Here’s another reflection on my educational leadership internship through SCSU. As always, questions, comments, and advices are all very much appreciated. Thanks!
Over the past two weeks I began working on my Personalized Internship Project (PIP) in earnest. As in my last reflection, I had three different experiences that helped me advance the study and implementation of developing protocols for looking at student work. First, I attended a workshop on how to guide teachers through the major shifts in instruction and curriculum writing due to the adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). This workshop included specific information about establishing protocols for looking at student work. Next, I conducted some initial research on the subject. Lastly, I met with the two other administrative interns and both ELA department supervisors to plan my project and other projects. This group has been named the ELA Task Force.
How the Experience Contributed to My Understanding of Leadership
The CCSS coaching workshop included discussion and resources on how to navigate and propagate the major instructional shifts in ELA. Shifts include developing text sets, increasing text complexity, tiering academic vocabulary, making claims and evidence, and developing protocols for looking at student work. The presenter included information about educational leadership, specifically the work of Michael Fullan as well as Shirley Hord and Gene Hall. All three researchers recommend that leaders address the emotional difficulties of change and that coaches and administrators must help other educators to overcome these barriers (State of Connecticut, 2014). This is important to remember as I begin the work of leading change in my district. I anticipate meeting some resistance as I try to change teachers’ practice, and learning more about how to best implement change will help me to overcome potential barriers.
Additionally, the presenter provided a resource for looking at student work that I will share with teachers (Achieve, Inc., 2014). My intent is that the Task Force, our district vertical team and, finally, ELA teachers throughout the district will help adapt it to our use. Collaboration and distributive leadership are important aspects of starting lasting change, and I intend to incorporate these approaches into my leadership project.
In What Ways the Experience Relates to the Connecticut Leadership Standards
As in my last reflection, my recent work on 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 refines school and department goals, and my work will have a positive impact on teaching and learning.
The Extent to Which I Built Competency Vis-à-Vis the Twelve Leadership Competencies
My work during this time period helps me to implement a coherent, strategic and systemic plan for instructional improvement. Meeting with the ELA Task Force ensures that I can develop ideas with highly qualified people, and devising objectives and action steps will ensure positive instructional outcomes. I am also learning to employ programs based upon research, theory and best practice. My research on protocols for looking at student work is helping me improve in this area, and sharing my findings with the ELA Task Force, and, eventually, the rest of the ELA teachers, will allow us to collaboratively develop an effective program.
New Knowledge and/or Skill did Acquired as a Result of the Experience
New knowledge I acquired about leadership since the last reflection came from the social studies department supervisor once again. She and I attended the same CCSS coaching workshop, and I once again had the opportunity to ask her questions about leadership that fall outside my normal experience in the English department. We discussed how to best implement some of the changes proposed during the presentation, specifically about how to overcome teachers’ reluctance to adapt their lessons and instructions. The social studies department supervisor explained that she first seeks out compliance before looking for buy-in. This seems to contradict what the presenter had to offer as well as all my coursework and research in educational leadership so far. However, her explanation made sense. Her reasoning was that if she could get her teachers to comply with change, she would ensure the change would result. Then the buy-in would happen naturally as teachers experience positive results in their practice and in student learning outcomes. She said that, in good practice and in good conscience, she would never ask her teachers to do something she did not believe fit the vision, mission, and goals of her department. She said that the compliance should be born of trust and that results change teachers’ minds and build further trust. While this version of the change process sounds unorthodox, upon further reflection it seems very thoughtful and genuine, and I will keep it in mind as I progress in my new role as educational leader.
How the Experience Changed My Opinion about Organization, Culture, Climate and Leadership
Talking with other teachers and leaders at the CCSS workshop and conferring with ELA Task Force members reminded me of the importance of climate in an organization. Nearly everyone reported low morale at their schools and in their districts. The cited cause was what is commonly referred to as “death by initiative”. In other words, members of the organization are experiencing too much change too fast. Teachers’ perception of their schools and how they are run is becoming increasingly negative, and an organization cannot make progress if perpetually in such a state. While I am not in the position to add or subtract from the number of district or school initiatives or the speed at which they are expected to be adopted, I will be wary of imposing unnecessary pressures on my teachers when I enter a more formal leadership role.
How the Experience Enhanced My Personal Style of Leadership
Focusing so much on learning about change and the change process, as well as participating in it as a teacher and administrator, has enhanced my understanding of, and sensitivity to, change in general. As I make more progress on my PIP, I will do my best to support teachers’ work instead of just assigning them more tasks. I understand now that some teachers may feel burdened when I ask them to help me with my project on protocols for looking at student work. If this is the case, I will remember that compliance is important to institute change, but I will do my best to establish trust throughout the change process. This will help us to work together more effectively as changes are implemented and will enable us to make even more substantial positive outcomes for students.
My Recommendations to Improve the Activity I Observed
The workshop I attended was well run, and I do not have any recommendations to improve it in that regard. One weakness is that many of the attendees already have an in-depth understand of leadership, coaching models, and CCSS. It would have been beneficial if the presenter checked for prior knowledge and spent less time on background information that we did not necessarily need. My work in instructional analysis and supervision supports this suggestion.
- Achieve, Inc. (2014) EQuIP student work protocol. Retrieved from http://www.achieve.org/files/Student%20Work%20Protocol_Final_9%2018%2014.pdf
- National School Reform Faculty (1996). Some guidelines for looking at student work. Retrieved from http://www.nsrfharmony.org/system/files/protocols/guidelines_lfsw_horace_0.pdf
- National School Reform Faculty (1998). Looking at student work. Retrieved from http://www.lasw.org/resources_support.html
- State of Connecticut (2014) Connecticut core standards. Retrieved from http://ctcorestandards.org/