Why have an Adult Portrait?
Widespread successful achievement of the Graduate Portrait is only possible if a supportive and intentional community of adults work together. What attributes will the adults need to help students succeed? Based on broad community input and the design work of the Guiding Coalition, the eight elements described below are those deemed most critical in supporting students to achieve the Graduate Portrait.
This Adult Portrait applies to all adults working in the school district, not just teachers, because every adult’s work supports student success; therefore, the language here is broad. The district holds high expectations for all adults, and so these elements include deep expertise in, and continuous learning about, any adult’s area of expertise. Teachers are expected to have deep content knowledge and strong instructional skills; administrators are expected to be outstanding educational leaders and managers; support and operations staff are expected to provide excellent service in their areas of responsibility; and all adults are expected to engage in ongoing learning. The elements also include areas that prepare students for their futures, support their readiness to learn, and support a strong collaborative culture for the adults.
Many adults at SCUSD already embody some of these attributes, but the purpose of this part of the vision is to create an aligned culture and to support all adults in developing all of the attributes over the course of the vision timeline. This is a long-term vision. Developing and prioritizing the Adult Portrait will be part of SCUSD’s journey and its strategy for recruitment, professional learning, and staff development.
The ability of adults to model and continuously develop these attributes will be critical in helping students. They will also help adults support one another and create respectful and beneficial relationships with the community that further support students’ learning and skills building.
The following Adult Portrait elements have been developed through iterative cycles of input, feedback, and revision, as illustrated in the roadmap.
Read towards the bottom of the page for stories from the future: Inspiring, creative, snapshots that help us imagine and maintain focus on a desired future through stories of fictional characters.
Each adult at SCUSD has deep expertise and strives for excellence in their area of responsibility, whether instruction, administration, support, or operations.
Adults aim to create a world-class educational system and work to continually improve their practice. They adopt strategies, practices, and decision-making approaches that are based on evidence, research, and data, making processes unambiguous and transparent. Educators have deep content knowledge and are skilled instructors; administrators and managers develop as strong leaders, seeking out leadership opportunities; and all adults take proactive responsibility for their work. They hold high expectations for all to support each student’s success. They build trust by being consistent and reliable.
Adults are also knowledgeable about, and dedicated to, meeting the needs of students, colleagues, families, and the community. They are skilled and responsible communicators who understand the various audiences for their work, have a variety of strategies for reaching them, and have the courage to initiate difficult conversations when necessary.
Student-centered Lifelong Learner
Adults at SCUSD commit to the moral imperative of education, by providing high-quality, accessible, bias-free learning for all.
They are passionate about their work and their roles in creating the foundations for every SCUSD student to thrive in their lives and careers. Adults demonstrate curiosity and a commitment to lifelong learning, making them well-informed, current, and knowledgeable about their areas of professional responsibility, whether that is in the classroom, or supporting the classroom.
Adults seek out a variety of learning opportunities; use data proactively; and request, accept, apply, and provide constructive feedback. They work to create a joyful and engaging environment for all. They focus on “working smarter,” and demonstrate a growth mindset by challenging and inspiring students and one another to take risks, and seeing failure as a natural part of the learning cycle.
They listen to students and develop the ability to apply meaningful feedback to support students in becoming self-directed learners. In turn, adults are supported with training and skills development, and active sharing of successful practices, so that they know how to inspire each student to succeed.
Creative and Critical Thinker
All adults at SCUSD continually develop their abilities to become skilled creative and critical thinkers, moving easily among a variety of thinking strategies according to the situation and need.
As creative thinkers, they use innovation and imagination to think differently and to see problems from a variety of angles. They work constructively to generate ideas with students and coworkers, and design and develop creative solutions iteratively. They exercise their critical thinking by analyzing data and evidence to identify and clarify problems, and evaluate arguments. They use analysis to create a sound basis for inference, and to develop and implement solutions. They support students in understanding how to learn, how to embody a growth mindset, and how to feel confident exercising their own critical and creative capacities.
Adults deepen their thinking continually, opening up to different perspectives and interpretations by continuously reflecting on personal and systemic biases. They understand how systems operate and are able to constructively assess where and how to create change.
