Standard 6 Communication:
Communicates regularly and effectively with colleagues, parents, and students through a variety of mediums.
Standard 7 Collaboration:
Cooperates with other professionals to bridge gaps between schools and community and between departments/disciplines within schools.
Learning about teacher leadership through EDU 6600: Communication and Collaboration has provided me the theoretical background from which to analyze my current leadership role. This year I am working as an administrative intern at a small international school in Jakarta, Indonesia. In addition to working on the last year of my M. Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction, I have begun my Principal Certification. Needless to say, my entire waking life (and what little sleeping I do) is infused with thinking about “leadership”: how to promote the qualities and dispositions to be an effective administrator in myself, and how to support and empower leadership opportunites for the teachers I work with. I have spent considerable time working on updating and creating policies and procedures, and developing professional development. I have worked closely with a new middle school Language Arts teacher on unit design utilizing Understanding by Design principles and conepts, and I’ve spent a significant amount of time helping to craft the curricular program offered at my school. This year has been a whirlwind of student registration, Board meetings, parent-teacher conferences, Measurement of Academic Progress (MAP) testing, and participating in school improvement through a three-part strategic and action planning initiative. And we’re only halfway through the year.
Our two course books Professional Development: what works by Zepeda (2012), and Teacher leadership: The “new” foundations of teacher education edited by Hilty (2011) have informed my decision-making at nearly every level. My Head of School likes to say education is a people business: I have been learning the “working with adults” end of the business this year. Understanding and honoring the differences when working with adults rather than children is crucial for any administrator. I especially appreciate the practical advice of Langer & Applebee (1986) as quoted in Zepeda (2013): “To be effective, adult learning should be built on ownership, appropriateness, structure, collaboration, internalization, reflection, and motivation” (Chapter 3). As I’ve worked with other members of the Best Practices committe (I’m the Chair) and we’ve collaborated with the Technology committee, a driving imperative has been offering choice so teachers can choose an activity that feels appropriate for where they are at in their learning and/or needs.
I approached my metareflection as an opportunity to look back through my blog entries one more time to extract and distill my thinking at that time. These entries represent overlapping weeks of transformative thinking, each in turn influencing the evolution of my thinking around working with adults, the power of collaboration and the professionalization of education.
My first blog entry Throwing Out the Baby with the Bath Water talks about the very basic need of all educators to feel as if they have input into the decision making process. I also discuss the somewhat paradoxical tension between approaches that address traditional hierarchies through increased teacher leadership and inconsistency in outcomes. These were some of my thoughts from my learning in week 1:
“Teaming appeared to inhibit the development of school-level reform agendas” (Smylie, Conley & Marks, 2010, p. 277). Similar outcomes for both primary and high school teaming were observed in different studies; “…Herriot and Firestone (1984) found that departmental structure created barriers that hindered communication, collaboration, and curricular coherence across the larger school community. Interdisciplinary teams fared no better in promoting collaboration and collective decision making at the school level (Witziers et al., 1999)” (p. 277). And finally, “…it may mean that strong external leadership is needed to set the direction for and to coordinate team work at the school level and to avoid organizational fragmentation” (p. 277). It seems that teachers still need administrator access to resources, support, and guidance in order to be effective leaders.” (Rayl, October 9m 2013)
The professionalization of teaching was heavy on my mind during week two. I found Zepeda’s (2012) correlation between professionalism and effective teaching to be refreshing: “…teachers increase their professionalism when they increase their capacity to lead, teach, and learn from the professional work they engage in during the workday. It is difficult to separate professionalism, teacher quality, and student achievement” (Chapter 1, Section15, Paragraph 1). Though admittedly somewhat critical in my week two blog entry Moving Away from Professional Immolation: Can Teacher Leadership Professionalize Education, I feel very strongly that at times, teachers are their own worst enemies. We desire to be treated and remunerated as professionals yet there are those amongst us that sabotage. These were my final thoughts from my learning in week 2:
“Educators, whether teachers, paraprofessionals, or administrators owe it to themselves and their students to focus on the dispositions, beliefs and habits that all recognized professionals embody: otherwise, sitting on the sidelines, lamenting the absence of a “voice” while rejecting opportunities to be heard and sabotaging burgeoning teacher leaders is akin to professional suicide.” (Rayl, October 15, 2013)
In my blog entry titled Enjoying the Ride: Attending to the Needs of Adult Learners I talk about ways that I solicited teacher participation and collaboration in crafting the school’s professional development for the year. This approach in my practice was based on my reading in Zepeda (2012) “Professional development should provide for different learning styles, include hands-on activities, and allow for individual teacher goals and self-directed activities” (Glickman, Gordon & Ross-Gordon, 2009 in Zepeda 2012). In this excerpt I talk about the process I facilitated to create choice and teacher leadership through offering multiple professional development choices:
“I have been working on approaches to transform our professional learning in ways that offer choice and builds opportunity for teacher leadership. Today was a professional development day. Originally, we had a mandatory beginning Smart Board training scheduled; a company trainer was scheduled to come to our school for a one-hour session that all staff was to attend. I proposed to our Head of School that we offer teachers choice within a technology theme: Smart Board training, Atlas Rubicon training with our Curriculum Director, database training with our Media Specialist, or an introduction and opportunity to build an Edmoto site run by one of our high school science teachers that volunteered.” (Rayl, October 22, 2013)
During week 4 in my blog entry titled Trust in the Process, Resources & Time I was able to deconstruct my first experience mentoring a teacher. New to teaching middle school and English Language Arts, this teacher was reluctant to engage in unit planning and was generally overwhelmed. It was helpful for me to have read about the four conditions for successful job-embedded learning discussed by Zepeda (2012): consistency with the principles of adult learning, trust in the process, colleagues and learners, ensuring that time within the school day is available, and sufficientt resources are available to support learning. I was also able to take a look at professional development within my particular context in an international school: Driscoll-Lind & Toweh (2013) point out “Yet working in international schools, which are frequently remote from each other, can become insular. As a result, schools often reinvent the wheel instead of seeking out assistance from another school that may have valuable expertise to share.” Although my school is not at a point where we are able to collaborate with other international schools in our area, my next school in Nigeria already does. I’m looking forward to working with a widened circle of professionals that share similarities.
