‘Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching In Every School’
Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching In Every School
Published by Teachers College Press: 2012, New York and Ontario Principals Council, Toronto. 220 pp.
I don’t think it’s an accident or coincidence that I’ve been reading and reviewing books about teachers lately. Few conversations are as impassioned, or as compelling, as figuring out what makes a good teacher. The urgency is heightened by national concerns about maintaining America’s competitive place in a global economy and how our schools need to prepare the next generation to meet whatever challenges arise.
As the authors write, “Teaching is at a crossroads, a crossroads at the top of the world. Never before have teachers, teaching and the future of teaching had such elevated importance … But alongside the urgency, or perhaps even because of it, there is a lot of argument and more than a little aggravation about what high-quality teaching looks like and what’s the best way to get it and keep it. The crossroads are shrouded in a fog of misunderstandings about teachers and teaching, and if we take the wrong road forward, precipices are looming on many sides.”
For Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan, proposals to cut teacher pensions, pay teachers according to how their students score on standardized test (an unfortunate consequence of the Race to the Top grants), or diminish the profession’s standing by relying on prescribed curriculum, technology substituting for expert teaching, or alternative, fast-track certification programs are wrong roads indeed.
What they propose instead is the concept of “professional capital,” which includes using scientific evidence when appropriate, developing a sense of collective responsibility, and taking ownership of the work within the context of a school. It’s not about merely improving individual teachers. It’s about having strong schools, with vibrant cultures that support and respect all teachers as professionals.
Which means that teachers, no matter how talented, gifted, or proficient, can’t retreat behind the walls of their individual classrooms. As the authors explain, “The only solutions that will work on any scale are those that mobilize the teaching force as a whole — including strategies where teachers push and support each other.”
The authors recognize that working conditions have to be just as professional and supportive as the new breed of teachers this book is designed to develop.
The beneficiaries, of course, are the students — and our society. This provocative, thoughtful and challenging book is an excellent place to start a much-needed conversation. #