Proposition 5

Teachers are members of learning communities.

Accomplished teachers reach beyond the boundaries of their individual classrooms to engage wider communities of learning. They connect with local, state, national, and global groups in person or via technology to take advantage of a broad range of professional knowledge and expertise. Accomplished educators draw on those resources when instructing their students and participating in duties that contribute significantly to the quality of schools and student learning. Those duties address two areas of responsibility: collaboration with other professionals to improve the effectiveness of schools, and partnership with families and other stakeholders to promote the education of children and young adults.

Teachers Collaborate with Other Professionals to Improve School Effectiveness

Teachers work with their colleagues as members of a team, sharing their knowledge and skills while contributing to the ongoing development of strong schools.

The National Board advocates proactive and creative roles for teachers. Those functions involve analyzing and constructing curricula, coordinating instruction, contributing to the professional development of staff, and participating in other policy decisions fundamental to the development of highly productive learning communities.

Although state authorities and local leadership establish broad goals, objectives, and priorities for districts and schools, accomplished teachers share responsibility with their colleagues and administrators in determining what constitutes valuable learning for students. Educators understand their legal obligation to carry out public policy as represented in state statutes and regulations, school board directives, court decisions, and other procedural documents—and they bear those mandates in mind while acting as professionals. Accomplished teachers thereby take the initiative to analyze curricula critically, identify new priorities, and communicate necessary changes to the school community. To perform that work effectively, teachers must have a thorough knowledge of their students and curricula as well as a willingness to question conventions and work collaboratively with educational stakeholders.

Developing curricula and coordinating instruction are key functions shared by teachers and administrators. Accomplished teachers work with other educators to plan instructional programs that promote continuity and support equitable learning experiences for all students. They help integrate plans for students with general and exceptional needs by thinking strategically across grade levels, academic tracks, and subject areas. Teachers work closely with administrators and staff to navigate systems, structures, and schedules so they can implement improvements that modify organizational and curricular aspects of instruction cohesively. Accomplished teachers understand the technical requirements of a well-coordinated curriculum, possess the interpersonal skills needed to work in groups, and exhibit a readiness to join their efforts in the interest of school communities. Those qualities enable educators to participate effectively in planning and decision making in teams, departments, and other educational units outside the classroom, laboratory, or studio.

Accomplished teachers also are involved in the arrangement of student services, uniting educators with a wide variety of specializations to ensure that instructional experiences remain productive and coherent. They help teachers partner to support inclusive education and create appropriate learning environments for students with a range of exceptional needs—those who face physical disabilities, sensory impairment, or behavioral challenges, as well as those who are gifted and talented. Accomplished educators foster cooperation among teachers and counselors of English learners, and others who offer high-quality programs featuring English as a new language, bilingual education, and English immersion. Importantly, they uphold the requirements of compensatory education with a similar sense of vigilance and dedication. Accomplished teachers are adept at working in tandem with other educators to provide students with the attention they need.

Accomplished teachers communicate regularly with students’ parents and guardians. Teachers inform them about their children’s accomplishments and challenges, responding to their questions, listening to their concerns, and respecting their views.

In addition to developing curricula and coordinating instruction schoolwide, accomplished educators work with one another to strengthen their teaching practices. They observe colleagues in the classroom, engage in pedagogical discussions, and collaborate to improve their teaching methods and explore new instructional strategies. Accomplished instructors may focus on different aspects of their practice, based on opportunity, need, and disposition; however, they share a common commitment to pursuing teaching excellence in concert with their peers.

Schools that thrive and flourish emphasize a similar process of continuous improvement. Accomplished teachers in those schools help their colleagues identify and resolve problems while encouraging them to experiment with different teaching methods and forms of instructional organization. They work as teacher leaders, strengthening professional development and advocating improvements. Educators in less successful schools strive to promote the same traits of excellence—to build systems, develop networks, and foster a culture of innovation that will help their schools prosper.

