When I drive, I think about my own mortality. Although I’m not typically a nervous person, I still realize how easy it would be to get hurt or killed while in my car. When I first had those thoughts, I wondered what the impact would be if I died right then. I got this strange pleasure knowing that I was a good enough person that my family and my friends would be heartbroken...
In April, Leading Educators took seven Fellows to England in partnership with Teaching Leaders UK and the British Council. The trip followed an earlier visit to New Orleans by several teacher leaders from the United Kingdom.
The exchange is sponsored by the British Council with the intention of teacher leaders sharing best practices, learning from observing each others' schools and classrooms and from discussing their roles. Many of our attending teacher leaders wrote short pieces on their experiences during the trip. We plan to publish all of these perspectives, starting with Bridget Cantrell, Elementary Instructional Coordinator at Ott Elementary in Kansas City. Bridget published a blog of her own to share her trip with her school:
Day #2 Such a big world, yet a common mission!
I can't help but listen to the UK team and learn about their education structure and think we have a common mission; to educate all students to the highest level that they can possible attain in order to improve our society and quality of life for each and every student.
Most of the day was gaining knowledge of the English structure of education and the historical aspect of educational change and reform. I think I was most impressed by the accountability system description by Barry who is a Teaching Leader coach and OLFSTED evaluator. OLFSTED is the accountability function run by the government. I connected this to our MSIP 5 accountability but layered with a site visit. The spirit of accountability was represented by a true spirit of growth for each student.
The thought of Middle Leaders has brought much traction to recent UK thinking. Middle Leaders are vital to the grass roots effort of change within a school. OFSTED even recognizes the impact of these folks in the improvement process and has designated look fors during site visits. I can't feel excited to think about the defined support roles of teacher leaders in the trenches and yet serving as support to colleagues and Principals. I think this is an undefined role in the US, a thankless, unrecognized silent leadership role. I can't help but wonder why we don't recognize these practitioners in a formal leadership role.
You can read the rest of this post and find Bridget's other posts here: http://bcantrellle.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/such-big-world-yet-common-mission-cant.html
by Jeff Fouquet, Leading Educators Fellow in Kansas City, Cohort 2012
Two weeks ago I traveled to New Orleans with the 2013 Leading Educator fellows from all around the Kansas City area. Although I had already experienced a School Visits Trip (SVT) to Chicago with my own cohort (2012), I knew seeing more schools and talking with more teachers would broaden my thinking about the possibilities for my own students and adult team. These goals were certainly accomplished, but I did not anticipate how many new partnerships this trip would introduce.
Because of the generous levels of time, attention and guidance offered by our hosts in NOLA, I was able to identify specific, bite-size adjustments that would help my team immediately impact our students. Upon returning, I partnered with the computer apps teacher in my building to develop a data tracker so we could provide specific feedback to students. By using measurable, timely data to encourage academic and behavioral growth, students can show students specific changes they can make to improve their levels of success. Additionally, this week my team will stop recognizing a “Student of the Week” to adopt “Weekly Shout-outs.” My school serves an at-risk population, so spreading the praise around strategically instead of highlighting the success of one student will result in higher levels of student investment and build a stronger sense of community.
As exciting as these changes are, the best part of the SVTs was getting to work with other teacher-leaders as they tried to address their teams’ needs. As a second-year fellow, it felt good sharing some of the resources and strategies my Leading Educators coach, Tara Tamburello, had showed me to gain ground in similar situations. And, in kind, all the teacher-leaders I met were able to lend their perspectives to my mission to increase student investment.
I feel like I’ve written so much, yet I haven’t even mentioned the amazing educators and reformers who joined us from as far afield as England! We had guests from organizations both peripheral and essential to education who came to NOLA hoping to leverage what they learned in ways that might immediately impact the students they serve.
I sincerely thank Leading Educators, Kansas City Cohort 2013, and the teachers, students and schools of NOLA for creating such a transformative opportunity for personal and professional growth; I met so many amazing teachers and people. My team and my students are grateful for the changes this experience has inspired - and I’m already look forward to next year’s trip!
by Jeff Fouquet, Leading Educators Fellow in Kansas City, Cohort 2012
As a classroom teacher and aspiring administrator, I love borrowing ideas from great teachers and effective schools. During my two-year teacher-leader fellowship, Leading Educators has offered me countless opportunities to evaluate and improve my educational impact, but one of the most eye-opening experiences in all of my Fellowship has been the School Visits Trip (SVT) to Chicago last winter.
