Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Don't Overlook the Obvious

Too often we go on a search for what "best practice" truly is. We read the latest books, filter through articles and scour the educational landscape of presenters to deliver that "silver bullet". We share the responsibility at times and forget the role that we have spent so much time working to define. Too often we forget that the Instructional Leader title is not intended to be for the administrator alone.


If you know me, and how I lead, you know that I firmly believe in all that is out there in the educational landscape. There are some amazing resources and nationally known educational leaders out there. I am a huge fan of Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess and have created a focus for the year around passion for my entire building. In addition, both Rick Wormeli and Ken O'Conner have provided a wealth of information in regards to assessments and grading. We are transforming how we do both (assess and grade) each day. And of course, Todd Whitaker. We are "great" thanks to his sound advice for teachers and leaders. All of the above mentioned are out of this world. I would, and do, buy their books and pay to see them present.


So how can we have the best of both worlds? Many leaders in public education tend to go outside to gather professional development to bring to the inside. We gather up groups of people and herd them through PD sessions believing that this exercise alone will increase student engagement, student achievement and improve performance. If we are not going to the outside to bring in presenters it is the building administrator that stands in the front of the room and holds the keys to the knowledge. Sounds eerily similar to a classroom that we are all way to familiar with. A classroom many are moving away from.


Through the reading I had done, the presenters I had heard and the conversations over time, it become obvious. Through working with my teachers, I would help create an undetermined number of Instructional Leaders WITHIN the staff. This was not passing the responsibility, but shifting who owns it.

Yes, share the role and build leaders within. We have done this before through the use of Team Meetings and Data Teams but this was different. Today, like many of those other days, I was able to see instructional leaders in just a little different light. The obvious leaders were right in front of me. They had read the books, heard the wisdom and had done their homework. Simply, they taught each other. They used their resources, including each other, and accomplished more in a day than any PD session could have generated. The pictures in this post are from a day of Science PD just today. Teachers from three middle schools along with a district academic coach, work for hours creating, learning, planning, organizing and preparing instructional opportunities for kids. They worked tirelessly. They left exhausted.

And what was my role as the building Instructional Leader? It was simple - I gave them the time, the space and opportunity to grow. And, of course, some chocolate.