Here’s my third and final essay for this semester at SCSU. If it helps you or anyone working to enter educational leadership, feel free to share. Thanks!
Milestones of the Personalized Internship Project
This week marks a major milestone of my Personalized Internship Project (PIP). I worked with my English Language Arts (ELA) team and department supervisors to develop a workshop on protocols for looking at student work, which I rebadged Learning from Student Work (LSW). I assumed responsibility for running the workshop with support from my team. The workshop went well, and I received positive feedback from attendees. Furthermore, my supervisors wrote an e-mail thanking me for my efforts and commending me to the superintendent.
How the Experience Contributed to My Understanding of Leadership
Working with my team and supervisors over the past few months was rewarding and productive. The workshop was the culmination of our collaboration so far, and it was a rewarding experience. Much of my experience so far could be described as learning about leadership. Running the workshop could be considered the actual work of leadership, as I introduced some new concepts to teachers and guided them to begin to make changes in their practice. What I have not studied or experienced to a great degree so far is the edification and camaraderie shared by leaders working together when completing a project. It reminds me of how I feel when a classroom lesson goes well, and reflecting on it is always instructive and satisfying. Leadership studies do not do the emotional and psychological aspects of completed leadership objectives justice. Success breeds success, and I hope to continue to improve my skills and capacity to lead.
In What Ways the Experience Relates to the Connecticut Leadership Standards
Throughout the process of working on my PIP so far, I have focused most closely on the first two Connecticut Leadership Standards: Vision, Mission and Goals as well as Teaching and Learning. As previously stated, my project furthers 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
Leadership competencies on which I mainly focused during this phase of my PIP included “Communicates and develops with staff a vision of academic achievement and high expectations for all students as well as a comprehensive, responsive educational program to meet their needs”, “Implements a coherent, strategic and systemic plan for instructional improvement”, “Employs programs based upon research, theory and ‘best practice’”, “Develops collaborative ‘communities of practice’ among staff”, “Uses assessment and other data to improve curriculum and instruction”, and “Provides effective management that promotes teaching and learning”. This last competency is the newest to me, as I have had little practice in actually managing teachers. In this instance, the protocols for LSW I developed with my team will allow teachers to set norms and to decide on how they will accomplish alignment of assessments and instruction among their peers, but we have guided them to report back their findings and reflections via a system hosted on the Schoology website. Careful not to push another initiative onto an overworked, overwhelmed staff, it was challenging to come up with a plan to help them improve their practice while adding and extra layer of accountability. Our success in this regard is yet to be determined, but promising outcomes may be predicted.
New Knowledge and/or Skill did Acquired as a Result of the Experience
As mentioned above, experiencing some success as a leader and working to manage teachers are both new to me. I hope to continue improving in all the educational leadership competencies, but management is probably the one with which I have the least experience.
How the Experience Changed My Opinion about Organization, Culture, Climate and Leadership
I am still a classroom teacher, though I am in a period of transition between teaching and administrative roles. This places me in awkward situations at times as I vacillate between the two. However, there are advantages as well. One of my supervisors commented during the workshop that teachers were particularly attentive. I believe this was because of my unique position in the district. This is especially true when considering the Servant Leadership style. Servant Leaders put the needs of the organization and its members first. Servant Leaders promote the good of the organization and try to shepherd a vision of positive change. With more responsibility than an average teacher but fewer restrictions than a supervisor, I am particularly able to aid educators at all levels. Servant Leaders support followers and their work. They do the same work as their followers, but they are better at providing structure and direction for their followers (Greenleaf, 1977). Although this position can be stressful, I feel that, when I am at my best, I can foster leader/follower relationships for the good of the organization and its stakeholders. This milestone of my PIP was a good example of servant leadership and how this style meets the needs of my district and many other organizations.
How the Experience Enhanced My Personal Style of Leadership
The presentation and workshop I delivered was modeled after my student-centered style of teaching. Feedback from teachers and supervisors indicated appreciation for this approach. While my delivery may have received positive feedback, I fear that the protocols I promoted may not be as widely accepted as I hope. This is because teachers are extremely resistant to anything that adds to their workloads right now: many feel stressed and resentful over current education reforms. Although my personal style of leadership may most closely resemble Servant Leadership, at times an organization may need adaptive leadership. Adaptive Leadership is a style in which leaders maximize the well being of organizations and followers instead of comfort (Heifetz & Laurie, 2001). Adaptive Leaders discern between technical challenges that simply need solving and adaptive challenges that promise growth and change. They produce productive distress. Still, followers may not agree on the amount of productive distress their leaders apply to them. What one follower may see as a challenge to be met, another may feel hopelessly overwhelmed. In the coming months, I may need to shift more to an adaptive style as I gather data about the progress of my PIP and the needs of the district, and I may need to provide guidance and support to teachers as they learn more about LSW and its implementation.
My Recommendations to Improve the Activity I Observed
As with most projects, I wish I had more time to prepare for the workshop. It is impossible to add hours to the day, but I hope to become more efficient in the work of leadership as I get more practice. I do appreciate the progress my team and I have made so far, however, and look forward to continued success.
Greenleaf, R. K. (1977) Servant leadership: A journey in the nature of legitimate power and greatness. New York: Paulist Press.
Heifetz, R. & Laurie, D. (2001). The work of leadership. Harvard Business Review. December 2001.