Professional Practice and Protocols

I continue to ponder ideas with regard to professional practice and protocols. I do this because I think it's possible to streamline many systems in education so that the lion's share of the efforts are directed towards optimal student learning.

When apt protocols and practice are not in place in your own professional work or the workplace, time is taken away from the organization's vision and goals.

What are the professional protocols and practice that enable teachers, schools and educational organizations to do their work well?

Effective, Timely, Regular Communication:
When everyone knows where they are, where they're headed and what's on the horizon there is a rise in common language, common focus and common vision--a sense of "team with a mission" arises which boosts collaboration and effect.  When people are unsure of this there's the potential for overlapping, repetitive and conflicting directions that serve to stall or hinder the important work of a system.

Communication Systems and Protocols: 
When there are systems and protocols for communication related to the goals and vision, the needed evolutionary process of setting goals, refining and revising direction and meeting goals becomes inclusive, action based and vibrant.  When people aren't sure if they should communicate related to goals or who they should talk to, confusion rather than direction occurs.

Goals and Vision
A regular (yearly?) system of vision and goal setting creation should be in place. This system should include the voices of all involved and rely on research related to best practice, future needs, context and budget. The system should also clearly communicate the process from establishing to implementing to reviewing/revising to evaluating and so on with all impacted involved.

Transparency and Follow Through
Miscommunication, secrets and lack of follow through serve to create an untrusting work environment. I can be faulted for sometimes promising more than I can offer--I'm an idealist who thinks and dreams big, but I have to be a realist when it comes to promising my effort, time and work for specific goals.  Luckily, education is a field where there is little need for secrets and there is a great advantage to transparency. Our goal is to teach children well, and when everyone knows about the processes related to doing that, greater investment will develop.

Energy Management
Employees bring a discrete amount of energy to the job, and maximizing the intent of that energy will maximize the quality of work that can be done. Unnecessary time spent trying to navigate and coordinate too many bosses, assistants, travel-time, goals and at times goals with conflicting definition can serve to weaken an organization's impact.  For example, in a friend's school system, the coaches travel from school to school only meeting with teachers every six weeks or so--the impact of those coaches is minimal since they are responding to a large number of school environments, leadership and teachers, and they also don't have the time to know the teachers or students well.  Those coaches make a lot of money for little impact. When most professionals are assigned to a specific school, grade level or team and spend most of their time there, the investment, ownership and contribution towards the essential goal and student learning grows--impact expands.

Role Definition
I know I keep writing about this, but it is so essential--who is responsible for what?  Yes, there will be overlap and need for conversation, but the more we understand each other's roles and responsibilities, the better we'll be able to work together to effect optimal student learning.  One issue that classroom teachers face early in the year is the timeliness of specialist services.  In some schools, all specialists are working with students from day one--schedules have been created, goals set and just like classroom teachers their time-on-task with students begins right away.  In other instances, it sometimes takes up to three or four months for a therapist or specialist to start serving a child, while that's not legal when it comes to IEPs and other mandates, it sometimes happens due to a large number of reasons.  Issues like that put a classroom teacher in a difficult role.  After all classroom teachers do not have any voice when it comes to specialists' or therapists' work, but we do have a responsibility that students receive the optimal services they are promised.  Similar issues arise when curriculum objectives and efforts are shared--who is responsible for what is an essential question to consider with optimal student learning as the underlying discussion point.

Committees and Delegation
Schools that take good care of the learning community i.e. families, educators, staff and students represent a myriad of initiatives and efforts.  It's important to review those efforts regularly and delete those that no longer have substantial affect; support those that do and create new initiatives to meet new needs and goals.  It is essential that schools wisely create and delegate resources to staff committees, and it is essential that committee work commits to a full cycle of work from start to finish including regular communication of the committee efforts, needs, impact and next steps.  Often, due to planning, committee work in schools does not go full circle or happens at the last minute with little impact.  It's better to pair down, focus and attend to the important committee work in a systematic way so that the efforts are worthwhile and contribute to the system's mission.

Professional Development and Expectation
In this regard, I believe that every educator has the obligation to continually develop his/her professional repertoire.  I would like to see school systems adopt "responsive professional development" rather than one-size-fits-all endeavor which often serves to demean and discourage educators rather than inspire and energize.   Most "one-size-fits-all" messages can be transfered online, and "do it in your own way/time" venues.  Meaningful, targeted, responsive, collaborative professional development that impacts student learning and attendance at worthy professional talks and workshops are a positive focus for professional work, and professional work is important to the development of every educational organization.

Kindness, Care and Respect
Many would put this category first on this list, but kindness, care and respect often mask confusion and lack of direction when the categories above are not attended to.  We can better care and be kind to each other if the points above are carefully managed and thoughtfully carried out.

Streamlined, effective professional work and protocols will put educators' energy, effort and time where it belongs: focused on optimal student learning--those are the kinds of systems teachers and students thrive in.

Do you agree? Are there categories you would eliminate or add?  Would you rephrase any definitions? Is your role streamlined and defined, or do you find that your educational role answers to many disparate directions?  I'm curious.

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