What Does It Mean to ‘Teach Like a Pro?’ Lessons from Michael Fullan

August 2013, Volume 36, Issue 12

In his books, education management expert Michael Fullan explored change, social capital, and what it means to “teach like a pro.”

Walking into Fullan’s plenary session at the 2013 NAESP Conference, I anticipated a presentation on insights and strategies to use to move my school’s improvement system forward and thereby increase the growth of all students. His address was actually more focused on whole system reform, or a central or district approach.

Fullan began by discussing the “doing of change.” The starting point for the change stance is moral imperative and the link to the moral imperative of the school/system with evidence of progress. Three “stances” must be addressed and mastered by a school team to accomplish positive forward movement: the change stance, the implementation stance, and the sustainability stance.

Next, Fullan discussed effective and ineffective policy “drivers” of change. While we have to still contend with the ineffective drivers, we need to position fitting drivers (such as capacity building and collaboration) in our strategies. Social or team capital, as opposed to individual capital, is important in making this happen. Leaders must develop different forms of capital and effectively deal with a resistance mindset to make effective change.

Fullan challenged attendees to consider what it means to “teach like a pro.” According to his book, Professional Capital, there are five Cs that enable teachers to become most effective:

  1. Capability (expertise);
  2. Commitment;
  3. Career;
  4. Culture; and
  5. Contexts or conditions of teaching

“When these ingredients are right, that’s when you teach like a pro,” says Fullan. “Weaken any one of them and the others will suffer.”

In closing, Fullan advised that although the next few years will be chaotic for the principalship and for education, new opportunities will emerge from the turmoil.

Donna Fagerholm is principal of Sinclair Elementary School in Manassas, Virginia.

Adapted from Motion Leadership in Action, from NAESP’s Conference News Online.

Copyright © 2013 National Association of Elementary School Principals. No part of the articles in NAESP magazines, newsletters, or website may be reproduced in any medium without the permission of the National Association of Elementary School Principals. For more information, view NAESP’s reprint policy.