A couple of caveats before reading this post:
This post is based on the assumption that collegial conversations are already happening within a school’s staff. Collaborative cultures are extremely important to modern learning practice and in the design of modern learning moments. Also, participating in a professional-resource audit is meant to be a foundational element in exploring ways to improve professional practice and engage students. That said, professional-resource audits can be a potential launching pad for reinvigorating what might have become stagnant over time.
Part of the nationwide Common Core State Standards Initiative has focused attention on teacher evaluations. In many states that are adopting common core, evaluation is being tied to teaching standards that might include:
- Knowledge of students and student learning.
- Knowledge of content and instructional planning.
- Instructional practice.
- Learning environment.
- Assessment for student learning.
- Professional responsibilities and collaboration.
- Professional growth.
In other states, those teaching standards might be aligned with Charlotte Danielson’s frameworks, Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium standards or a myriad other evaluation rubrics.
In looking at what many states are requiring of teachers, it stands to reason that it would be a good time to collaboratively look at your in-district resources and align them with your state or district teaching standards.
Conversations with teachers about a professional-resource audit have led me to think about connecting our resources: professional libraries, video or DVD resources, online resources and local professional-development opportunities to support teaching standards in our respective states. Teachers, schools and districts need to be proactive about areas of improvement for all.
Many teachers are feeling “under the magnifying glass” lately, and many are worried about summative evaluations, test scores and their “one observation” a year to determine whether they are a good teacher. Why wait? Engage now. Take inventory of what you have, in print, online and in person.
Let’s take this bull by the horns and engage in the following during collaborative meetings, either online or in person.
- Identify already-available, in-district resources that support the teaching standards in your schools. Look for professional books that teachers already own or are in school-based professional libraries, including audio and video on DVD or online. Look for local opportunities for in-district professional development or low-cost or closeby workshops.
- Identify teachers who are exemplars of the teaching standards, and help them share their successes with colleagues.
- Connect individual resources (and people!) to specific standards, perhaps as a menu of improvement opportunities.
- Have discussions with faculty about focusing on an area of improvement and the evidence around the improvement happening.
- Commit to positive interactions and positive planning for improvement, rather than reactive moments based on a yearly observation or one-shot evaluation. There’s a great book by Lois Easton Brown on professional protocols that I love using with teachers.
- Dismiss ideas around “change,” and start looking for “growth.”
This might even be a good opportunity to try out “collaborative documentation,” such as Google Docs, creating a living document to which all stakeholders have access, one that makes it simple to determine what should be cut, kept or created through the years. This collaborative document also makes it easy to see the menu of options, particularly if a teacher wants to identify something that he or she would like to commit to as part of a professional-growth plan. Options equal actions! Try to make connections between resources and professional practices and find a place to improve, to grow. You and your students benefit from your professional willingness to be a learner and leader!
Additionally, you can leverage professional resources online by developing a digital learning network. I suspect that those of you reading this are already connected in some way to your virtual peers, which I think is awesome!
Mike Fisher (@fisher1000) has more than a decade of classroom and professional-development experience. He is a full-time educational consultant and instructional coach and works primarily with school districts to integrate the Common Core State Standards, make data-informed instructional decisions, sustain curriculum-mapping initiatives and integrate instructional technology. Learn more at The Digigogy Collaborative or on his blog.