Reflecting on Learning Inventories

Earlier in December I was fortunate enough to complete three inventories as part of professional development for our administrative team.  The three inventories were the DISC, the workplace, and the Myers Briggs.  The DISC is used to examine the behavior of individuals in their environment or within a specific situation. DISC looks at behavioral styles and behavioral preferences.  The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment is a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.  The workplace inventory (WPI) can predict effectiveness in jobs that require application of interpersonal and work style attributes. The WPI is based on a comprehensive taxonomy of 16 important personality-based work styles that are required, in various combinations, for most jobs within organizations today. The WPI can also be useful in coaching and developing individuals with regard to strengthening the work style attributes that can enhance their career success and effectively managing those interpersonal attributes that can hinder or derail career progress.  Our six-member team completed the inventories and has had one meeting as a team with a consultant to view our inventories together.

The following are some highlights of my inventory results:

DISC:

How he would choose to do the job?

He likes to know what is expected of him in a working relationship and have the duties and responsibilities of others who will be involved explained. Communication is accomplished best by well-defined avenues. He may guard some information unless he is asked specific questions. He will not willingly share unless he is comfortable with the knowledge he possesses about the topic.

Chet is somewhat reserved with those he doesn’t trust or know. After trust has been established, he may be open and candid. He usually is considerate, compassionate and accepting of others; however, on some occasions can become stubborn. Stubbornness surfaces when his ideals and beliefs are confronted. Rarely does he display his emotions; that is, he projects a good poker face. Others may get the feeling that he is unfriendly, when in reality he is not.

Value to the organization:

Dependable manager. Builds good relationships. Self-starter. Places high value on time. Innovative. Challenge-oriented. Service-oriented.

Areas of Improvement:

Become resistive and indecisive when forced to act quickly. Without proper information he will resist in a passive-aggressive manner.

Not let others know where he stands on an issue.

MBTI:

Descriptor: ISFJ

Introverted (30 of 30); Sensing (8 of 30); Feeling (2 of 30); Judging  (25 of 30)

  • Quiet, friendly, responsible, and conscientious
  • Committed and steady in meeting their obligations
  • Thorough, painstaking, and accurate
  • Loyal, considerate, notice and remember specifics about people who are important to them, concerned with 
how others feel
  • Strive to create an orderly, harmonious environment at work and at home

People with ISFJ preferences are dependable and considerate, committed to the people and groups with which they are associated, and faithful in carrying out responsibilities. They work with steady energy
to complete jobs fully and on time. They will go to great trouble to do something they see as necessary but dislike being required to do anything that doesn’t make sense to them. ISFJs focus on what people need and want, and they establish orderly procedures to meet people’s needs. They take roles and responsibilities seriously and want others to do the same.

WPI:

This inventory I had never seen or heard of before.  It gave some very interesting data about myself.

I scored very high in achievement/effort, leadership orientation, cooperation, self-control, stress tolerance, adaptability/flexibility, and dependability.

I scored very low in social orientation (I prefer working alone or in small groups), independence (I do not deal effectively with ambiguity), integrity/rule following (unlikely to demonstrate strict adherence to rules and regulations in all situations), innovation (is likely to be more conventional than creative in addressing work-related issues or problems), and analytical thinking.

I was acknowledged for not being concerned about making a positive impression on the inventory and acknowledging self-limitations.

I enjoyed completing the inventories and meeting as a team with the hope of improving as an individual and as a team.  I know our superintendent had asked our principal to go through these inventories with us.  Our principal had shown excitement about going through the process with us after she had done an exercise with the district administrative team and the consultant.  I’m not exactly clear on what her goal is in completing this process or what our next step is.  I did leave the first meeting with some knowledge of areas I need to concentrate on based on my responses to the inventories.  I also found it a useful teambuilding exercise.  I enjoy reflecting on my practice and it did provide us a forum for reflection.  A difficult part about viewing the inventories of others is that you may not necessarily agree with what another member of the team answered about them.   We just scratched the surface on identifying what the inventories tell us about ourselves.  I hope we are able to dig a little deeper into how it relates to our work.  How can we help improve as a team so that we are maximizing our efforts towards our roles and responsibilities? Are our roles and responsibilities clear within the team?  Can we be more focused and organized to allow our strengths to shine?  The initial meeting left me with several questions that I hope we get to at some point.  The professional development opportunity should allow us to progress into a higher functioning team.  I plan on going through the inventories and adding some action items to my smart goals based on some areas that I think I can improve.

