarding collaboration. The teacher next door is counting on you. So are your students. And your colleagues students. Becoming a true professional begins with personal reflection followed by action.

Build your human capital through social capital. Push and pull your peers. Collective inquiry and growth trumps individual development any time. Take the time to invest in your colleagues, your school, and your profession. Be a mentor. Co-teach. Engage in project-based learning. We are better together. Take the necessary steps to ensure that trust remains strong through this process and begin influencing your peers with student learning as your core purpose.

Connect everything back to your students. Sounds simple right? Well it’s not. Dysfunctional cultures, habits, traditions, and external pressures align to cloud our motives and result in inertia. When we make decisions with our students in mind the entire learning community wins. Professional teachers act with their students best interest in mind at all times. This is worth fighting for in our profession and your position of influence.

BUILDING OR DISTRICT LEADER GUIDELINES

Promote professional capital vigorously and courageously. What is your vision for your school’s culture? How about your district’s culture? How can you achieve high levels of student achievement and develop your staff in the process? These questions are at the core of what it means to champion a vision, demonstrate concern for your direct reports and colleagues, and keep student learning at the core of each action. A consistent demonstration of courage and authenticity is necessary to lead in this way and build organizational capacity.

Know your people: understand their culture. Like the saying goes, people leave their manager or leader before they leave an organization. Teaching is one of the most important jobs in the world. It’s widely accepted as one of the most complex professions. Leaders must make the effort to get to know their culture, their people, their needs, wants, and goals. Taking a sincere interest in your people builds human and social capital.

Be evidence-informed, not data-driven. Hargreaves & Fullan offered four big ideas about data in this section: (1) Don’t get overloaded with data, (2) The point of data is to help you know your students, (3) Avoid a singular focus on deficits and problems and (4) Our focus can become too narrow.

SUMMARY
There you have it. Simple, huh? The remarkable thing about professional capital is the simplicity of the concepts. Few of us would argue against investing in human, social, and decisional capital. The real question is how do our actions align with what we know about best practice, and do we care about any discrepancies that might exist? To borrow a question from Bob Eaker of PLC fame, “what would it look like if we really meant it?” If we really believed that our actions could transform the face of education, what would we do? Students everywhere are counting on us to answer that call with courage, passion, and determination. Will you? Who can you encourage from your position of influence today?

REFERENCE
Hargreaves, A., & Fullan, M. (2012). Professional capital: Transforming teaching in every school.
New York: Teachers College Press.