This is the first article in a two-part series exploring the idea of developing profiles of educators to help identify and train teachers in a holistic way, attending to the technical elements of teaching as well as the personal characteristics of the teacher.
Profiles of a Graduate have become popular in districts across the world as tools for guiding student development in both academic skills and “non-academic” characteristics (see the appendix for examples of this). A Profile of a Graduate is a collective promise that school districts make to help students develop the life- skills and attributes that can’t be captured by grades, transcripts, test scores, and other formal evaluation tools. Districts that adopt Profiles of a Graduate are able to more effectively redesign the ways they approach educational experiences for all of their students.
Recently the district I work in chose to develop a Profile of a Graduate, which got me thinking, “what if these same benefits could be applied to educators?” I began exploring the concept of Profile of an Educator (PoE) and foundthat it’s currently not a tool that people think about or use in the same way as a Profile of a Graduate.The places that doclaim to use Profiles of an Educator use it to define technical skills, much like you would use a job description or formal evaluation rubric.
I realized that, when developed and used with integrity, a Profile of an Educator could be a powerful tool for promoting equity for educators while simultaneously making life easier for schoolsand district leaders.
Similar to the Profile of a Graduate, I define a Profile of an Educator as a collective vision for the qualities, characteristics, and competencies embodied by all educators in a given organization. Examples of these characteristics could include: caring, courage, openness to feedback, imagination, dedication, having a positive outlook, etc (see Appendix 2 for a model of this). When communities create a Profile of an Educator (PoE) they set a vision for defining and developing the holistic skills they value in their teachers and school leaders.
I want to note that these characteristics are almost always already present in educators. The PoE is simply a tool to bring forward and validate these characteristics as worthy goals on which to spend of time and resources
When established with the right amount of rigor and fidelity, the Profile of an Educator will reflect the unique flavor and characteristics of the community that created it and act as a guidepost for coaching, professional learning, and resource allocation.
Based on the great results we’ve seen from districts committed to Profiles of a Graduate, we can see that there are several advantages to creating a Profile of an Educator. Over the course of two blog posts, we are going to examine those advantages.
Advantage #1: Providing Space for Deep Practices
We’ve all heard of best practices, which refer to the technical aspects of teaching, but I’d like to introduce the concept of “Deep Practices,” which are actions and choices that come from the heart of the educator (Michalec & Newburgh, 2018). Too often in education we get caught up in the measurable, observable aspects of the profession. Committing to a Profile of an Educator validates the need to support, promote, and help develop the characteristics that are not emphasized on formal evaluation rubrics, a classroom checklist, or a job description.
Often, when you ask stakeholders what they care about in an educator they bring forth Deep Practices naturally, saying they want someone caring, courageous, passionate, and committed. Educators themselves value Deep Practices, but don’t often feel supported or validated in spending time to attend to these attributes (Michalec & Newburgh, 2018). Committing to a Profile of an Educator emphasizes Deep Practices, validates them, and lifts them up a collective priority.
Advantage #2: Encouraging a Growth Mindset
One enormous advantage to establishing a PoE is that it encourages all stakeholders to adopt a growth mindset toward their educators.
When we work with students we almost always think in terms of growth and change, but when working with adult colleagues I’ve too often seen coaches and leaders take on fixed mindsets. Some actual quotes I recorded from leaders and colleagues include, “you can’t teach kindness; you have to hire for it,” and, “that person has a bad attitude and just isn’t going to change.” Recently, at a large and respected educational symposium, the keynote speaker said flatly, “You can’t change people’s attitudes.” This type of mindset toward adults is so ingrained that it often goes unquestioned. In answer to this, the PoE respects the fact that adults as well as children are on a life-long trajectory of learning.
Significantly, it recognizes that the learning trajectory refers to the whole person. We believe deeply that students can learn kindness, caring, social-emotional competence, passion, self-control, time management, etc. but we have a notion that adults should already have these qualities developed to their fullest capacities. The truth is, developing these skills are a life-long process, and our professional learning models should reflect that.
We have to remember that growing toward the ideal PoE is a process.In the same way that we would never expect a high school freshman to exhibit all of the qualities of the Profile of a Graduate, we can’t expect every educator, leader, staff member, or district representative to come to us as a perfect, enlightened being. We all have goals for personal and professional evolution. The very act of establishing a PoE creates a natural continuum of learning that respects the processes of wholehuman developmentby creating an ideal to strive toward.
The PoE also alleviates the frustration that often accompanies coaching sessions and professional learning by laying our a clear vision that prompts questions like, “how can we help you move toward these goals?” and “how can we help you develop in these ways?” It opens up a path to define the deep supports (Newburgh, 2018)and professional learning needed for educators to get “unstuck” and grow into their best selves.
Bio - Kate Newburgh, Ph.D
Dr. Kate Newburgh has over a decade of experience in education. She began her career as a New York City Teaching Fellow in the Bronx, NY. Since then she's held diverse roles in the field including Educational Researcher, Academic Affairs Director for a national non-profit, and Curriculum Specialist and Instructional Coach for Eagle County Schools, CO. She is a member of several large-scale networks including the Colorado Education Initiative and America Achieves. She is trained in Project-Based Learning, Capstone Design, Competency-Based Evaluation, and Social-Emotional Learning Development for teachers. She received her Ph.D in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Denver with a research focus on teacher retention and adaptive whole-teacher supports.
Contact Kate or check out her website (www.deeppractices.com) for more information.
Michalec, P., & Newburgh, K. (2018). Deep practices: Advancing equity by creating a space and language for the inner core of teaching. Teacher Education and Practice, 31(1).
Newburgh, K. (2018). Teaching in good faith: Towards a framework for defining the deep supports that grow and retain first-year teachers. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 1-14.