Accomplished teachers undertake a variety of projects to pursue all those goals, participating actively in their learning communities to promote progress and achievement. For example, they may mentor novices, form study groups, demonstrate new methodologies, serve on school and district policy councils, or engage in scholarly inquiry and artistic expression. Teachers work with their colleagues as members of a team, sharing their knowledge and skills while contributing to the ongoing development of strong schools. Alongside their administrators and other school leaders, they assume responsibility for the quality of their schools’ instructional programs. This set of expectations is integral to the mission of accomplished teachers. It characterizes a professional approach to teaching and distinguishes the educational field as a whole.

Teachers Work Collaboratively with Families

Accomplished teachers communicate regularly with students’ parents and guardians. Teachers inform them about their children’s accomplishments and challenges, responding to their questions, listening to their concerns, and respecting their views. Teachers encourage families to become active participants in their children’s education by acquainting them with school programs and enlisting their help to develop skill sets and foster lifelong learning. For instance, a kindergarten teacher may discuss the importance of reading stories at home and show a grandparent why engaging her child in conversation is critical to literacy development. Accomplished teachers share the education of children with families.

Any community—urban, suburban, or rural; wealthy or poor—can become a laboratory for learning under the guidance of an accomplished teacher. Accomplished teachers need not teach alone.

Ideally, teachers and parents become mutually reinforcing partners in the education of young people. However, various circumstances can complicate relationships, such as divergent interests or mistrust. Accomplished teachers are alert to those issues and tailor their practice to enhance student achievement. Understanding that some families may take more time than others to gain confidence in school–home relationships, teachers proceed patiently, learning about cultures, beliefs, and priorities while expressing respect for families and demonstrating their attention to students. Throughout the process, educators develop skills and understandings that help them avoid pitfalls while working to foster positive, collaborative relationships between schools and families.

The changing structure of families in our society creates both challenges and opportunities. Accomplished teachers must possess a thorough knowledge of their students as individuals to work creatively and effectively with family members. Advancing the intellectual development of students is a teacher’s foremost responsibility, but accomplished teachers understand that a broad range of student needs can influence that goal, such as the need for informed caregivers to provide guidance and support. By learning the dynamics within their students’ homes, teachers appreciate how they can work with families to address student needs and advance educational gains. The distinctive mission of teaching is the promotion of learning—a complex undertaking in and of itself; but accomplished teachers understand that the physical, emotional, and social well-being of students cannot be separated from their intellectual growth.

Teachers Work Collaboratively with the Community

Accomplished teachers cultivate their students’ knowledge of the local community as a powerful resource for learning. Opportunities abound for enriching lessons, projects, and topics of study; for example, observing the city council in action, collecting oral histories from senior citizens, studying ecology at a public park, visiting a museum, drawing the local architecture, or exploring career options in small businesses. Any community—urban, suburban, or rural; wealthy or poor—can become a laboratory for learning under the guidance of an accomplished teacher. The Internet can extend those experiences, giving students the chance to investigate local towns further or to explore cities, states, and countries farther afield. Within all those communities, instructional partners such as government officials, organizational volunteers, and corporate leaders can serve as valuable assets, supplementing and enhancing the education of students. Accomplished teachers need not teach alone.

Teachers also explore the concept of culture within their communities and its influence on children and young adults. Accomplished educators encourage students to appreciate linguistic traditions and ethnic contributions, to study social influences on their expectations and aspirations, and to discuss the effects that economic conditions can have on political views and outlooks. Although careful attention to diversity may challenge teachers, learning about a wealth of cultures can help them work meaningfully with students. An understanding of multiculturalism promotes an acknowledgment of differences and similarities, which, in turn, inspires students to accept individuals and to adopt civic ideals. Accomplished teachers capitalize on those opportunities so they can respond productively to their students’ diverse backgrounds.

Such work rests on a delicate balance. Teachers cannot alleviate all the social problems they encounter, but they can be sensitive to those issues and caring toward students as they fulfill their professional responsibilities as educators. Teachers confront the human condition daily in all its splendor and misery; what they choose to share, how they respond, and how they prepare students in the face of it all are the factors that distinguish teachers who are truly accomplished.