Saturday, February 13, 2016

Leadership Lessons

What I’ve learned…

For the past year and a half, I have been working as an instructional coach in my district. I’m responsible for providing instructional support for our K – 12 teachers.  Luckily, I am part of an instructional support team, which includes a data coach, a technology coach and our director.  Together, we are a strong team.  We brainstorm, vent, offer support and plan together constantly.  The experience of this position has taught me many things, mostly some important lessons about educational systems and leadership.

Lesson #1 – Sometimes we focus so intensely on the needs of students that we forget about the needs of the adults in our system.
Teachers pour their hearts, souls, money and time into their classrooms each year.  The amount of energy that it takes to make it through a school year is draining no matter how much experience a teacher has. Like students, teachers have basic needs.  They need to feel safe, secure and valued.  They need to know that their opinions are not only heard, but considered seriously.  As leaders, we need to inspire, motivate, appreciate, recognize and honor the teachers who make it all happen every single day for our students.  People matter and we need to spend more time building and maintaining the relationships in our buildings.

Lesson #2 – “What is best for students” has very different meetings at different levels of education and that’s ok.
As an early childhood educator, I am constantly defending what is best for students.  It is time well spent in my opinion. Of course, we all know that what is best for a kindergarten student is different from what is best for a 10th grader.  However, district leaders often discuss the broad picture and focus on a vision of what is best for all students.  In my K – 12 position, I spend a significant amount of time with the K – 12 leaders in our district.  We frequently talk about “what is best for students”.  Each person in our group defines “what is best for students” a little differently.  I’m learning that it’s ok.  Each of us brings a variety of experiences, passions and responsibilities to the table.  Each of us works toward our vision of “what is best for students” in the way that best suits the needs of our students.  As long as those don’t work against each other…it is ok. 

Lesson #3 –  We should all do some deep thinking about our efforts to make everything “consistent” and “aligned”.

Sometimes I think we spend so much time trying to make everything the same, aligned, consistent, that we end up limiting the possibilities for our students and teachers.  We end up discouraging innovation and creativity.  Don’t get me wrong, I value the power of knowing what was covered within the curriculum from one year to another.  However, I believe that our time would be best spent focusing on the needs of each student and helping them move along a continuum, rather than keeping the learning of each group of students in a the tidy box that we call “the grade level curriculum”. 

Each day I learn something new about myself, the people around me, the system and how I need to adjust in order to grow.  Carpe diem!

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