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Reflection and Ramblings from 12/12 PD

I would like to remind new readers that this blog contains my personal reflections and opinions.  I often share my reflections and opinions with colleagues but they are not necessarily the thoughts and opinions of NAHS.  I’m very appreciative that you took time out of your busy day to read my thoughts.

 I wanted to take some time in this entry to reflect on my journey to our recent early release professional day.  This professional day provided me with an opportunity to design two of the sessions with a very good friend and fellow leadership team member Scott Young.  He volunteered at a recent meeting to share a couple of ideas that he believed would build the capacity of the staff in Standards-based system.  Our leadership team, spent our last couple of meetings working together to provide input on how to accomplish this.  I see a great value in learning from other professionals in a controlled setting.  When we are dealing with understanding new terms and definitions like benchmarks and performance indicators it is very helpful to learn from each other how we will best create and understand these things.  We were aware going in that a lot of our staff wanted an answer to what certain definitions were.  We didn’t feel we were in a position as a leadership team to do that.  We settled on a plan that would create some additional questions and allow us to learn from each other.  The staff is going to get answers later this afternoon to their questions as part of our PD survey. 

 It was more important to Scott and I that all of us, including our leadership team continue to learn about the standards-based system and be prepared to be confident in our work within the system going forward.  We will sit in our departments on the 1/22 professional day with a sample of content specific, high school curriculum documents.  Our leadership team will explain the document.  We will move forward and focus on the areas that our staff has identified as wanting to know more about.

 The idea that Scott came up with that we would draft a framework for a statement that all of our leadership team members would read before we facilitated our protocols.  It was a great exercise for our leadership team.  We all participated in editing and agreeing on the language.  We were excited to share our journey as a team in this shift to being a standards-based school.  I don’t know how the staff received the statement, but the exercise was a thoughtful attempt in sharing our thoughts and an important step for our continued development as a team. 

 Scott and I sat down last Friday and worked through developing and timing out a modified think, pair, share activity and a save the last word for me protocol for our entire school to participate in.  He added in the idea of teachers selecting playing cards as they entered to keep the groups random.  A nice twist to some of the not so random groups that I may have developed last year.  The goal for the sessions was to clarify and deepen our understanding of standards-based education and what it looks like.  I was excited to learn from others and to create a reflection sheet that would allow us to identify future professional day topics.  After reviewing the chart paper that had the ten groups identify one thing they felt they accomplished, one thing they hope we can, and one thing they would like to know more about I was satisfied that we had met our goal.  Scott did a great job seeing the big picture and showing some leadership in helping to design a worthwhile activity for our staff.  I hope he takes time to reflect on the experience.  I would love to read or hear about it.  He deserves a lot of credit for bringing our leadership team to a better place.

 As a leadership team, we have also been given useful professional development this year and are working to use it.  We have been starting to use our google documents professional development from October to share practice during our meetings.  Members are bringing their computers to work on live documents.  Our other Assistant Principal, Mike Grant has designed some surveys that we have used for professional days.  On 12/12, we successfully filled in a spreadsheet with the reflection results and were able to create another google document at our meeting yesterday to develop a question and answer guide for the staff.  As a leadership team, members have been adding feedback and editing the one live document while not sitting at a meeting together.  It has been rewarding to see us use technology to collaborate more often and more efficiently.  Our product of a Q & A for staff to answer questions will be of much higher quality thanks to our use of google documents.

