Saturday, November 15, 2014

Instructional Leadership: It's a thing #SAVMP

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This month's #SAVMP question focuses on Admin Credibility. George Couros asks several important questions of school leaders in his blog post 5 Questions You Should Ask Your Principal. One of these questions focuses on instructional leadership:

What are some areas of teaching and learning that you can lead in the school? 

From George's original post:

Covey talks about two important areas for leaders; character and credibility. Many principals are great with people, yet really do not understand the art and science of teaching, or have lost touch with what it is like to be in the classroom. Although a leaders does not need to be the master of all, they should be able to still be able to walk into a classroom and teach kids. They should also definitely be able to lead the staff in workshops that focus directly on teaching and learning. If teachers understand that a principal understands teaching and learning, any initiatives are more likely to be seen as credible in their eyes.

I am a teacher. I am a teacher.

Yes, I am the principal, the school leader, a role I take to heart and love. It is such a gift to be able to be the lead learner in a school-- to take the needs of the students, the teachers, the staff, and the families and dream up a vision and goals to move our school forward. Every day feels like Christmas to me and I can not wait to get to school. 

I am the principal. I am a teacher.

Instructional leadership is my passion. Whether I'm leading inside or outside our school, I'm  a teacher. At school, I'm the lead learner and I love to learn right alongside our teachers--in weekly tech PD meetings with a collaborative Google doc as an agenda where everyone learns and everyone leads and the agenda is based on what people want to share, celebrate, and learn. I've also been working hard to make our once a month staff meetings more interactive and meaningful and have been trying different strategies to maximize all of our meetings with more collaboration and conversation. Some recent additions include success slams and speed dating! Outside of school, I also lead professional development for teachers and administrators around technology and literacy in the Common Core as an Area 3 Writing Project Teacher Consultant. I am a CUE Rockstar faculty member and CUE Lead Learner. I teach administrators and teachers how to be more Googly using Google Apps for Education. I love it. I'm always teaching and always learning. 

Teaching teachers about classroom blogging at Fall CUE in Napa, CA

I am the principal. I am the Minecraft Maker Club Leader. 

iPad Minecrafters

A 5th grade Minecraft Mentor with her K-1 kids

Cardboard challenge badge!

Like other teachers and administrators, I'm trying to incorporate more STEAM into my school. But I'm determined to learn on a small scale before rolling anything out school-wide. So, along with a  parent and Joe Wood, our Instructional Technology Coordinator, we're leading an after school Minecraft Maker Club. Seriously, it's scary. The kids are leading me in a lot of ways. But I am determined to try and to learn. During the first six week session, we led 25 second through fifth grade students using Minecraft EDU and where we made Cardboard games as part of our Cardboard Challenge badge. This time, we have 25 second through fifth graders and 15 Kinder and first graders Minecrafting with iPads and learning about coding. During our next session, we're trying out coding using Bee-Bots, Spheros, and Tynker as we prepare for the Hour of Code. I'm embracing the mess and loving it.

I am the principal. Sometimes, I'm the teacher. All day. And I love it.

Kindergarten choice time. Paint.

Teaching TK. Love four year olds!
What can I teach? 
In 18 years in education, I've taught every grade from kindergarten to fifth grade, combo classes, full day and half day kinder in everything from affluent to Title I schools. I sometimes tell people I'm the jack of all grades, a master of none. But in some ways I think it's a good thing. My wide range of grade level experiences have provided me with a big picture of where kids start and where they are going. I also feel it has prepared me well to be an instructional leader in my school. Although I've never taught any grade level longer than five years, I do feel I am familiar with the standards and expectations at each grade level and can hold my own in conversations related to instruction for any grade at my school. And some days, I even get to teach ALL day. We have a sub shortage and once in awhile I need to cover a class. Last year, I taught first grade all day when after 70 calls a sub job failed to fill. I had so much fun, I wrote a blog post about it! This year, I've taught kindergarten, TK, and fourth grade so that teachers could attend a training. I love teaching and being with the kids. At my school, every single Monday is also No Office Day, and I am in classrooms all day working with students and co-teaching lessons. I think my teachers would tell you I am an instructional leader. 

It's so important.

For most of my career, I worked for principals who were not instructional leaders. Did they have many strengths? Of course! But my previous administrators include a PE teacher, a Speech Pathologist, a college professor with a PhD in Psychology, and a middle school Math and Science teacher. As a teacher in a K-8 district and at a K-5 school, it was often frustrating when conversations about curriculum and instruction were led by admin with no elementary experience. I found myself wishing they could be in my classrooms more often so they could just understand what it was like to teach 4-year olds to read. If my sub job had failed to fill, would any have them taught for the day in my room? 

There are exceptions.

Is it possible for someone without instructional background in a particular grade level to be the instructional leader in a school? I do think this is possible. One of my favorite principals was the former PE teacher and he was determined to learn as much as possible about the instruction happening in our K-5 classrooms. He gave me incredible feedback during observations because he had that amazing kinesthetic lens and he saw things I'd never considered. He also had incredible expectations for teachers and students in our school. There are many things about his leadership that ended up in my admin toolbox and I feel fortunate to have worked with him for three years. 

What are some areas of teaching and learning can I lead in my school? 

I'm no expert, but I feel confident that if you asked my teachers what my biggest strength is as a school leader that they would say that first and foremost, I am a teacher.

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