I am increasingly intrigued by the Portrait of a Graduate movement. As a teacher trainer with my heart and soul in the classroom, Portrait of a Graduate provides teachers, administrators, and stakeholders with a clear picture of the dreams we hold for our students and the tools to develop a road map to get there.
The Battelle for Kids, a national not-for-profit group, has been working with school districts and their communities empowering them to create learning systems for the 21st century student (Battelle, 2019). Their website provides school-based communities the means to facilitate the discussion about who are their students, what it means to be a successful graduate in the 21st century and how do we build learning environments that support this success.
Portrait of a Graduate uses a unique design process led by superintendents and other school leaders, teachers and stakeholders. This process allows stakeholders to build a conversation about their learning community and future directions based on elements developed by the participants. The focus of the conversation is on students. They are the epicenter of the conversation.
Portrait of a Graduate pushes educators to think and plan for the long term success of students. As a teacher, I am a present being. The demands of my classroom require my undivided focus on the moment. My clients - my students - are “in the moment.” Yet, Portrait of a Graduate is future thinking. Because of this intentional focus, the outcomes are profound. Through focusing on the “who”, the students and their skills, their lives, their dreams - results - fall into place. Decisions come into a clear focus: how we fund our schools, how we approach instructional decisions, conversations about equity, and hiring practices. Resources are built around the future needs of the students.
The true power of Portrait of a Graduate is attention to future thinking throughout students’ school career. It is a commitment by a community that students will graduate with skills that will allow them to be active participants in our world. The impact on the “old ways” of thinking can be transformative.
I spent some time thinking about the language used in the Portrait of a Graduate vision statements. I used the language from ten different school districts from the Portrait of a Graduate website to create a word cloud and this is what I found:
The thought interconnections were striking. I was amazed to see the similarities across these schools and districts. These were districts from all regions of the United States. One of the most noticeable patterns was the Social and Emotional Learning concepts and skills found throughout the vision statements. It was the prevalent theme that each district articulated as critical to the portrait of their community’s graduate.
“A First Step in Transforming Your School System.” Portrait of a Graduate, www.portraitofagraduate.org/.
“Learning Together.” Battelle For Kids, www.battelleforkids.org/.