 Our teachers and members of our leadership team have been craving direction for long time.  I’m excited to work with the leadership team to help create that direction together or to work with our principal and administration team to provide that direction.  We took a step in the right direction on our 12/12/12 professional day.  The 1/22 professional day will be an important day for our leadership team to provide the confidence and clarity for the continued work in a standards-based system.  I’m excited to work with them to tune our curriculum documents as a leadership team.  I’m hopeful that this will allow them to feel confident and assertive in front of their members in talking about our shift towards standards-based education.

 I will leave everyone with a story that Scott shared with me that I thought showed progress.  He was having a conversation with a member of his department about benchmarks and performance indicators.  The person was sharing that they are starting to understand the meaning and application of the terms.  The person also shared that they had heard the same explanation from Mike Grant who is another member of our leadership team.  They commented that it was the first time that he had heard the same consistent message from two of us.  I hope we are having more of those moments as we strive to send a consistent and worthwhile message.

 

Establishing a Vision

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I have been thinking a lot about how I can improve my leadership during our journey into PLCs.  As I reflect, I feel as though I could be doing a better job at providing resources and support to my fellow leadership team members that I supervise as we continue to work with our teams to collaborate and improve teacher practice.  My recent observations of our morning collaboration and conversations with colleagues have led me to question if everyone is clear about our vision as a school.  Am I clear about what our vision is a school?  I read a portion of Dufour’s work on loose-tight leadership and it helped me reflect on my daily work.

Principals do not empower others by disempowering themselves.  They cannot send the message that everything is acceptable: They must stand for something. They must lead, and this is a task that requires them to be both ardent advocates of teacher autonomy and passionate promoters and protectors of shared vision and values.  Empowered teachers and strong principals are not mutually exclusive. Schools that operate as learning communities will have both -Dufour and Eaker

I believe that if I’m uncertain about our vision then I am going to have a tough time directing leadership team members and teachers back to a vision that we all should adhere to.  Without having a shared vision or values toward our district academic mission towards standards based education it will be difficult for me or anyone else to be “tight” on thinks like norms, protocols, and other guidlines that are needed to direct our work.  I may believe in a vision and value system that I want to remain passionately “tight” on, but is it our shared vision?  Do we believe that we are no-nonsense protectors of something shared and important?

Our current challenge as a leadership team has to develop a starting point as to what we want our high school to look like three years from now with all students learning in a standards-based system.  We need to use professional development time to work together with the staff and have important conversations to ensure that we all share similar values.  We need to develop and confirm that shared vision.  We need to know and care for what we believe in.  Is this something that we probably should have done earlier?  YES!  However, it is never to late to improve and work together to become a better school for our students.  I look forward to the challenge of contiuously improving.

Using Feedback to Guide Our PD

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We had our first full professional development day on Tuesday 11/6.  Our leadership team worked hard to put together a program that matched the needs of our staff based on feedback from the previous professional development day and recommendations from members of our leadership team.  We were also able to meet off site for the day thanks to a great idea by our principal and our good friends at Merrimack College.  Our school was unavailable due to voting.  In my opinion it was the most cohesive and productive full professional day that we have had in several years.

At this time staff are able to complete their feedback form for the PD until we return to school on Tuesday 11/13.  I have looked at the feedback form and the forty responses that are already there.  I am pleased at the honest responses that we have received.  There has been a lot of positive feedback and the staff has made some very worthwhile suggestions for improvement. I have a few comments (in green) that go along with a few of the reflections shared by some of our staff (in blue).  I look forward to meeting with our leadership team to share ideas based on the feedback form on how to plan our next early release professional development day on 12/12.

Overall it is my belief the admin at NAHS is working hard and has really worked to improve school culture.  Nothing is accomplished over night and I can appreciate their efforts.  However I feel that our team here at NAHS is hamstrung by the lack of concrete examples of how to produce this district wide standard based curriculum.

