Research on effective schools identifies the second most influential factor that affects student success is leadership. It also breaks down school leadership into four main categories: collaborative, distributive, instructional, and teacher leadership. While I stake no claim to having spent untold hours reading in-depth research on educational leadership, I’m an IT gal after all, I can use Google Scholar to find confirmation for what my heart already knew; all students benefit from effective school and district leadership.
Building teacher leaders is, in my experience and opinion, the critical first step. Empowering teachers to focus on the benefits and value they offer to colleagues can be instrumental in building teams that encourage and facilitate change. This year our district began efforts to champion this concept and while it’s far from perfect, the seeds have been planted and the commitment remains. I have the great privilege to work with my district’s curriculum department and we all want what’s best for teachers and students. Each person in the department strives for the same common goal; to create relationships, build resources, and partner with teacher leaders. It’s a work in progress, but just as any team may feel defeated at times, it only seems to make us all the more determined to succeed.
Having been a teacher under effective leadership, I know how the support and trust that offers can foster instructional innovations, team relationships, and an honest, daily effort to do what’s best for students. This also creates teachers who want to lead and collaborate with colleagues in order to build meaningful and engaging activities for students. This year, I had the opportunity to support a partnership that many others in my position know is important when fostering instructional technology pedagogy and andragogy leadership at the school level. That partnership brought together a visionary school leader with an outstanding instructional leader and coach and it’s created my idea of ed tech nirvana. I’m not taking credit for what has ensued, I simply facilitated the introductions, but I knew without a shadow of a doubt that the combination would be transformative. While writing that sentence I paused because I didn’t find that word to be powerful enough. I Googled (of course) synonyms and found the following definition for transformative on thesaurus.com: “power to change dramatically” and decided it fit perfectly. This morning I woke up to a blog post that made me jump up determined to write this. Believe me, that’s impressive motivation because having the time to write a blog entry is a luxury I don’t have. I tell everyone, “Yes, I blog- I micro-blog.” It’s my Twitter excuse and I’m sticking to it.
While both a great friend and colleague, Jaime Vandergrift has demonstrated and facilitated student and teacher success that offers confirmation equivalent to any ivy-league university’s best efforts. From the time she sent me photos of one of my dearest classroom teacher friends smiling from ear-to-ear after using an interactive whiteboard for instruction, to the blog entry I saw this morning, I honor and commend her success. Equally important has been her Principal’s support and unequivocal trust giving her the freedom to innovate for students and successfully lead her colleagues and co-workers.
To me, it’s a model for all schools within the district who see past the “one more thing to do” plague that stifles all of us. After all, it’s not one more thing to do- it’s one more example of what works. I’m more excited to see what happens next than I am at the possibility of a celebrity sighting.
You can follow Jaime and her Principal, Erinn Angelo (Sara Harp Minter Elementary) on Twitter: