Friday, September 16, 2016

Professional Efforts: What's Important?

The busy nature of schools and little time for coordination and face-to-face communication can sometimes lead you away from the best professional decisions. This week a chain reaction of events related to a number of decisions illustrated this for me. In bus, complex systems like schools, it's integral to keep your professional priorities up front in order to teach and collaborate well.

As I think about this and ready for a large number of upcoming professional decisions and events, I want to be cognizant of the following professional priorities.

Positive Teamwork: Listening and Sensitivity
Google's study recognizes attributes of positive teamwork: listening to one another and sensitivity to feelings and needs. These characteristics were clearly evident this week in a sensitive note a colleague wrote to a parent. She shared that note with me. For some, listening and sensitivity come easy, and for others these traits are challenging. Whatever the case, it's in our best interests to put these qualities up front when it comes to learning and leading with students, family members, colleagues, administrators, and citizens.

No educator can do all things and that's why it's important to understand each others' goals and work together to get the job done well. An example of this was yesterday's Open Circle meeting. Our highly qualified school psychologist led the meeting with tremendous respect and knowledge. I had the chance to participate quietly while observing my students' investment in the shared conversation about teamwork and share. It was wonderful.

Planning Together
Our grade-level teaching team meets three or more times a week to discuss the teaching/learning program and students' needs and interests. Together we plan the program to teach students as well as we can. We profit from each others' expertise. This is a successful, positive approach.

Good Communication
We make it a priority to regularly share information related to what happened, what's happening, and what will happen with the entire learning community including families, students, colleagues, and administrators. This helps everyone in the learning community to stay on the same page and work together. By communicating plans ahead of time, it also give the community time to ask questions, make corrections, enrich, and update programming to come before it happens. This lessens the chance of errors that can confound our good work.

Focused, Targeted Individual and Whole Team Efforts
We carefully use both informal and formal data, observation, and information to plan thoughtful learning experiences for all students. We work to teach all students identified system-wide and state standards as well as learning points that match students' and the community's interests and needs.

Children First
When we make decisions, we think "children first" to guide our decision making. At times this can be tough especially when politics or system snags, sensitivities, budgets, and old think hinder "children first" actions. Issues such as free breakfast, vouchers for services/equipment, equitable access to technology, service delivery, parent contact/collaboration, language used, and role definition may create difficult discussions and change for all of us as we work to bridge opportunity gaps and work to teach every child well. It's integral to keep in mind that it's always okay to advocate for what a child needs, but that advocacy starts best with questioning and always demands respectful language and action. This is not always easy when time is rushed, investment is deep, and perspectives differ, but nevertheless, it's vital when it comes to successful professional efforts.

Growth Mindset
We all have to embrace a growth mindset and be willing to grow together in our service to each other and the children we teach. Having an open mind and willingness to learn will maximize what we're able to do for every child.