8.1 Participating in a Professional Community
Relationships with colleagues are characterized by mutual support and cooperation.
A key component of 8.1 is collaboration with other educators to improve practices and student learning outcomes. For my Introduction to Teaching class, my group had to come up with what an exemplary teacher would do to fulfill each rubric of the teaching standards at the distinguished level. Figure 1 shows the section of our project associated with standard 8.1. Professional learning communities are an opportunity for teachers to share ideas and strategies with one another. Together they can reflect both individually and as a team with the goals of making instruction better and increasing both student and educator learning. A successful teacher maintains friendly and professional relationships with their coworkers. They work as a team and help one another and successfully use their awareness of each teacher’s strengths and weaknesses to their advantage. A teacher who excels in classroom management may mentor another teacher who is struggling in this area to help them grow. It is a reciprocal, mutually beneficial alliance. Communication about student progress within the school community is another important aspect of participating in a professional learning community. Teachers should keep others informed on how a student they share is doing. They can discuss their successes and areas that need work. For example, if a math teacher is really struggling with a student in their class while the same student is doing very well in another teacher’s English class, this presents a chance for the two teachers to come together and brainstorm how to best meet the student’s needs based on what has been working in the language arts classroom. This would not be a fruitful meeting if the two teachers did not have a positive relationship. There is a strong connection between this standard and the concept of teacher leadership. Teacher leaders are a significant part of their school community. They seek feedback from not only their colleagues, but also their administration and are open to constructive criticism. A teacher leader may ask to be observed so that they can improve. One teacher leader stated that “Asking a teacher for advice empowers them in a way nothing else can. It helps me refine my own teaching and helps create the type of environment in which I desire to work” (p.548) . This illustrates the give and take that characterizes a professional learning community. Teachers in a professional learning community can make decisions as a group regarding changes in pace to best meet the needs of everyone in the group as well as their students. Furthermore, they accomplish this without compromising a cohesive and well-aligned curriculum. Being an active contributing part of a professional learning community, and ultimately becoming a teacher leader is a great goal for all teachers to aspire to. The importance of relationship building with your coworkers cannot be understated in the teaching profession.
Hunzicker, J. Attitude Has a Lot to Do With It: Dispositions of Emerging Teacher Leadership. Teacher Development, 17(4), 536-561.