Visiting schools in communities much more diverse and disadvantaged than my own helped me see that everywhere, regardless of how they are portrayed, children are children, and they will respond positively to the efforts and support of tireless, caring adults. Witnessing schools that have instituted strong rituals of “community” or “celebration” helped me think about what my own building and district were doing to associate learning with pride and a shared sense of success. Similarly, having my knock on each classroom door greeted by a young student who stepped into the hallway, shook my hand, told me what class it was and the topic of the lesson before asking if I had any questions was pivotal in my rethinking of who owns the classroom and whose space it is. More than any other investigation of effective educational cultures, the SVT proved to me that in the best schools, even the small decisions reflect a deeply held conviction that every student can experience remarkable academic growth.
As the next SVT approaches, I am excited for all the great learning and growth the new cohort of Leading Educators will experience—so excited, in fact, that I am going with them, to New Orleans this year, to see if I can learn even more from those teachers and schools. Although there are no perfect models, each exposure to new ideas challenges teachers and administrators to revise their own measures of success – and that is the attitude that any enterprise seeking continuous improvement requires.
We are excited to announce that the application for Fellowship Cohort 2014 will open today! The Fellowship is available to teacher-leaders in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Kansas City, and Washington, D.C.
Interested educators apply this afternoon by clicking on on this link: www.leadingeducators.org/apply
The application process involves four steps:
Step 1: Online Application
Candidates begin their application for the Leading Educators Fellowship by completing an online application.
Step 2: Principal Endorsement
An applicant's principal must support the application by submitting a Principal Endorsement online. The Principal Endorsement allows the school leader to describe the leadership role the candidate will play during the following school year and outlines program expectations.
Step 3: Classroom Observation
Based on the Online Application and Principal Endorsement, successful candidates are invited to participate in a 20 to 30 minute classroom observation. This snapshot provides insight into the candidate's instructional skill.
Step 4: Interview and Assessment Days
Candidates that move to the next step in the application process participate in an Interview and Assessment Day. This challenging experience stretches candidates’ leadership skills by engaging them in interviews, role plays, and simulations.
Deadlines and Important Dates
Priority I Deadline: Dec. 2
Priority II Deadline: Feb. 3
Final Deadline: March 24
Interviews: April 12 - 26
Final Notification Date: May 2
New Orleans & Baton Rouge:
Priority Deadline: Feb. 10
Final Deadline: March 31
Interviews: April 12 - 23
Final Notification Date: May 2
Dates to be announced soon
Successful candidates will join a cohort of approximately 40 other teacher-leaders from their region, and will work closely with second-year Fellows as well. For more information, please click here to find more information on how to apply, the Fellowship curriculum, and who should apply.
As the chair of my district’s secondary English Language Arts department, there was a time when my team’s lack of progress caused me great frustration. Try as I might, I could not convince my colleagues to try new teaching strategies, collect and analyze data, or discuss rigorous and aligned interims as a basis for increasing collaboration. Research endorsed these as “best practice” and I was supercharged to keep pushing toward educational excellence!
But it felt like nobody wanted to come with me.
For more than three years, I struggled with the disconnect between our students’ needs and my team’s indifference – at times, it felt like outright resistance – to instructional improvement. The harder I worked and the louder I pleaded, the more frustrated I became with our stagnation. Why didn’t anybody see things my way?
My involvement in Leading Educators gave me clarity, and I began to see that I was the one who needed perspective. Through a series of self-assessments, reflections, and readings completed during Summer Intensive, a week of professional development sessions, leadership began to take a new shape. For the first time, being a leader wasn’t about what I thought needed to be done, but about finding the keys to invest every member of my team in a shared vision so we could find appropriate solutions. Summer Intensive revealed leadership as a form of social and emotional intelligence, but the style of leadership I had been using put getting results before valuing people. It was humbling to see studies that perfectly described what I had been doing as ineffective leadership; it was also an incredible breakthrough.
Since that first Summer Intensive, my emotional intelligence and self-awareness have grown immeasurably. Instead of pushing members of my department to accomplish my vision, I have spent several months cultivating trust, discovering our shared goals and values, and working with the whole team to co-create a list of cultural behaviors that will demonstrate to one another (and to our students) that we are committed to excellence. Now when we discuss new initiatives or ways to move instruction forward, nobody feels accountable to me. Instead, we each feel increasingly accountable to our group’s vision and values. In other words, I’ve gotten better at encouraging team effort rather than demanding it.
It’s difficult to admit that I was ineffective as a leader. However, I now know what true leadership requires of me, and I appreciate the incremental gains I am making with my team. We’re nowhere near perfect, but we are much closer to being perfectly aligned in our purpose, and that’s how I know we’re moving in the right direction.