I’m happy that there is the perception/observation that we are working hard.  It is not just the administration but also the entire leadership team that includes our department chairs as well.  The entire staff is working hard to improve and I feel as if there are more positive conversations happening in our building this year.  The comment on the concrete examples is a great one and I’ll address it after another similar comment below.

Treating staff as professionals in a comfortable working environment enables us to do meaningful work. Being off campus forced us to focus on the work at hand- not the ten thousand other things we have to do back at school!

I also loved being off campus and in a relatively confined area.  The food and refreshments were great.  We all like to feel special. The point about being in an environment away from the things that we have to do is a good one.  Teachers have many responsibilities and physically being away from the place where you accomplish many of those responsibilities did allow a more consistent focus on the work at hand.  I hope our continued use of the protocols and people getting more comfortable using them helped as well.

I don’t believe it a matter of protocol.  Rather it is a matter of the desired outcome.  I am willing to work to great lengths to improve student learning.  But I believe we and the admin at the school level have not received enough concrete examples of what we are exactly looking for.  It is maddening to keep producing work, have it sent back for revision, submitted again, then sent back with totally different revisions.  This is not the fault of the those in the building.

This reflection and similar type of reflections give our leadership team very valuable input.  It directs us as a school leadership team to work with the district leadership team on increasing our collective capacity of the items in our Essential Standards document.  We will work together to come up with an exemplar document and communicate a consistent expectation for the teachers.  We need to be clear on the purpose of the document for everyone.

I do think it is the responsibility of the leadership team to be clear on the expectation and follow through in a timely manner.  We have not been clear on the expectation but we will work to fix that for December.  It is important to understand that Essential Standards documents, Common Assessments, and rubrics should be revised on an ongoing basis to improve our practice.  However, we should all know the expectation so the revisions are not dramatic changes to what we want students to know and be able to do.  Some teams have never used rubrics before or given common assessments to students that are connected to the skills that we want them to be able to do for the course.  As we move forward it is important to revise and improve our rubrics and assessments based on standards that are essential to our courses.  We will be able to do so by looking at student work together and reflecting on our practice.

Honestly, I understand the theory but at this point I do not see the direct or immediate connection between much of what we are doing and improving my teaching practice. There seems to be such a learning curve and so much uncertainty about the big picture and new “language” being used this year that it is hard to see the forest for the trees, although I will continue to try.  It feels like I have started a book in the middle and despite being presented with some good ideas I am unable to fully understand them without having access to the first half of the book.  Perhaps it would be helpful to consider that most teachers have not been involved in as much of the lead up discussions and training on these concepts as the administrative team may have been and for many it feels like we are being thrust directly into the implementation process which may be confusing.  Therefore some of the requests for clarification are not intended to balk at the process but rather are an attempt to get up to speed with it and understand the bigger picture.

This was one of my favorite reflections.  I love the analogy made to starting a book in the middle.  I do not believe that teachers are balking at the process and we will be working together as a leadership team to come up with a glossary of information specific to the professional learning cohort work we are doing at NAHS.  We need to continue to make connections to our big picture goals.  We have not referenced the Strategic District Improvement plan or our School Improvement plan in a couple of months and need to do so.  We are in a way writing our own book about how to improve our practice and increase student achievement at NAHS.  We will need to use some of our professional development time to focus on the foundation of this work.

I will conclude this post with a final comment from one of our teachers that puts the work we are doing into perspective.

If we can be consistent with our expectations across the department, our students will all know what to expect, regardless of the teacher or the class that they are taking. This consistency will allow us to teach more effectively and will facilitate student learning.

Leader Voice

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In one of many conversations with colleagues this past week it became apparent to me that we need more leaders.  We have people in positions where there is a title attached to their name.  For example, we have jobs with titles like department heads, athletic coaches, advisors, and assistant principals.  In these positions there is the presumption that leadership will occur.  However, as we move forward working in our academic departments, smaller teams, or in mixed groups we need more leaders to continue to emerge from our staff.

