If you follow this blog, you might guess why I haven’t posted in a while. My study of educational leadership is getting in the way! I’m serving as an intern this semester through SCSU, and here is my first reflection about the experience. Anyone else transitioning from classroom teacher to administrator? Comments are appreciated.
This week I began devising and working on my Personalized Internship Project (PIP) with my mentor. I had three different meetings regarding how teachers in my building as well as all 6-12 English Language Arts (ELA) teachers in the district will begin looking at student work. The first meeting served as a needs assessment. My mentor, who is also my department supervisor, and I discussed building and department deficiencies and how I can help to remedy them. Right now, teachers are not aligned regarding how they will grade assessments that show student growth for their individual evaluations or for the department as a whole. The second meeting in which I participated was with the social studies department supervisor, with whom we closely work. She is running a professional development workshop on formative assessments I wanted to attend, but she asked me not to. Details as to why are included below. The third meeting was to plan my project and other projects with two administrative interns and both ELA department supervisors.
How the Experience Contributes to My Understanding of Leadership
My first meeting with my mentor contributed to my understanding of how leaders must take their time before acting. Initially, I was simply looking for project ideas, and it did not matter to me much what I would do. He challenged me instead to think of what the teachers at my school needed to accomplish this year and how I could help them do so.
My meeting with the social studies chair reminded me that leaders need to play politics sometimes. She understood my interest in learning more about formative assessments and how this learning could help my project. However, she explained a hidden agenda behind her professional development. Her unstated goal is to get principals and department heads together to resolve some of their differences. It seems that they are vying for the role of instructional leader at the school, and she believes the role should be shared. I must remember to think politically, that relationships are a dance, that I must encourage supporters, that I should stay close to opponents, and that I should court the undecided (Heifetz & Linsky, 2002). This advice regarding the political and social aspects of leadership are easy for new leaders to overlook.
My planning meeting taught me to consider how teachers will perceive my intentions. After discussing the goals and action steps of my project, we decided I would present my initial findings and ideas about new protocols in December. My mentor reminded me not to dump new responsibilities onto the teachers or to give them dictates to follow. I will instead invite their input and try to collaborate on developing and implementing protocols for looking at student work.
In What Ways the Experience Relates to the Connecticut Leadership Standards
Working this week to develop my PIP relates most closely to the first two Connecticut Leadership Standards, Vision Mission and Goals as well as Teaching and Learning. This is because my project will refine school and department goals, and the work I will pursue is meant to have a positive impact on teaching and learning.
The Extent to Which I Built Competency Vis-à-Vis the Twelve Leadership Competencies
I am starting to build competencies in communicating and developing a vision of academic achievement, and implementing a coherent and strategic plan. I expect to make significant gains in using assessment and other data to improve curriculum and instruction, as my PIP focuses on this competency.
New Knowledge and/or Skill did Acquired as a Result of the Experience
I did gain some additional insight into the behind-the-scenes work of leadership. I will work to hone my skills at being productive during professional time spent as an administrator despite competing interests for my time and energy as well as the political and social pressure I will face.
How the Experience Changed My Opinion about Organization, Culture, Climate and Leadership
The experience of planning my PIP has not changed my opinion about organization, culture, climate, or leadership to a great degree. I expect my ongoing work will have more of an effect on my opinion as I approach the learning and leading phases of my project.
How the Experience Enhanced My Personal Style of Leadership
Teachers are not often afforded the opportunity to plan for instructional shifts like the one I will propose to them in December. Often they do not want to. However, I would like to be more transparent and to seek out interest and support. I plan to administer surveys to English teachers at my school and throughout the district to learn more about how they assess student work, and I will ask them for information about their preferences and knowledge of best practices. Then I will include my findings in my research and presentation while soliciting more of their feedback on how to proceed. At the same time, I do not want to detract from their valuable instructional time. Therefore, I will do my best as a new leader to balance the greater needs of the school and department with the individual needs and preferences of each teacher.
My Recommendations to Improve the Activity I Observed
The first and second meetings I attended were informal. However, the third formal meeting with the leadership group would have benefitted from some pre-meeting planning to set and agenda. The meeting would have been more productive and efficiently run. I will be mindful of this in the future.
Heifetz, R. & Linsky, M. (2002). Leadership on the line. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.