Adaptive Forward Thinker
Adults at SCUSD prepare students to thrive in a changing world by modeling adaptability and resilience and by having a vision for the future that guides their everyday actions.
Adults demonstrate situational awareness and the ability to adapt to the changing needs of students, other adults, the community, and the world. They keep their work relevant and future ready by staying informed about local and global affairs, engaging with industry partners, upskilling to meet changing needs, and curating physical and virtual learning journeys.
They help students connect with the world around them by sharing their learning and creating opportunities for civic and community engagement locally and globally. Adults are flexible and open to change based on new information, ideas, feedback, technologies, and changing circumstances, and are able to evaluate the ethical impact and consequences of current and future trends. They are responsive to feedback, willing to implement changes, and agile enough to do so in a timely manner.
The Caring Adult
Adults at SCUSD demonstrate their care for students by being proactive and responsive to students’ emotional needs, and holding high expectations for their success.
Adults listen to students and show kindness and interest in students’ lives, at school and at home. Adults create an encouraging environment where students and families feel welcomed and safe, to ensure that students feel supported while learning. Every student at SCUSD can name an adult who demonstrates care for them in these ways.
Adults are emotionally self-aware, present, available, and reliable. They build healthy relationships and communicate and model healthy boundaries with students, families, and coworkers. Adults recognize that self-care is critical to their ability to do their jobs, and they are supported in maintaining their own healthy mind, body, and spirit.
Adults at SCUSD believe in developing each student’s assets and supporting each student in reaching their full potential by achieving and demonstrating the Graduate Portrait elements to the best of their ability.
Adults are knowledgeable about the diversity of neurotypes (i.e., different types of cognitive processing) and other learning differences, and they have the skills to integrate a range of responsive strategies, options, and accommodations to adapt to students’ individual needs. Adults understand how intersectionality—the overlapping identities that combine and intersect in the experiences of marginalized groups, for example, poverty and learning differences—intensifies the prejudices people face. Adults foster inclusion and empathy at every site and every department. They are provided with support and training as needed, to underscore the asset base of each person in the system and the strengths of neurodiversity.
Adults at SCUSD are courageous advocates for equity and access, and they work proactively to establish a culture of social and cultural empathy.
Adults are culturally competent leaders who promote diversity and embrace cultural differences, in both the workplace and the community. They work to become aware of their own biases. They understand the historical roots of racial bias, for example, and are active and intentional about changing injustice.
They collaborate to dismantle inequitable power structures, and to design equitable structures, practices, and processes that improve outcomes for marginalized students. They demonstrate support and respect for coworkers, families, and community members. At school sites, educators use culturally sustaining practices, by incorporating culturally and linguistically relevant content and responsive pedagogy. Adults demonstrate a racial equity and cultural inclusion mindset; respectfully and readily engage with diverse perspectives; and show a willingness to influence and model change.
Adults at SCUSD are active collaborators with students, co-workers, families, and community members because they believe in the value of multiple perspectives and collective effort in improving student outcomes.
Adults prepare students for teamwork and facilitate collaboration among students and with external partners. They empower students to be confident self-advocates who take ownership of their learning and outcomes while working independently and in groups. Adults model self-advocacy concerning their work and its outcomes, help students understand the value of complementary skills and different roles in teams, and teach them how to navigate team dynamics.
Adults know how to listen deeply and share their expertise constructively. They can play flexible roles, depending upon the needs of a particular project or team, and they work proactively to foster collaboration across sites and departments.
Adult Portrait Implications
Although district offices and state departments of education often have lists of competencies, or standards, for educators and administrators, these are not directly tied to a Graduate Portrait, nor do they apply to all adults working in the school district. The difference here is that our Adult Portrait has been created through the same collaborative vision process that we used to create the Graduate Portrait, and it is specifically designed to support that work. This makes it more targeted to this district and more holistic.
The Adult Portrait has major implications for the human resources lifecycle, labor relations, and the kinds of relevant and persistent professional learning that adults will need in order to embody the portrait.
This portrait is intended to apply to every adult working in the school district, including classroom teachers, paraprofessionals, facilities workers, and office workers. It applies to everyone from the governance team to the newest hire because the work of every adult at SCUSD supports student success.