My reading during week five focused on not only providing the opportunities for collaborative work between teachers, but procuring the resources necessary as well. In my blog entry titled Getting in the Way, I take a look at an article written by Jacquith (2013) who suggests that principal’s play an important role in supporting and developing teacher professional learning communities by:
- Creating the right structures
- Creating the right conditions
- Creating the right expectations
- Creating the right kind of teams
- Creating a learning focus
This was an important week for my thinking and learning about teacher leadership since my goal is to become a principal. As I commented in my blog during week 5, I tend to err on the side of setting expectations and providing opportunities then getting out of the way.But understanding the role that I can and will play in empowering teachers to be leaders while simultaneously supporting them is critical.
The difference in collegiality and congeniality was not something I had really considered before this week and it happened through my usual reading of Zepeda (2012) and the additional input of another author’s thinking, Sergiovanni (1994). In my blog entry titled The Role of Collegiality in School Improvement and Teacher Leadership I am able to look at what is at times, a contentious relationship between congeniality and collegiality. Zepeda (2012) focuses on the positive nature of learning circles learning circles as a structured process where educators share in a common interest and commitment to a topic, and interact in democratic and trusting ways, though she cautions that Principals must remember that there is a difference between getting together to chat and getting together to learn together. I had this to say about Sergiovanni’s (1994) take on collegiality:
“Yet, building trust requires a deep commitment that extends beyond the typical congeniality found in most work settings. Casual conversations, shared interests and proximity may create powerful group norms, but these are norms most likely built upon congeniality, defined by Sergiovanni (1994) as the following: ”Congeniality emerges from the friendly human relationships that exist in a school and is characterized by loyalty, trust, and easy conversation among teachers, factors that often lead to the development of a closely knit social group” (Sergiovanni, 1994, p. 91). ” (Rayl, November 11, 2013).
The importance of involving stakeholders in school improvement was emphasized through reading A New Wave of Evidence during week 7. Although the schools that I work in are private, international schools, I am able to emphasize the important of involving parents in school improvement in my blog titled Community Involvement in School Improvement Plans. I shared an uncomfortable encounter with a parent that turned into an invitation being extended to him to be a participant in the school’s strategic planning weekend retreat. This was a time that representatives of the school community (parents, teachers, students, Business Office personnel, and administration) came together to review and revise the vision of learning, mission and core values of my school. Although this parent ended up not attending the session, he nonetheless had an opportunity to be part of the process. Prior to two weeks ago, my school did not even have a vision of learning! Our new draft vision of learning is that was crafted from hours of honest reflection and dialogue amongst community members will guide the direction of my school (hopefully) long after I have moved on:
“An innovative internationally renowned school graduating global learners bound for higher education and success in life”
I was able to return to the same theme that I began this course with, the idea of leveraging teacher leadership for positive school improvement. In my blog entry titled Autonomy, Egalitarianism and Deference to Authority I explore the notion of teacher leadership as a form of transformative social justice. This is an excerpt from my learning this week:
“Johnson and Donaldson (2011) believe that second-stage teachers, those who have four to ten years teaching experience, are well poised and motivated to support the democratization of teaching and learning through the development of their own and others’ leadership skills. For these teachers, leadership offers an opportunity to share insight and competence with others, reduce isolation and allows a variance in responsibility and an expansion in their influence” (Rayl, December 4, 2013).
From the begining to the end…
Two questions from week one that I feel I can provide compelling evidence of my on-going work this academic year are: how am I supporting communication and collaboration in my school and what is my investment in the school improvement plan? This is a link to my final project for this course titled Supporting School Improvement Through Teacher Leadership SIP_PD Plan. In this plan, I detail the ways that I have been collaborating with teachers in the areas of professional development that is linked to our school improvement efforts. I also talk about how I have been able to present the professional development planning to our Board at our last meeting, and my plans to write an article for our next school newsletter as a way to keep parents informed. Though my project was focused on teacher collaboration, I have engaged with parents through our strategic and action planning initiatives this year. I have been the main coordinator working with our consultant to identify and invite stakeholders (parents, students, business office staff, teacher, and administration) to meet in small focus groups, and during a three day session two weeks ago.
It is through the opportunities that I have been able to make a difference in my school improvement process while empowering the leadership capacity of our teachers. Though I will be back in the classroom next year, I will look towards my continued leadership dispositions and opportunities with a new eye as a result of my learning in this class.
Driscoll-Lind, A. & Towleh, J. (2013). Sharing Expertise: a New Professional Development Model? TIE Online. Retrieved from http://www.tieonline.com/
Jaquith, A. (2013, October). Instructional capacity: How to build it right. Educational Leadership, 71(2), 56-61.
Retrieved November 5, 2013, fromhttp://www.ascd.org/publications/educational- leadership/oct13/vol71/num02/Instructional-Capacity@-How-to-Build-it-Right.aspx
Sergioanni, Thomas J. (1992). Moral Leadership: Getting into the heart of school improvement. Jossey-Bass. SanFrancisco: CA.
Zepeda, Sally J. 2012. Professional Development: what works, second edition [Kindle version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com.