This is the third installment of my reflections on the relationship between the Common Core State Standards and the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession Teacher Leadership Framework. When I was at a National Board Teacher Conference last spring I was introduced to the framework. I was looking at the framework at the same time I was enveloped in the Common Core State Standards and trying to implement them more fully in my classroom. Because my head was in this space I automatically began to think about how the Common Core was making teacher leadership more and more important in our state and in the nation.
The framework has five categories of skills that teacher leaders need. I have already written posts about two of them, knowledge of content and pedagogy and working with adult learners. This third post will discuss the need for the skill of communication when moving forward with the Common Core.
Each skill set within the framework is broken into knowledge and skills, disposition and roles and opportunities. For the teacher leader skill of communication it was the dispositions that seemed to lend themselves most naturally to my thoughts about the Common Core. The implementation of the standards as a common mission and community building tool depend on it. A teacher leader who is skilled in communication must have the following dispositions:
- honors all perspectives
- holds a positive presupposition that all are working in the best interest of students
- values professional expertise
- fosters community
When I think about the Common Core State Standards and the communication that is required for us to implement them in relation to these dispositions I want to jump up and down and clap my hands in elation. I realize that’s dramatic but it’s true. It just makes so much sense to me that I get excited.
First the disposition of honoring all perspectives is an important piece of any type of new work. Of course with changes teachers will need to honor one another’s perspectives. There is no way to move forward in a productive way otherwise. Teachers need to be able to listen with an open mind and heart and honor those who are reluctant, fearful, or need help. On the flip side those who are more reluctant need to allow those who are not to forge ahead and to open their minds and hearts to hearing about others excitement, enthusiasm and readiness. Some of the go-getters may need to slow down in order to honor others perspectives on the Common Core, and some of those who are holding back may need to step out of their comfort zone even just to try to imagine the excitement in others and to honor their perspectives in return.
Holding a positive presupposition that all are working in the best interest of students should be at the heart of any educator’s work, no matter what the work is. The Common Core has forced many of us to hold this presupposition in order to move forward. The standards are new and until teachers really dig in and get their hands dirty we won’t be convinced for sure it will be good for kids. The work can still get done however, because we can go in with a presupposition that all are working in the best interest of students. Only with this tightly held belief can we ever move through the first years of any change. Anything untested has to come along with the idea that whoever made it up, in whatever corner of the nation wouldn’t do anything that they didn’t think was good for kids. I am not so naive that I believe this is always true with education reform, I can however say that I believe in innocent until proven guilty in these situations. If I have the presupposition that people have the best interest of students in mind I can move forward in a positive manner and in the case of the Common Core I believe it holds true.
Valuing professional expertise is what is going to get us through in the end. Employing this disposition or trait will allow us to call upon one another for help. The Common Core has forced educators to work as a team across disciplines, schools, districts, states, and the nation. If we can call on each other to share our expertise and we show true camaraderie and value for one another’s strengths, particularly when it comes to implementing the Common Core, the work will be immensely easier and stronger.
Fostering community is the disposition of a strong educator, formal leader or not. We all strive to foster a sense of community in our classrooms with our students. The Common Core calls upon us all to be a community outside those four walls. Our community has expanded exponentially with the introduction of these standards. We are now a national community that will need to call upon one another to use our many resources and skills as strong communicators and teacher leaders to honor all perspectives, hold a positive supposition of our work, value each other’s professional expertise and to foster a sense of community. If all teachers were able to do this we would be a community of teacher leaders who are communicating about the Common Core in a way that cannot possibly be anything but good for students.
Thank you CSTP for helping me to move my collaborative work forward and for framing my thinking around communicating about the Common Core that will help me be a leader for my colleagues and students.
For more on the Teacher Leadership Framework or the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession, you can go to the CSTP website.