Parents, family members, and caregivers have the greatest influence on students’ success. The Adult Portrait is not intended to apply to adults outside the school district staff. However, it will also be helpful for parents, family members, and caregivers, along with other influential adults, such as coaches, mentors, and community organization leaders, to know and support the aspirations for SCUSD adults. Feedback during the vision process also indicates that some family members would enjoy parent workshops and training to help them support their students’ success. As the work on the Adult Portrait progresses, there may be opportunities to provide optional resources to families, based on the professional development that supports the Adult Portrait.
The Talent Lifecycle
The Adult Portrait will be used in the hiring process and will apply to each part of the human resources lifecycle (attraction, recruitment, hiring, onboarding, continuous development and evaluation, retention, transition, and separation). It is not expected that new hires will come with all of these qualities fully formed, but that they will understand the purpose of the portrait and be willing to adopt it.
It is a truism in educational recruitment to say that it is less important that someone begins with good teaching skills because those can be taught, but they must love children and be committed to their well-being. The Adult Portrait is an extension of that idea. New hires do not have to embody all of these qualities, but they must believe that every child can achieve success, want to do their part to support each student, and understand the Adult Portrait’s role in creating a community of adults who share this commitment.
Focused and Aligned Professional Learning
As all adults in the system are encouraged to develop the qualities in the Adult Portrait, they will be supported with targeted and relevant professional development. This will help adults determine what the elements look like in their particular context, how they can be developed, and what best practices look like in action.
The forward-looking and holistic nature of the Adult Portrait also brings the opportunity for more innovative professional learning options. These options can include in-person and virtual learning journeys to witness great ideas in action, or benchmark against other districts and organizations, and simulations to practice new skills and ideas.
As a set of characteristics that apply to all adults, the Adult Portrait also supports cross-departmental and cross-site collaborations, and interdisciplinary learning. This can enable the entire community of adults to learn from one another, spark innovation, circulate best practices, and build a shared understanding of how the whole system can best work to support students.
Stories from the Future
Carolina teaches math at New Valley High School. She is a veteran teacher and also a product of SCUSD. She lives with her family in the house she inherited from her immigrant grandparents.
Carolina was asked to think about making her classes interdisciplinary. She acknowledges that she was very resistant. “I saw it as a criticism, and there was nothing wrong with my math classes!” In a district-wide professional development session, however, she was partnered with history teacher Steph, and asked to brainstorm an interdisciplinary class. They came up with a class on African Fractals, which included math, history, geography, and architecture.
The group loved the concept, and so Carolina and Steph were persuaded to try it out with their classes to win an innovation grant. “My math classes just lit up. And they loved seeing the real-world application of this complex math. I was also invited to add to the educator portal for Creative and Critical Thinker, and the grant enabled me to attend a conference.”
Noel has been in transportation at SCUSD for 30 years. At first, he assumed that the Adult Portrait would have little relevance for him. Then his department held a half-day training to discuss what the various elements of the portrait meant for their work.
As the first SCUSD adult that many students see each day, Noel has long been aware that it’s important that he be friendly and warm to the students, while also holding the line around what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior on the bus. He was surprised when the communications team asked to interview him about this experience in a series of videos for the portal, saying it would be helpful for new hires. His manager also knew that Noel had an interest in electric and autonomous vehicles and suggested that he take some of his PD time to research this interest more and share the information with the management team as part of his Adaptive Forward Thinker role.
Kris works as part of the wellness team at SCHS. While most of his focus is on students, he spends some of his time as a district-wide wellness coach, supporting adults in building resilience and empathy. He holds in-person and virtual office hours for any adult in the system who wants a wellness consultation and makes referrals for additional services as needed. He has also recorded a series of mindfulness meditations, stretching routines, and a short lecture on the three kinds of empathy for the staff section of the Wellness Portal.
This year, Kris has been collaborating with nutrition services and a student culinary arts club, prototyping a healthy meal-prep service to which SCUSD staff can subscribe. Although it is still early in the process, initial results indicate that this idea has the potential to bring revenue to the district; provide healthy, easy-to-prepare meals for working adults and their families; and give students culinary and business experience.