By Shirley Hall
Last week marked 2022’s Teacher Appreciation Week, a time when we celebrate the incredible work that educators do day in and day out to nurture our nation’s children. It also marked the week that we, at the Danielson Group (DG), released an updated version of our most trusted resource, The Framework for Teaching (FFT). And while this overlap in timing may not have been intentional, it was exceedingly appropriate.
After over ten years working for the DG — and more than 30 years as a teacher, school leader, district administrator, and coach — I have come to believe that at its heart, the FFT is a tool that honors, supports, and celebrates educators. This is more true today than ever before, as we roll out updates to this resource that further elevate the profession of teaching and double-down on the core components that empower educators.
Here are a few important ways the updated FFT can — and should! — continue to be used as a resource to show appreciation for the teaching profession:
Remember, it should be symmetrical.
When we focus on professional learning at the DG, we constantly remind school leaders that what we expect teachers to do for students, we must also mirror in what they do for teachers. The updated FFT puts the idea of “knowing and valuing” students front and center. It says for effective learning to happen, teachers must first invest the effort to truly know, understand, and value each child in their classroom. If we are thinking about professional learning being symmetrical, that means the relationship between school leaders and teachers must do the very same – it must be a relationship that is centered on knowing and valuing. As Charlotte Danielson has argued, “teaching depends fundamentally on the quality of relationships among individuals.” This is as true for teaching students as it is for developing educators. We can show true appreciation for our educators by investing in the relationships we have with them.
Ditch the script, trust the teacher.
Another significant change in the updated FFT is increased emphasis on the flexibility and autonomy necessary for great teaching to occur. Education is emerging from an era when curriculum was often quite prescriptive. What we are seeing now is a much broader recognition that what you do and say as a teacher should be dependent on the students in front of you. There is no single script that a teacher can follow to be successful; rather, teachers must be given the freedom to make choices about what is best for their students and have the ability to be creative in how they engage them in learning. The updated FFT leans more heavily into this idea, encouraging teachers to trust their training, instincts, and experience to help guide what learning looks like in their individual classrooms. And, equally important, for school leaders and teachers to work together to ensure teachers have the resources, training and opportunities for professional collaboration they need to pursue this more flexible path.
Recognize the range.
As we release this updated tool, we hope that districts and school leaders will likewise update how they view the FFT as a resource. There is a vast range of uses for the FFT — it’s not simply an evaluation system to be used, it’s so much more than that. People need to see the FFT as more than a set of words in a convenient, easy to understand table but instead, a tool for guiding the daily actions and decision-making that impact the lives of students far beyond the year that they sit in the classroom of any one teacher. By introducing the FFT to educators through this more holistic lens — one that focuses on fostering collaboration and dialogue between teachers and creating opportunities for teachers to engage in self-selected professional inquiry — the FFT truly becomes a tool for uplifting educators and understanding the cumulative impact of great teaching over time. With this in mind, school leaders should use the FFT to give teachers the opportunity to select their own pathway for professional development. Encouraging teachers to take this kind of ownership is a signal of value and respect. If we open up the range of ways schools and leaders leverage the FFT, we will create increased opportunities for learning for both teachers and students.
The truth is, if we want to show teachers they are appreciated, we don’t have to wait for a special day or week throughout the year. If there’s one thing the pandemic taught us, it’s that teachers should be appreciated every day for what they do and that the knowledge and skills they bring to their work should be celebrated. That belief is at the heart of what we do at the DG and it is central to the updates we made to the FFT. So, as we move past Teacher Appreciation Week this year, we hope that the FFT continues to be a tool that not only improves student learning and engagement, but also reinforces the appreciation we hold for the profession of teaching.