There is no rule that says you need a title to be a leader.

If you have ideas to improve your team or department (which many teachers do) there should be no restrictions to sharing and trying new ways to improve practice.  Those of us with titles need to have open lines of communication to hear from the wonderful people that have ideas and suggestions of how we can improve.  We need to hear the voice of our leaders.  We need to knock down barriers such as job titles and continue to move forward toward our academic and social expectations by hearing from our staff members that are leaders.  We need to continue to work with our leaders to improve our practice each day.  We will continue to improve as a whole when we identify the leaders that we have and incorporate their ideas and solutions.

When I coached basketball I had captains that were selected as part of a process and identified as leaders of the program.  I also had seniors or juniors that may not have been selected as captains.  Our coaching staff worked with those players and asked them to be leaders of the team as well.  The years that we had more players that behaved as leaders were the years that we were more successful on and off of the court.  I think a school should just be a larger team.

Capacity Building and Bridging the Gap

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As leadership groups we are continuing to work together to become higher functioning teams.  We are going through some needed and expected growing pains.  We are finding out many things about the way we used to behave and the assumptions that we made in the past.  Committing to the cycle of continuous improvement is highlighting some of our weaker areas from the past.  We are working as teams to break through that wall.

Essentially we have created two new leadership teams at NAHS.  We are meeting weekly as an administration team and as a leadership team.  The leadership team includes the administration team and our department chairs.  In the past as an administrative team, we very rarely met formally with focused ground rules.  I am finding that our commitment to the cycle of continuous improvement has allowed us to plan, communicate, and have a shared vision for our professional development.  However, because we are functioning in a new way we are continuing to build our capacity on the PLC process, standards based education, and what it looks like at NAHS.  The leadership team is also functioning in a new way and being a larger team we need to really define our roles and expectations so that we have a shared message for our staff.  We struggle (which is a good thing) at times identifying what our dilemma is but I love the way we have worked together using protocols to build our capacity.

This past Thursday’s #atplc chat came at the right time for me.  We were going to meet as a leadership team to reflect on a Peeling the Onion protocol that we had done a few days earlier.  Following along the chat and reading through the summary at www.storify.com/solutiontree/capacity-building-atplc gave me clarity with some of the things we had discussed as a leadership team.

During the chat, a member shared that capacity building involves increasing the skills, knowledge, abilities and attitudes of your organization.  This helped put things in perspective for me because we have been doing this at NAHS.  There is so much to learn and attempt to do to increase the skills, knowledge, abilities and attitudes of our organization but we are using our structure and actually trying to do it.  The rest of the chat allowed me to read from others around the country/world and get ideas on how to build capacity.  We do need to utilize the experts in our building and allow them an opportunity to share and model to build our collective capacity.  We do need to celebrate our successes.  We do need to define our expectations, continue to try new things and build our trust in each other.

I shared the chat summary with our leadership team.  .  I hope they take the time to read it and that it helps to build their capacity. We will continue to improve as long as we as leadership and administrative teams are committed to learning and building our collective capacities.  We have to be responsible, have a high expectation and hold ourselves accountable.  I look forward to the challenge.

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Not Enough “We”

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Yesterday we completed our first early release professional day of the year.  In my opinion the day got considerably better as we transitioned into the final two activities.

The day consisted of:

  • Faculty meeting in the auditorium
  • Protocol based discussion in mixed groups on the following essential question. What is the behavior that we as a staff can practice to improve school culture and model the values of RAISE for our students?
  • Google Docs training in mixed groups

I’m going to take a line out of the Peeling the Onion protocol in hopes of improving our structure for our professional development time.  The following will be “Further questions this raises for me on how to improve our professional development time are…”

  • How do we setup participation in any faculty-meeting portion of PD time to include sharing of practice from teachers?
  • How do we consistently make good use of our very important time together and focus that time on improving our practice?
  • How do we have a positive tone in our meetings?
  • How do we move as a school community to a culture where we consistently use phrases like “we”, “us”, “together” and not “I” “the teachers”, “the administration”, “the students”….etc?
  • How do we incorporate the use of google docs into our practice to minimize the email and photocopying and to improve collaboration and sharing?
  • How do we continue to stress to everyone the importance of assuming good intentions?

