The Power of Micro-credentials

The following blog post was written by Schools That Lead Teacher Leader, Brandy Cooper from Milford Central Academy. Brandy is a highly recognized sixth grade math teacher, the 2015-2016 Milford School District Teacher of the Year, and a finalist in the 2016 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching in Delaware. Brandy has also earned many Schools That Lead micro-credentials and is on her way to being certified as a "Teacher Leader to Advance Powerful Adult and Student Learning."

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The past two years have been an unexpected, but incredible journey for me. The word data used to be a word I hated. I used data because I was required to, and when I say I used data, I am referring to discussing the data my administrators required me to review with my colleagues during PLCs. I collaborated with colleagues only during the required PLC time and discussed our students’ progress. Two years ago, I thought I was doing exactly what I needed to do to grow as a teacher because, clearly, I was doing exactly what I was required to do. Two years ago, I had no idea just how much I really had to learn.

However, two years ago, everything changed. I began working with Schools that Lead, and for the first time in my career, I understood what it meant to advance powerful student learning. After joining the Teacher Leadership Initiative (TLI), I began to learn how to engage my colleagues in Student Learning Reflection cycles. We would go into each other’s classrooms, collect meaningful student data for each other, and engage in reflective practice. We focused on what was meaningful to us, what we were curious about, and what we wanted to change in our classrooms. I also learned how to use improvement science in my classroom. After identifying a problem that I wanted to change, I went through the cycle of a Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA); this a structured format to test a new idea, analyze the data, and make an action plan based on my learning. For the first time, I realized that data is powerful. For the first time, I realized that I was powerful.

Last year, Schools that Lead began offering TLI participants the opportunity to earn micro-credentials. Like so many teachers, my first thought was, “How can I possibly do one more thing?” What I soon came to realize is that I was already doing these things; I simply had to submit the evidence to earn recognition for my work. This was important for me because earning the micro-credential meant that I was being recognized for doing the work with integrity. The process of earning a micro-credential is an easy one. After I felt I had fulfilled the requirements of a particular micro-credential, I download the reflection form, completed the reflection, and attached the evidence of my learning. It is not time-consuming, and, again, it is work that I am already completing as a participant in TLI. I ultimately decided to micro-credential because I am such a strong believer in what I have learned, and I want others to recognize that I am proficient in specific leadership skills. I am proud of what I have learned, how much I have grown, and the experience my students are having in my classroom due to my newly acquired skills. The learning is already happening, but the micro-credential is the evidence I have to prove and share this learning with others.

My motivation to continue to earn micro-credentials is evident every morning I walk into my classroom – my students. Although I did not know it two years ago, I had a lot to learn about being reflective, collaborating, and using data appropriately. Before, I did not understand that data could be personal, or how powerful the smallest change could be. Now, I understand how the work I have been doing with Schools that Lead is making such a huge impact on my students every day. By pushing myself to continue to grow in my practice, I am simultaneously working toward earning more micro-credentials. Each day I feel as though I am becoming a more powerful teacher, and I am proud to showcase the many ways I am advancing powerful student learning through the acquisition of micro-credentials.