I started this summer on a professional mission. At the time, I didn’t know for what I was searching for. I knew that we were coming off a school year in which our decisions were questioned (and rightfully so) at every turn. Our once good relationship with the Teachers Association was damaged. My ability to deliver accurate answers to colleagues and follow through on items that I thought I had answers to was declining. I believe I even told a colleague that I am sick of sucking. I’m sure you noticed the amount of I’s I just typed compared to we’s. Believe it or not leading a school is not about me (shocking). It is about working together as a team and fostering an environment where more leaders can emerge. Leaders that can lead teams of teachers to collaborate around practice will improve student learning.
Two things happened this summer that will benefit the students and staff at NAHS. The district leadership team met for five days collectively and worked on becoming an effective team. Our Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent chose the book Leaders of Learning by Dufour and Marzano to guide their vision through a text-based discussion. We created norms, developed trust, and came out of our comfort zone a little to have honest conversations. We confronted our reality as a district and started to confront our reality as NAHS leadership members. We have clear goals that include providing structures and time for staff to collaboratively build learning communities through examining teacher practice through the lens of student work. We modeled behaviors that we expect our leaders and teachers to follow. We used protocols to focus our work and conversation. There seems to be mutual expectations of each other to use our time to lead instead of manage. The other thing that happened this summer was a simple one.
I made a commitment to read professionally and to share. Does it seem simple? Well it is not. It is like committing to exercise. Tough but once you get going there is a natural high that comes with it. To commit to something you MUST make it a priority (like observing classrooms and providing meaningful feedback). There also has to be motivation. The journey we started in June via chapters 1-3 of Leaders of Learning motivated me to finish the book and share suggestions in our practice. In North Andover, we are working to become a standards based system. If we are going to believe in the standards based system then we have to learn, guide, and lead in a standard based system. To do so, I had to focus on reading so I can help answer the Hows and the Whys or at least be able to find the answers or direct teachers to find the answers in an efficient manner. Twitter continues to be a wonderful tool for free PD to help with reading and learning. It is a tool that can be used to read professionally and find relevant resources in an extremely fast manner. Through twitter I have found some excellent blogs to help me reflect in my practice. I hope to continue to share with our learning community. The time in the summer helped me clarify my purpose in my building. It helped me decide that I should believe in a standards based system and write my own SMART goals. The reading and sharing are vehicles to help improve student learning. I’m currently reading Learning By Doing by DuFour. The book seemed relevant since that is exactly what we will be attempting this year. I was able to use a few pages as part of a discussion with a group of Advisory teacher leaders last week. I hope to learn more!
As NAHS leaders we have started learning together to become a functioning team. Rick DuFour makes a distinction between groups vs teams http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hV65KIItlE&list=FLXnqp2-L57LaQa9YkO5TWnA&index=6&feature=plpp_video I am hopeful we can start leading together. We need to commit to structures to have these conversations with our building leaders and teachers. We need to model the appropriate behaviors. I am very excited about my opportunity to work more directly with the History and Science departments this year. We will learn a lot from each other on our quest for developing a cycle of continuous improvement.
As I learned through the readings of DuFour and Marzano, we must be present to support the request and remove or mitigate obstacles. Meet regularly to identify potential challenges and opportunities before they become a major problem.
I look forward to sharing my SMART goals during a future entry. I’m still working on refining them. I will share that my vision for this upcoming year is to provide educators with clarity, structure, resources, and ongoing support essential to their success in improving student learning. I hope it answers the question of what must I become in order to accomplish our fundamental purpose.
Enjoy the start of the school year!