A recent advertisement in Training Magazine connected with an observation I made while facilitating a two day administrators conference for an urban school district. The ad was titled “When Technical Skills Aren’t Enough:6 Critical Skills Your Employees Need Today.”
ESI International states, “Current business realities such as outsourcing, mergers, and the need to align technology with business goals are placing additional demands on today’s technology workers—and on the training departments responsible for developing their skills.” ESI suggest six skill sets are critical:
1. Business Acumen
2. Communication and Interpersonal Skills
3. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
4. Coaching and Mentoring
5. Managing Change
6. Financial Acumen
In other words, technical skills were insufficient for success. If I replaced the word business and finance in ECI’s list with the words curriculum and assessment, the list of skills will fit for educators as well.
On the second day of the administrators’ conference I was facilitating table group conversations (5-8 administrators) with about 100 in attendance. I had asked that participants individually to answer the following question and then share responses.
“What three changes in teacher behavior would have the greatest positive impact on student achievement?”
As I walked around and watched individuals record their thoughts, I noticed that many had written “raised expectations for students”. I interrupted the group and commented that raised expectations wasn’t a behavior… more an attitude or belief. If teachers had higher expectations, how would they behave?
The list they generated contained statements like:
-Build relationships with students
-Know students better
-Encourage and Motivate Learners
-Make Learning Relevant
I then asked the group how much professional development and staff meeting time had recently been dedicated to these behaviors.
Is there a gap between skills teachers need and the focus of professional development? Do principals’ observations of teachers’ needs match district level staff development activities? Are principals dedicating faculty meeting time to the issues identified in observations? Are there “soft skills” that are being overlooked in favor of “technical skills” for teachers?
PLS is currently assisting a school district in designing and implementing an instructional coaching program. Our first set of meetings and trainings are bringing coaches and administrators together to reach consensus around what is NOW observable in teaching and learning and what is the desired outcome or change in teaching and learning that they want their coaching to produce. This agreement is critical to focusing the coaches’ work.
Are teacher communication and relationship skills receiving sufficient focus in your professional development program?