Principal's Bookshelf

Principal, November/December 2012

Professional Capital: Transform­ing Teaching in Every School.
By Andy Hargreaves & Michael Fullan
Teachers College Press, 2012, 219 pages.

By bringing quality teaching to the forefront, Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan clearly illustrate what is worth fighting for in public educa­tion. Their latest collaboration, Profes­sional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School, debunks some of the myths about teaching, and provides solutions to educational dilemmas, with recommendations for classroom teachers, administrators, schools, districts, and policymakers.

The authors introduce readers to the concept of professional capital, the combination of individual human capital, collaborative social capital, and decisional capital. Performing in professional sports, they remind us, requires training, feedback, and practice, just as it should in educa­tion. Teaching “like a pro,” they write, involves “improving as an individual, raising the performance of the team, and increasing quality across the whole profession.”

The authors explore the “Five C’s” that teachers need to become highly effective within a school sys­tem: capability, commitment, career, culture, and conditions of teaching. They share examples of how to stay energized in education and maintain focus on best practices, which they define as “a continuous amalgama­tion of precision and innovation as well as inquiry, improvisation, and experimentation.”

For school leaders, Hargreaves and Fullan emphasize the need for profes­sional capacity building, collective responsibility, moral commitment, and coherent and cohesive policies. And even though they speak realisti­cally about accountability pressures, unions, and other barriers to success, their call to improve the educational system is ultimately inspiring and thought-provoking. The authors con­clude with ten recommended action steps for teaching “like a pro,” each discussed in detail.

This book gives educators viable solutions and varied examples from around the world. Hargreaves and Fullan suggest that professional capi­tal can be the key to positive change in education, and that a cumulative effect is needed in order to transform the profession.

Reviewed by Jacie Maslyk, principal, Crafton Elementary School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


Circle in the Square: Building Community and Repairing Harm in School.
By Nancy Riestenberg
Living Justice Press, 2012, 256 pages.

Circle in the Square: Building Community and Repairing Harm in School provides an alternate approach to detentions, suspensions, and expulsions.

“An administrator can either invest time with students up front by using a restorative process that involves all people affected by harm,” writes author Nancy Riestenberg, “or she can dole out her time over the course of the year dealing with increasingly harmful rule violations.” One way to build communi­ty and repair harm in schools is through restorative measures.

“Restorative measures represent a phi­losophy and a process that acknowledge that when a person does harm, it affects the person(s) they hurt, the commu­nity, and themselves. … [A]n attempt is made to repair the harm caused by one person to another and to the commu­nity, so that order is restored for everyone,” writes Riestenberg.

Restorative mea­sures in schools build community, civic engagement, and relationships. One way a school can repair harm is through a “Talk­ing Circle,” which is, according to the author, “an intentional communication process guided by a community’s values. The Circle can be used to help people get to know one another, direct a meet­ing, teach, support someone in need, or hold someone accountable for harm or rule violations.”

Because of the shape of the Circle, everyone can see and hear each other, and the process is transparent for all participants. During Circle, students agree to maintain confidentiality, develop common agreements, and make decisions by consensus. Circles provide structures and build relation­ships so that all participants feel safe to express themselves and develop solu­tions to problems.

Circles are a great way to facilitate communication between people. How­ever, it may be difficult to use Circles to address school conflicts, since school leaders may feel pressure from victims’ parents, school staff, board members, and the community to punish those who cause harm. Schools should first educate their communities to reframe problem-solving and make a paradigm shift from a punitive approach to a restorative approach. Circle in the Square reminds educators about the need to offer students hope and to use every experience as a teachable moment.

Reviewed by Kaivan Yuen, principal, Jefferson Middle School, San Gabriel, California.


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