Mike Schmoker’s new book Leading with Focus has given me the kick I needed to return to this blog in an effort to ensure our staff in ISD 186 has the clarity that strong leaders provide. Pulling from one of my favorite authors and researchers on organizational effectiveness, he quotes Jim Collins in his book Good to Great – “The real path to greatness, it turns out, requires simplicity and diligence… It demands each of us to focus on what is vital – and to eliminate all of the extraneous distractions.” While I know and believe we are focusing on the right things in our district, I need to be much more intentional about providing ongoing clarity for staff. Quoting Marcus Buckingham’s 2005 work Schmoker states, “Clarifying the organization’s priorities is the leader’s single most important job.”
I’m diving in and taking our high school principal and 3 board members with me. It’s certainly not a combat mission, but carving out the time to do it feels that way some days. We are committing to a year-long learning journey focused on the “Core Essentials of Leadership” in hopes of serving the Pequot Lakes Schools community more effectively. I’m grateful to have partner “Lead Learners” as we challenge ourselves to engage in learning in the same manner we expect all staff to do. Read more
While it seems there is a common call for more time to collaborate in all school districts, those who dig into the meaningful work of true collaboration discover it is far easier to continue working in isolation. The majority of us learned our trade figuring it out as we went through the enduring pains of trial and error. Being isolated in our classrooms was simply the norm, and the true collaborative work described in PLC literature was unheard of. Today we have clear evidence showing the need for real collaboration, yet the work of doing collaboration is much different from the work we have been good at in the past. Digging into showing our results, aligning our instruction with clearly articulated outcomes and common assessments, and engaging in robust action research can feel like an invasion of one’s craft. The truth we all know deep inside however, is that collaborating in this way is the real work of excellent teaching. Read more
Reposting this today in honor of Dr. King:
I am grateful for the reminder in church this morning of the powerful words that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shared in his last speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” on April 3rd, 1968. His inspiration, support, and leadership lives far beyond the generation of people who knew him, and our world is much changed for the better as a result of his work. I believe the greatest leaders articulate thoughts in a manner that resonate across many generations, peoples, and circumstances, and today King’s message of hope – in an incredibly difficult time – has a special ring for me. In this speech he shares his desire to be in that place, at that time, to face those difficult issues even if given the opportunity to be anywhere else.
Our District Leadership Team recently took a deep dive into the first element of Marzano’s Instructional Framework, “Providing Rigorous Learning Goals and Performance Scales (Rubrics).” As we participated in instructional rounds and discussed what clear goals and performance scales should look like according to the protocol provided in the framework, it became clear that we have much work to do. This first element, with the biggest effect size on student achievement, may also be the hardest to implement with fidelity across every grade and content area!! Read more
A week ago I had the privilege of leading a work session with our District Leadership Team to reflect on our growth over the past 6 months, to assess our progress on district and school improvement goals, and to update our action plans for the next 3 months. It’s year one in our district for implementing the Marzano Art and Science of Teaching Framework and embracing the work of a true Professional Learning Community. It was a productive day for our teams, and I was once again reminded about how challenging it can be to serve as a teacher leader among peers and friends. Read more
Today was an exciting and challenging day full of great learning work in #ISD186. Six of our teacher leaders opened their classroom doors to a team of colleagues and administrators so we could take a deep dive into the Marzano Instructional Framework. Using just 1 of the 61 elements in the framework, our learning was focused on what to look for, how to ask good coaching questions, and how to facilitate peer observations in a safe and trust-building manner. The learning discussions were rich and the willingness of the team to take risks and dive into learning together was admirable. Read more
Reposting this post 4 years later. It’s just as applicable today – in a district of 2 sites and 1,600 students… Teaching is indeed a calling!
Communications over the past couple of weeks has made clear that I’m in a different ball game than I was just a few months ago. As a teacher leader and school administrator, I was visible and made person to person connections with nearly every staff member at least weekly if not every day. People saw me on good days, bad days, during pressure, when joking around, and all of the other times in between. This is clearly not possible in the role I now serve in forcing me to reflect quite a bit about leadership strategies and how to make positive change from a different place in the organization.
Moving from a district of 10,000 students to one of 1,600 students this past year has made me reflect quite a bit on how to structure collaborative teams to do the meaningful work of a Professional Learning Community when there are fewer teachers to team up. The research on effective schools is clear that collaborative teams of teachers focused on common formative assessments and implementation of interventions/enrichments to ensure all students learn at high levels is essential, but how to structure those teams for success is always a challenging leadership question. As often happens, my Twitter feed offered some “just in time professional development” this past week as I ran across an excellent presentation by author and 6th grade teacher Bill Ferriter (@plugusin) focused on this very topic. The ideas and options he shares are relevant to a school or district of any size.
This is the sixth post in a series of short YouTube videos by Rick Wormeli, author of the book Fair Isn’t Always Equal. This episode focuses on the power of frequent formative assessments and tying that into a standards based grading system. I wish I had learned about the power of formative assessments and a standards based approach to grading when I was teaching… Might you take what @RickWormeli has to offer and implement it in your classroom tomorrow??