Growth. I am driven by the belief that success is best achieved when people continually strive to grow. My goal as an educational leader is to maximize growth potential through service to teachers and students, because when teachers perform better students perform better. I ac- complish this through leadership which focuses on these core educational beliefs:
- sound educational pedagogy
- observation practices intensely focused on teacher growth
- strengths based instructional leadership
- problem solving and prevention
Sound educational pedagogy includes:
- creation and refinement of vertically and horizontally aligned curricular teaching units
focused on through-lines, essential questions, standards, benchmarks, understanding,
knowledge, and skills;
- effective use of diagnostic, formative, performance and summative assessments;
- using engaging teaching and learning activities based on brain research about how people learn best;
- developing the whole person and working to instill the following timeless success traits in our students:
- Personal Responsibility
- Critical thinking
- Intrinsic Motivation
- Effective Communication
- Care and Service
- Problem Solving.
Sound educational pedagogy is best achieved when leaders work with teachers to set ambitious yet manageable individual, team and school wide goals, provide regularly scheduled blocks of time to accomplish goals, provide ongoing professional development training opportunities and track and discuss progress thereby ensuring accomplishment.
The most powerful tool for supporting teacher growth is my strengths identification observation process. People grow best when they feel nurtured and supported, and at the right mo- ments challenged. My observation model works to build trusting relationships through fre- quent classroom visits which focus on teachers’ strengths. The administrator role in this model, assuming a baseline of competence, is to listen carefully, reflect upon best practices and collab- oratively plan for areas of growth. Formative follow-up conversations are anchored by ques- tions which focus on learning objectives and self-reflection. This works because teachers trust that the focus is growth, which allows them to feel safe while taking risks and identifying areas to improve their practice. Finally, as a result of the collaborative teacher/administrator work and the frequency of observations, formal yearly summative evaluations reflect a more com- plete and accurate picture of a teachers’ strengths and willingness to focus on pedagogical improvement.
A benefit of this frequency of observation is knowing which teachers excel at different aspects of teaching. This knowledge directly affects my instructional leadership practice. I use this knowledge to ask teachers to lead engaging professional development trainings based upon their strengths. I also use this information to facilitate peer observations in which a teacher with a specific desired area for growth observes another teacher whose strengths align. These observations are followed by collaborative conversations where teachers learn from each other and focus on improving student learning. This results in empowered teachers, intent on im- proving their practice. Administrators must also share out personal skill areas. For example I share my expertise with Kagan Cooperative Learning Structures or Discipline with Love and Logic by leading PD trainings or working individually with teachers.
When problems surface a holistic and dynamic action plan, supportive of the vision and mission of the school, must be developed immediately. The course of the plan depends on the type of problem, but all plans require a vision, the flexibility to adjust plans as needed, an outline of specific responsibilities of all involved parties and timelines for completion of duties. To achieve success where the solution involves teacher action, teachers must be involved in the creation and approval of the plan. This collaborative path, which includes consensus building, works because it develops ownership and buy-in from all. Solving problems also requires re- lentless, consistent action and involvement of all relevant stakeholders. Finally, it is vital to find and analyze relevant data to measure the success of the problem solving plans.
Successfully leading a school to its growth potential only happens when a leader possesses suf- ficient emotional intelligence to understand how to get the best out of people. Key elements of this understanding include:
- possessing the ability to constantly develop supportive and trusting relationships with teachers, parents, students and board members;
- possessing the courage to have the difficult conversations which are sometimes neces- sary while using as gentle and caring an approach as possible;
- possessing the courage to tell the truth, be transparent and take responsibility for the actions of their employees;
- empowering people who are looking to develop professionally by tapping into their pas- sions and sharing responsibility and delegating when appropriate.
Schools achieve their best success when great educational leadership practice is combined with great leadership. I lead by using vision, collaboration, kindness, and humor, while offering sup- port, building from strengths, and creating trusting relationships. I empower teachers, parents, board members and students to build a community which prioritizes growing and learning. My practice is separated by my emotional intelligence and my strengths based observation model and the affect these have on teacher growth, instructional leadership and student learning. I put all of this together and the results are undeniable; the growth and progress of staff and stu- dents alike is enormous and backed by hard data.