A few additional thoughts:

  • The protocol-based discussion was great.
    • The Peeling the Onion protocol was difficult for me but allowed us as group to participate equally and learn from each other.
    • I love the use of protocols that require us to focus on what is essential.
    • A skilled facilitator that works to keep the group on task is essential to us continuing to grow as professionals.
    • We have a staff that has a number of great ideas and suggestions but at times we allow that to consume our conversations and forget to supply the necessary focus on the topic at hand.  The protocol with a skilled facilitator helps to keep us on track!
  • Our google docs facilitator, Paul Myette had a wonderful tone and answered everyone’s questions.   He was great in teaching professionals with various levels of understanding.
  • I learned how to create groups and contacts.  I also learned how to create and share different applications within google.
  • I’m excited to use google docs for feedback from professional development time and to create an environment where we can all share our practice with each other.

Till next time.

Teachers Defining Improvements

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I am relaxing for one of the few times after an action packed and fantastic weekend with my family.  We mixed in some apple picking on Saturday at Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury and had a great afternoon.  Today we were very productive and cleaned my daughter’s room and the basement.  It was nice to not leave the house and get caught up on some laundry and cleaning.  We needed a break from the hectic day-to-day that we normally participate in.  It is a great feeling to spend quality time as a family and accomplish something while doing so.  We were able to watch television and play games together as we cleaned.  We were able to capture a few pictures of the kids.

I wanted to use this entry to reflect on an interesting piece that I read two weeks ago from The Harvard Business Blog titled Understanding Fear of Process Improvement s.hbr.org/VPnHYG .  In the piece it highlighted some of the effective ways to embrace fear of change to help create a culture of continuous improvement.  The example I want to focus on is how we should show respect to the people whose work will change by getting them involved in defining the improvements and how it relates to North Andover High School (NAHS).

At NAHS, we are focusing in on creating a culture of continuous improvement by using our morning collaboration time to build professional learning communities.  The two departments that I have had the privilege of working with spent time last week on mutually agreed upon essential standards.  Up to this point in the cycle teachers have been working in departments or in PLC teams (cohorts) to form ground rules and set SMART goals.  These areas have been safe places to start and not as threatening to the individual teacher.  As we move on to topics such as agreeing on essential standards and creating common assessments the foundation of each team will be tested.  I believe it is critical that we provide the structure and knowledge base that allows the teachers and department heads to define the improvements in their work.  As administrators, we need to be present and provide resources from wherever necessary to support the improvement in student learning.  We all need to be involved in defining the improvements in our own special way.  I had a great week observing four morning collaboration meetings.

I observed two department wide collaboration meetings and two individual team meetings last week.  I was impressed at the cohesiveness of all of the meetings and the focus on improving essential standards and common assessments.  I observed a History team of three document standards within the context of their existing common assessments.  They worked great together and agreed on five learning outcomes for students for trimester one.  Later in the week, each team in the department shared what they worked on in PLC teams.  During this exercise, the conversation turned to teachers agreeing on skill based standards that would be consistent throughout grades 9-12.  The standards would have different content embedded into them.  The history department knows that we will be going to a standards based reporting system in the future and wants to use their time to agree on the proper skill-based standards that will eventually have to be reported out on.  The conversation included references to the common core and 21st century skills development.  It was a pleasure to watch the department focused on creating what they want students to know and be able to do.

