If you have hopes of making a significant impact or change in any system that seems mired in bureaucracy, entrenched beliefs, and on overall lack of vision that makes a systematic shift nearly impossible, then Professional Capital is a must read. The authors Michael Fullan (@MichaelFullan1)and Andy Hargreaves (@HargreavesBC), present ideas not only what to do but they provide guidance on what has been proven to not successfully sustain change.
As outlined in the book we already have the resource to make the changes necessary to provide our students with the 21st-century competencies and learning that will equip them to be successful and lifelong learners:educators. It’s how we utilize, develop and support teachers that makes the difference in shifting change. Fullan and Hargreaves provide actionable steps to transform the readily available capital that currently exists within the system. By providing them with opportunities to develop human capital (skills, competency, efficacy), social capital (the relationships within the system and the network the individuals are connected with) and decisional capital (entrusting those with the ability to make professional decisions) we empower educators to support the change needed in education.
There were some keys messages that resonated with me:
1)You can’t do it alone. We know that change is scary, messy and hard. It can only occur with genuine, not superficial collaboration and commitment, within your school, within the district and globally. Becoming a connected educator is key to learning how to improve practice for the benefit of students. It’s not about us. We need to get out of our comfort zones, challenge our thinking and push and pull ourselves and our colleagues to new learning in the interest of our students.
2) Teachers need to be a part of authentic, professional learning communities that both support and challenge their ideas and contribute and support ongoing professional growth. Connecting with colleagues in both face to face and online communities builds capacity for all. As one of my favourite quotes suggests, “the smartest person in the room is the room.” (David Weinberger). Why not connect with others and learn from the best practices employed by other educators? If we all do this, soon we our best practices will simply practice and we will move on to our “next practice” to continuously support our learners.
3) To support the rich potential of a PLN/PLC educators need to have a voice in the implementation. Compliance of someone else’s ideas is not true collaboration and will not sustain and impactful, long-term change.
4) It is morally imperative that as educators we see all students as own and make ourselves accountable to the learning of all these students. As soon as we invest in all our students a collective capacity and responsibility occurs that supports a positive shift for all. By helping others, we all win.
Making a shift in education at all levels cannot occur from the top down. It won’t occur with an influx of money and it certainly won’t occur by chasing the latest initiative. Transforming education at all levels and across systems requires a sustained investment in human capital but also a commitment by all the professionals to work together at all levels and across the system to impact change that empowers the people at the heart of the change:the teachers. Teachers are willing to do the work to improve the learning experiences of their students if they are empowered with the skills to be experts at the centre of the change.
By working and learning together and by keeping our students at the centre of our planning, thinking and action, we can’t help but implement the changes necessary to provide our students with the 21st-century education that will allow them to be successful lifelong learners.