As we work on wrapping up the school year, it is very easy to get mired in the details. Being busy can be a comfortable state of being. When I am busy, I don’t really need to think, I just need to DO. Sometimes, our heads can be burrowed so deep into our “to do” lists that years pass before we realize time has passed us by. Then we are left wondering why we do not have the time to have time to be the impactful leader that is on a trajectory toward our greater goals. There are some changes we can make to be sure we are not just staying busy, but that we are leveraging our leadership to be impactful.
Have you heard of the Pareto Principle? Also known as the 80/20 rule, the Pareto Principle means that in any situation, 20 percent of the inputs or activities are responsible for 80 percent of the outcomes or results. We know that rule can be applied to our school leadership roles. We know that the in the overall scheme of the day, we spent a large amount of time engaged in work that is not leading us to our larger priorities. If you closely evaluate your “to do” list, chances are just a few of the items are aligned to our greatest priorities. While it may give us a great sense of accomplishment to cross off those smaller tasks on our lists, the Pareto Principle tells us we should focus on the few larger items that will generate the most impactful results. Leadership experts tell us we should really only have a few priorities for each day and those become the filter for decisions we make and work we engage in. If we have 3 priorities, we have impact, if we have 25 priorities we have a mess.
I am sure you are saying, “I can’t take 80 percent of anything off of my to do list—it all has to be done!” An impactful leader does not operate from the premise that he has to do everything himself or even that he is the best person to do everything that needs to be done. He identifies the talents of those he works with and utilizes those staff to take leadership to those things they have the expertise to do well. You have people in your building who would excel at leading PLCs, organize school events, make presentations to the SBDM Council or Board, or lead committees, and even engage in collaborative coaching to help each other become more impactful. The impactful leader is not just delegating, but is identifying the talents of their staff and allowing them to apply those talents in their professional context. A busy leader operates from the mindset that they must do everything. An impactful leader operates from the mindsets that there are others who have strengths and talents that can be utilized so that he can focus on those greater priorities.
I encourage you to think about those 3 impactful priorities you need to do tomorrow and put those three things on your “to do” list and keep those 3 goals in front of you the whole day to prioritize what you do. For that lengthy “to do “ list, identify the staff that have the talents to lead that work and empower them to apply their strengths. These changes will help you get into classrooms, provide feedback to teachers, and utilize the leadership in your building to help you accomplish those 3 priorities with impact.
Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative and East Kentucky School Districts Leading a National Focus on Excellence in Education
The Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC) announced today, June 13th, 2016, that they have been awarded funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to advance ongoing work with 19 school districts in Eastern Kentucky, specifically in the area of supporting leadership development to implement college ready standards and effective instructional practices and strengthening understanding and design in assessment for learning to ensure students are college and career ready.
This opportunity marks yet another strong collaboration for KVEC and member school districts supporting teachers, leaders and students through the Appalachian Renaissance Initiative.
“This project advances the powerful work underway in our cooperative and our region’s school districts around two of the most important linchpins to innovation; leadership and student learning assessment. This collaboration will serve to propel the innovations underway in our education systems, not only in our region but across the state and beyond”, said KVEC Executive Director Dr. Jeff Hawkins.
This award will support the collaborative efforts and ongoing development of shared leadership teams within and across KVEC districts and continue work underway to play a contributing role in the state and national conversation about effective assessment.
KVEC and member school districts are excited to collaborate with vital partners in the continuing effort to build on existing strengths and talents to sustain effectiveness and create solutions for challenges facing the region.
The 19 districts served by the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative are: Breathitt County, Floyd County, Harlan County, Hazard Independent, Jackson Independent, Jenkins Independent, Johnson County, Knott County, Lee County, Leslie County, Letcher County, Magoffin County, Middlesboro Independent, Owsley County, Paintsville Independent, Perry County, Pike County, Pikeville Independent and Wolfe County.
More information about KVEC, member school districts and the Appalachian Renaissance Initiative can be found at www.kentuckyvalley.org or www.theholler.org
May and June are tough months for educators. How can we take what is normally a stressful, tiring time and Keep Calm and End Strong?!?
Focus on Teacher StrengthsAs you wrap up growth and effectiveness observations and feedback, focus on the strengths and talents of your staff. No matter how strong or struggling the teacher, the most impactful way to set the tone for thinking successfully about next year is to make sure you acknowledge specific talents and strengths so those can be built upon.