In the Science department, I observed a department meeting where all members took inventory of what they had for standards.  They were all clear on the template that the school is using to document standards.  It was decided that if members in multiple teams needed to touch base in other groups that they could do so during a future morning.  Everyone left the meeting clear on the expectation and with the resources needed to meet the expectation. On Friday, I had the pleasure of observing a Science team of two that was in the first stage of creating a common assessment.  They worked off of a previous assessment and identified questions that they wanted to focus on.  The team as outlined in one their SMART goal action items was going to introduce students to the school-wide rubric for writing.  They used their time to modify areas of the rubric to more accurately reflect the goals needed for writing in Science.  The team talked about what they would have to adjust in their practice to help the students meet the requirements of the rubric.

I remain impressed at the high level of collaboration that is being displayed on a daily basis at NAHS.  Every meeting that I observed had teachers and department heads defining the improvements in their practice.  The facilitators that ran the meetings all did a wonderful job as well.  I look forward to the opportunity to share more successes in our cycle of continuous improvement.  I hope we are able to stick to the cycle, revisit our goals, and continue to improve practice.  Have a great week!

Morning Successes and A Few Random Reflections

It’s hard to believe that we have only been back to school for about 4-weeks with staff and students.  I feel as if we have accomplished a lot as a school community with our collective efforts toward our morning collaboration time.  We have a long way to go before we are behaving like a true Professional Learning Community.  However, we have several successes that have started to build the foundation of teamwork.

The teachers and PLC teams have continued to use our morning time effectively toward an outcome.  This past week we have worked on a team student achievement goal and an individual professional practice goal.  Teachers have been very engaging in their teams and have created some great goals.  What has impressed me is the teachers’ willingness to solicit feedback on their goals before submitting them.  I have exchanged emails and had brief conversations about learning driven goals. The process has forced and allowed me to become more confident in my leadership and direction that I hope to provide.  The ultimate product should be improved learning opportunities for ALL of our students.

We were lucky to have our Superintendent come by and visit a PLC team meeting on Tuesday.  I had the opportunity to follow up with him after and he was excited about the conversations and enthusiasm that he witnessed.  He was very complementary towards the hard work that the teachers have been doing.  I followed up with one of the members of the team later in the day and asked if the message (comments) that were relayed from our Superintendent during their meeting matched some of the comments that I had been trying to convey since the start of the year.  Fortunately, the response was yes.  This is a positive thing to witness because we have struggled in the past at relaying a consistent message on why we do things.  This is only one small instance but it is a starting point.

With our new focus to the professional development of PLCs and our morning collaborative time it is essential to be able to plan effectively and keep the big picture in focus.  This is a challenge for us as a leadership team.  We will need to work harder and smarter to not just meet about our collaborative practice but also to behave using our ground rules (norms) to share practice and lead effectively.

A couple of random things I read recently made me think and ultimately want to reflect.

I read a post on twitter via @johnwink90 and Connected Principals http://connectedprincipals.com/archives/6335  that referenced Grant Wiggins comments on feedback.  He stated that helpful feedback is goal-referenced; tangible and transparent; actionable; user-friendly (specific & personalized); timely; ongoing; and consistent.  What is powerful about the culture that we hope to create with our collaborative practice is that the cycle of continuous improvement, walkthroughs, and our school and district improvement plans are beginning to connect for all of us in our school community.  We just need to continue to make the effort to clarify things and provide ongoing support to each other. With successful SMART goals the feedback that we as leaders can provide has the opportunity to fit most of these categories above.  We will need to work together to deliver consistency.

I read another post via @leadershipfreak Dan Rockwell http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/2012/09/26/16-things-successful-leaders-never-do/ that referenced the 16 Things Successful Leaders Never Do.  #10 resonated with me.  Never let others fail before doing everything appropriate to help them succeed.  This is an area that I know I can improve in.  It is the appropriate part of the statement that makes me think.  It is hard work to go that extra mile to put people in position to succeed when you believe that if you do nothing that they will not improve.

I need to continue to communicate.

A lot in 9-Days…

We are off to an action packed start at North Andover High School. We have only had eight days with students and nine days with staff and we have already accomplished a great deal. I sensed as we approached last Friday that our teachers were fatigued with all of the information that we had given them in such a short time. Our PAC did a great job with breakfast following our Open House on Thursday and thanks to some timely collaboration with one of our department chairs we postponed our Friday morning collaboration time so that everyone could enjoy breakfast.

