12 July 2009

Leadership Day 09: Let Go

Leadership Day 09 comes at an interesting time for me. I just returned from a fabulous five day workshop with the California Geographic Alliance. The subject? Leadership and Reform. Now, this organization is different from a school site, but I spent a lot of time thinking and writing about how groups of like-minded people function.

This morning, I've been reading blog posts written for Leadership Day 09 and have found some great insights so far. First, Lesley Edwards, the Web-Footed Booklady, asks if any of us have been in meetings where our administrators have shared what they learned on Twitter that day. Ummm, no. I'm not even sure my administrators know what Twitter is, other than something to be feared and therefore blocked. Beth Still, of Nebraska, has written about the benefits of social-networking. I agree that Twitter in particular has revolutionized my PLN. I would also agree that teachers and students who are networked have MANY more learning opportunities each day. Selena Ward emphasizes the point that change in schools cannot happen without the true support of administrators in her "Letter to my Administrator." Kelly Hines suggests that administrators must model leadership through learning by integrating tech tools into daily learning and information sharing.

Another key point came from Joseph Bires in his post "Top 10 Ways to Predict the Future."

8. Professional Development is a micro NOT a macro process.

Each teacher is responsible for his/her own growth because they are a professional. Each school needs to grow into a “community of practice”. As a leader, you can take ownership of creating that community within your school and create opportunities for collaboration, but you need to make each teacher responsible for his/her own growth. Develop a personal learning network and model how you are growing, but keep the locus of control for professional development on the individual not the school.

So, where does this leave me? I've come up with a short list:
  1. Administrators must support their teachers in profession development that is important to the teacher and his/her own learning.
  2. Administrators must nurture practices that give teachers time to truly collaborate even if that means skipping the day spent going over test scores or learning about the latest in brain research. These might be important, but if you don't have teacher buy-in and teachers don't know HOW to collaborate, what is the point?
  3. Administrators must model technology use and encourage teachers to do the same. THEN, everyone must talk about how new tools are making their teaching and learning more effective.
  4. Administrators must be willing to look at how and why students are using technology and support teachers' efforts in using those tools in the classroom. No, it's not always going to be perfect and some students are going to try to take advantage, but we can't throw out the baby with the bath water.
  5. Administrators must LET GO. Yes, just let go of the desire/need to control everything. Imagine what would happen at the school site became a model of shared power, where teachers were expected to improve their practice in meaningful ways and use technology to help themselves do that. Distributed power is not something to fear. With appropriate leadership teachers will make the right decisions.
Leadership Day 09 isn't really just about using technology or encouraging development of 21st century skills. It's really about creating and nurturing an environment where the educational community can work together, have tough discussions, and make changes happen to benefit our students.