Monday, October 14, 2013

Learning how to Lead

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! We had an almost-four-day weekend in Ontario. Last Friday we had school-based professional development in the morning and self-directed learning in the afternoon. The session I planned to facilitate and discussed in last week's blog (which I might now call it after the fact, "A Conversation about Learning Skills") seemed to go well. Our junior/intermediate division completed our Teaching Learning Critical Pathway template form outlining our Term 1 focus on summarizing and synthesizing strategies to discourage plagiarism during the rest of that morning. In the afternoon, I was part of an administration team meeting and found time to work with another teacher on uploading and captioning YouTube videos for research purposes. (I still left school an hour earlier than normal, so I consider that a four-day weekend!)

I do not wish to betray confidential discussions held during the admin team meeting, but some of our conversations led me to spend a huge chunk of my Thanksgiving Monday to begin reading a book earlier than I had planned. The Skillful Team Leader: A Resource for Overcoming Hurdles to Professional Learning for Student Achievement by Elisa B. Macdonald (Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2013) is a book I received from my friend Moses. I'm on Chapter 4 of 7 and I'm finding it very useful, especially as I reflect on how to learn to lead.

I "fell" into the role of chairperson at my current school because a colleague would have been declared surplus if someone on staff did not volunteer to take the role. I led the workshop on Friday because our initial presenters could not come out on that day and my principal felt confident that, because I am a trained Tribes TLC (c) facilitator, I would be more than qualified to conduct the session. Other leadership opportunities I've undertaken in the past have been more deliberate on my part. As I read this book, I found a statement that resonated with my recent workshop leader role:
"When named team leader because of her expertise, a teacher is put in a paradoxical role - the peer expert (Mangin & Stoelings, 2011)." (page 58)
This is why creating those questions that framed me as a co-learner alongside my fellow teachers helped me de-escalate the potential divide. Abandoning the "sage on the stage" role helped tremendously.

Leading a group or team isn't an innate set of skills. This resource describes some of the hurdles a Professional Learning Community might face and how to deal with these hurdles productively and professionally. Our goal is to have a high functioning, high impact team. Here is how it's described:

"... the high functioning, high impact team works well together and produces measurable gains for students. Members have a shared purpose for collaboration with goals. They utilize teaming tools such as agendas, group agreements, roles, and protocols effectively. They voice different opinions but still come to consensus, produce action plans, and follow through on those actions. they not only engage in constructs like the inquiry cycle, but they use those constructs to continuously assess their impact on student learning and adjust their instruction. Memmbers in high functioning, high impact teams are generally proud of their team and highly invested in the team's work. They continuously transform teaching and learning and have evidence to show for it." (page 30)
 I'll continue to digest information from this book and share it with my admin team. Leaders aren't born - they are developed (and this philosophy fits with the book's mindset on fixed vs growth mindset) - and I hope this book and the discussion it might encourage will help me continue to learn how to lead.

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