We made a huge leap today in my school with the administrative team (as in tech director, headmaster, and me) deciding that it’s time to place a Chromebook in the hands of every one of our students in the middle school. That means that any student will have access to the Internet, Google apps for Ed, and all of our digital programming moving forward. While not a true 1:1 environment, students will pick up their device in the morning and utilize it throughout the day with teacher direction. We will now have the means to be intentional with our tech integration – helping kids learn to act with integrity online while discovering the educational value of a connected device.

However, we will remain focused that the goal here is access to information, not simply tech usage. Students will be able to research faster and connect to each other quicker. Laptops will continue to be a supplement, not a principle tool, to learning. Our commitment to intelligent dialogue and hands-on learning will not waiver.

Can you tell I’m a bit excited?

Instructional Leadership Challenge

As I brainstorm for ways to improve (actually, to initialize) my online presence via discussions and reflections, I have been trolling through my PLN Twitter feeds only to come across a very interesting 21-day program: The Instructional Leadership Challenge. ILC is a free online resource for anyone in a instructional leadership position who may have an impact or influence on other teachers with regard to instructional practices. Naturally, I “clicked here” and found myself starting the program. Here is my day one reflection:

Day How do I facilitate good instruction in my school?

First Truth: IL must be more than holding teachers accountable.
Second Truth: IL is more than simply observations or even “walk-throughs.”

My take on Instructional Leadership might be a bit twisted. To explain this, allow me to introduce you to my leadership role:

I am a middle school head finishing his sophomore year of leadership. My position serves grades 6-8 in a K-12 academic environment. The challenge given to me upon my hiring was to develop a centralized middle school identity. We have incredible teachers, and these classroom leaders had built an incredible learning environment. Imagine many smaller ships traveling together, though not always. My job was to bring us all together, turning many small ships into one, dynamic (and extremely fun) cruise ship. Using our school mission as the vessel, we would travel in the same direction and under the same mission-driven goals.

Ok, so back to the reflection. I see IL as a means to challenge faculty. I see the need for classroom observations both as a motivating tool and as a symbol of my appreciation for the incredible work teachers accomplish every day. Someone once told me that I should be able to observe 10% of the faculty every day. That is a TALL order for someone who is in charge of scheduling, admissions, discipline/remediation, parent meetings, and all those pesky brush fires that pop up throughout the day. But it’s a goal that I want to achieve in my third year as principal.

IL must go far beyond the simple observation or walk-through. My observation plan often includes a pre-observation self-assessment by the teacher, a narrative report on the observation itself, and a post-assessment meeting. This meeting sets challenges while it provides time to brainstorm new and old ideas. As of right now, I do not have a follow-up protocol in place. That is something I need to add.

I see instructional leadership differently than I did two years ago. When I started, I didn’t want to change the way a teacher in my school “did his/her job,” because I wanted to assume they were all doing spectacular work, all of the time. I still believe the latter to be true. However, the moment we stop trying to improve is the moment we need to stop working all together. I believe that is my focal point for IL – I need to facilitate and motivate the overall improvement of the workforce in my school. This is what families expect. Personally speaking, this motivation will help me reach our mission-driven vision.