Our teachers have been sensational to start the school year. They have come into this year with an open mind and have taken all of our technology difficulties and change in printing options in stride. They have supported students with our rotation of periods and adjusted to some changes in teaching time. As an administrative team, we have implemented time for teachers to collaborate with each other every morning from 7:20 – 7:50 before block-A starts at 7:55. We are collaborating school-wide every Monday and as departments two additional days (Tuesday/Thursday or Wednesday/Friday). This year we have changed our supervision model to concentrate on all teachers within certain departments instead of fewer teachers within all departments.

I am using this opportunity with our newly ratified Supervision and Evaluation document to build a closer professional relationship with the History and Science departments. We want to support our department chairs with the proper resources and ongoing collaboration so that our teachers are getting a clear message of what is expected of them. We also want to remove the top down leadership and encourage a “we” atmosphere to our work. I have met twice with the department leaders and we have planned out some of the morning collaboration time and shared successes. The conversations have allowed us to identify needs for our teachers and to learn from each other. I hope to continue learning from them.

In preparation for this year I wanted to setup meetings with all teachers in the History and Science departments. I developed some Guiding Questions that I am using to keep us focused. My hope was to listen and learn more about the teachers that drive our students to learn. It was also to start to build the foundation of trust between the administration and the teachers. We are coming off of a difficult year that was clouded in several grievances against our directives. It was very difficult for the teachers and for me. We need to have more shared leadership and improved communication so that we can work better together. The individual meetings with the teachers will also allow me to clarify the message that is coming from our Strategic District Improvement Plan and School Improvement Plan. These two plans along with a 30+ page Educator Professional Growth and Evaluation Program (S&E document) can make even the most attentive teacher’s head spin. We ultimately want teachers to work together in teams to develop common assessments that are mapped directly to what students should know and be able to do. We want them to work together to look at student work from the assessments to improve practice and increase student learning. Another goal is for teams to model their work from this cycle of continuous improvement in their other courses.

I hope to be able to observe my teachers working on areas of their professional practice that they would like to improve in. It is important to me that they feel supported if they are going to attempt something new in the classroom for the benefit of our students. No matter what area of professional practice (Mass DESE Teacher Rubric for ideas) that they choose to focus on it will support their student achievement goal.

At the two-week mark, we have some successes to celebrate.

  • The departments that I work with have successfully created norms (ground rules) that they will use to guide their collaborative practice for this year.
  • We have given a presentation to the staff about SMART Goals (Nice work AP Mike Grant) and are focusing time next week to work on a team SMART goal. Despite the small font on the printed out PowerPoint (didn’t want to waste too much paper) the teachers should have a resource for when they want to complete their SMART goals for the year.
  • Teachers have embraced the morning collaboration time and showed up ready to make good use of the time.
  • Facilitator leaders have been identified by department chairs.
  • The Advisory facilitator leaders have done a fantastic job leading conversations with teachers and planning for students. I had the pleasure to sit in on the Freshman team and they hit a home run.
  • I have met with 6 of 26 teachers and have several others scheduled for the next two weeks. I have learned a great deal from them and I can’t wait to learn more from others.
  • I have shared CJ_SMART_Goals for the 2012-2013 school-year with all the teachers at the end of our meeting (except one, I forgot). I am making an effort to prioritize my work for the year as well.

As an administrative team, we need to slow down the amount of emails we are giving teachers. I want them to open their email and feel as though what I send is important. Our other AP Mike Grant had a great idea. We should compile our information and coordinate a weekly email to the teachers with all relevant administrative information. I hope our IT department has made some ground on the printers and the syncing errors on computers. We need teachers to be able to do their jobs with the support of technology not with the tool getting in the way.

I guess I had a lot to reflect on….. I hope everyone has a great week!