Kelly Christopherson at Educational Discourse tagged me with my first meme. I won’t let you down!
Relative to your leadership roleâ€¦
Whatâ€™s working well?
It’s easy to get bogged down pushing papers, slicing and dicing data, and dealing with student discipline issues. I made a New Year’s resolution that I would spend more time in classrooms with students and teachers — not just at eval time, but over the course of the year. I think after the initial "why-is-he-in-here?" phase, the teachers are very receptive to having administrators come through. It has made me a part of instruction again and has sparked some of the projects and conversations I write about on my blog.
What brings you great pride and joy?
The idea that I can actually help this school make some changes. The notion that after almost 2 years in this building I’m starting to hear teachers asking for more access to technology with specific projects or instructional reasons in mind. Instead of generalized complaining about not having "computers," teachers are identifying specific instructional needs that are much easier for me to bring forward to the principal or district technology staff than, "We need some more computers."
How have you made a difference for good in the lives of those you serve?
Teachers are feeling empowered to try new things and students naturally benefit. I try not to push, but if I see an opportunity to introduce some technology into a lesson or project, I will make it a point to visit that teacher’s room a few times and strike up a conversation. Usually, I’ll open the discussion by saying something like, "You know – I was thinking of your Black History Month project when I found [insert resource here] on the ‘net and thought it might be a good fit…"
What brings you quiet satisfaction?
Planting small seeds and watching them grow. There isn’t much more satisfying than spending an hour with a teacher who "knows nothing about technology" only to see them 5 days later maintaining a classroom wiki and posting poetry on her blog for students to comment on.
What have you learned over the last few months?
I’ve learned that you can’t motivate with policy. It is far more powerful to start small with an interested individual or group than it is to roll out mandates, policies, and programs at faculty meetings. I doubt we’d have as many teachers working on the projects they’re doing now if we had required it. But now I routinely have teachers stopping me in the hall and saying, "You know that project you’re working on with Mrs. Smith? I’d like to try something similar but I don’t know where to start…"
I’ve also learned that I have an amazingly supportive district leadership team. I spent over an hour with the assistant superintendent discussing what support (if any) would be available to me as I pursued my doctorate. While she conceded there were no financial supports in place, she was more than willing to accommodate me with paid time off to work on writing and research.
How can you use this information (above) to move your organization forward?
The fact that I feel like I’ve answered 5 questions with the same response tells something: All of the work I’m doing is interrelated and it’s all about empowering teachers to do different things to reach and engage kids. I’m in classrooms more so teachers are more receptive to my being there and less threatened that it’s an "evaluation." That means that they (hopefully) feel OK about trying something new — even if it flops — without fear of some negative repercussion.
There’s a buzz around the building and I’m hopeful that we’ll soon reach a critical mass where "traditional" teaching will become the exception and not the rule.
If a teacher who "isn’t good with computers" can create and maintain a poetry blog, I’m optimistic that we’re on the right track. As such, I am hoping to take some of this momentum as I participate in our district’s technology provisioning committee and make the case for more access to computers for teachers and students.
Thanks for the tag, Kelly — I didn’t know I had so much to say.