SLO #5 - Leadership
Professional educator demonstrates Leadership by influencing policy and practice in educational communities through advocacy and example.
Leadership lesson for Professor Rivas’s SED 610 class. Arpa Gaghazarian and I produced an hour long lesson investigating Richard Elmore’s article, Building a new structure for school leadership (1999), and its implications on leadership and professional development in public education. Through the use of a Google site (https://sites.google.com/site/buildingnewleadershipsed610/) and a blog (http://schoolleadershipsed610.blogspot.com/), Ms. Gaghazarian and I reviewed Elmore’s article, had our “students” (colleagues) analyze the importance and implications of the article, then through a real time blog discuss ideas and experiences that applied. We followed up with a discussion and the linking of our colleagues ideas to ways in which the benefits discussed by Elmore could be attained. The project is linked through my professional website (xrl.us/whsphysics).
This project was both a demonstration in leadership and an exploration into how to lead in the 21st century of public education. I learned about the power of a diversified leadership model, using many diversely talented individuals to lead by collaboration, communication and example. The primary goal of school leadership is to improve teaching and learning. Professor Rivas allowed us to enact the very topic we were studying by teaming up individuals and allowing them to exploit their unique talents to better lead the class. I chose to create a website using Google sites that allowed the class access to the article, my summary, background information, Elmore’s website and a video of him lecturing. Additionally, access to the blog, created by Ms. Gaghazarian, her talent, which we used during our lesson to improve communication and demonstrate the power of a blog to professional development was available through the website. We not only discussed the strengths of strong leadership and how a large school should be organized, but we were able to elicit strong examples of leadership as experienced by our colleagues and share these with the class. We empowered our “students” to become part of the leadership, helping to shape the class discussion and clarify ideas. By including comments from all stakeholders and placing real value in those comments, we increased participant buy in and increased our leadership value. We led by example, but at the same time, we made the class aware of what actions we were taking to lead them, thereby teaching leadership while employing those very leadership techniques. The class was not only productive, it was fun and invigorating. Many of our colleagues came away with a better understanding of the role of collaboration, communication and leading by example. They also claimed to really enjoy the experience and were generous in their praise of the lesson.
This project was both rewarding and educational. I have found myself in positions of leadership often during my past eleven years of teaching: department chair, coaches (both academic and sport), and committee chairs. I tend to listen more than talk, ask questions more than tell and focus on solutions rather than want cannot be achieved. Many of these characteristics align with Elmore’s position on new school leadership. But, I have learned that there is so much more. Elmore’s article was both inspirational and frightening. His ideas are sound and he paints a picture of a stronger public education system, but in order to achieve that, he claims our current system of leadership must be abandoned. Unfortunately, the means to make the conversion is not clear. Time, money and an entrenched leadership structure are strong obstacles in the way of complete reform. I do not think I am ready to turn public education upside down, but I firmly believe he is on the right track. I feel that when teachers are given more leadership responsibility, they become more committed to common goals that are selected by large portions of the faculty, as opposed to those handed down by the district. I have seen teachers take advantage of district sponsored professional development when the teachers are allowed to seek out the development they choose. I believe that teachers should take a stronger role in leadership, including more professional development, more communication and more sharing of models that have been successfully used by other teachers. I have seen this type of leadership work in my previous school, which was a Learn school, sharing leadership between administration, teachers, parents, students and classified staff. I am trying to be a better leader at my new school, only I am lacking two major components of success, communication and time. I am not in the main science building and rarely have time to leave my room. I cannot be an effective leader if I do not communicate more with my colleagues to discuss what positive changes we can make together to improve teaching and learning. I try to lead by example and maintain a positive outlook on what can be achieved, but I need to share those ideas. For instance, I plan on expanding the tutoring program I am running this year and demonstrate to the science department and others the power it has on student learning, especially with lower achieving students. As a father of two young children, I have precious little time to commit to my job after hours. I do coach the robotics team and attend Saturday tournaments with them often, lead extra review sessions for AP students at key times during the year and tutor both formally and informally during lunch almost everyday. But all this involvement is done in near isolation. I need to commit some of my precious time to collaboration and group reflection. I came away from this assignment knowing that I want to increase my professional development and share that knowledge with my colleagues. I want to watch other teachers teach and I want to be observed and critiqued more often. I want to discourse with other science teachers and with other teachers in general. I want to expand my expertise and teach others the successful techniques I have learned. I want to base my decisions on research and not on just trying something new. I want to continue to experiment with teaching techniques, but to analyze how changes I made affected student learning. I want to be a better leader.