Identify Focus Areas for Next YearGive actionable feedback for any areas of growth so that teachers and staff can focus their efforts during their summer professional learning to improve their performance and their impact on students. The summer offers a great time for personalized professional learning and personal reflection, but this will only happen if teachers feel motivated and excited to do it. Even if you know where you want teachers to focus in order to improve, now is the time to give them ownership over their growth and learning so that it's meaningful for them and they're inspired to do it.
Clear the PathThis phrase comes from the book Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. Clearing the path is about removing as many barriers as possible so that an action or change is most likely to happen. In these final conversations with teachers, clearing the path is about thinking through the details of the teachers' next steps and removing barriers so that they can visualize these steps happening and articulate how they'll happen. Without this clear path to success summer break goes by quickly without accomplishing planned learning and actions.
Get Some Feedback for YOUFind out from the teachers you support what they appreciated about your support, what they wanted more of, and what they'd want to change. Have this conversation in a face-to-face meeting or through web-based surveys. This is mutually beneficial because it helps them identify what they need from a coach, and it helps you get insight into how to better support your teachers next year.
Celebrate Your Accomplishments
Celebrate your growth and make a list (or Facebook status!) listing at least 5 things that you have learned, achieved or done better this year (try tagging a few colleagues or teacher friends in your Facebook post to get a dialogue started). You might get some ideas from followers!
Those are a few possible ideas to Keep Calm and End Strong…I am sure you have some ideas of your own! I hope you have a restful and recharging summer and I will see you at the Leadership Institute!!
Kentucky, like many states, has adopted a new model of educator evaluation. This new model is grounded in the idea of encouraging educator growth based on a common framework. In Kentucky’s case, the framework is the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching. Kentucky’s system has a strong foundation of professional learning for the evaluators to ensure proficiency in identifying evidence of instruction aligned to the framework. The missing piece in this system is the support and training in how to provide the necessary coaching and feedback to move instructional strategies and effectiveness forward.
Feedback is not a grade or even advice
It has been my experience that when providing feedback, whether it be to a child or an adult, when the feedback contains a “grade” whether it be a letter grade, a performance level (novice, proficient, etc.) or even a smiley face, once the grade is given the receptiveness and interest in feedback ends. The same has been true in educator evaluation systems. The teacher just wants to know what the rating was. Am I “outstanding?” Did I get “all 5s?” These systems have had little room for feedback since the impetus is on the rating.
Feedback is also not advice. In an evidence-based system such as our state’s system which uses the Charlotte Danielson Framework, feedback can and should be be actual statements of what was observed. Feedback can then occur in a professional dialogue between the educator and the evaluator about what evidence was collected, where it falls in the Framework, and what the Framework tells us about next steps for continued growth and effectiveness. This is the type of feedback that moves practice forward. Much better than “good job” or “I would have put students in groups of two.”
Feedback, to be effective, must be actionable and transparent. This is probably the area where my feedback has most changed under our new system. In our small school, I would frequently give teachers what I thought was feedback about how they created respectful and welcoming environments for their students. I might even say, “It is obvious you love your students.” Actionable and transparent feedback to a teacher about the climate and culture of her class might be “The teacher greeted each student by name before class started” and “The students and teacher said “thank you” as homework was collected and graded assignments were passed back” or “The teacher knelt beside the student’s desk while answering a question.” These are all statements of actual evidence and give the teacher much more feedback about what was occurring in the classroom.
Evidence-based feedback opens the door and sets the stage for coaching
Coaching is meant to help us reach a goal. In order to reach a goal, we must have a clear vision of what that goal looks like and where we currently are in our ability to get there. When I played tennis in high school, my coach could tell me that in my last match, my first serve percentage was only thirty percent. This helped me see where I had a problem and it caused me to be more receptive to some intensive coaching on my serve during the next few practices. The same is true for instructional coaching. If my coach tells me that of the 25 questions I asked students in my social studies class, only 5 were at a cognitive level beyond knowledge/recall, then there is definitely something I can use some help on to increase the rigor of questioning and thinking in my classroom. Knowing I only asked 5 high level questions is much more actionable than feedback “you asked some good questions.”
Evidence-based feedback is very different feedback than most educators have been used to. Teachers are used to words such as “good job,” “effective use of technology,” or “I like the way you…” I am definitely NOT saying that we should not tell teachers they have done a good job, or that we like something they are doing. No one wants to work in an environment where they don’t receive praise when they do something well. I am saying that we have to give teachers the information they need to move their practice forward. I will use “Beverly” as an example. Beverly was probably the best teacher in the school where I was serving as School Improvement Specialist. She worked very hard to differentiate instruction and ensure all students felt successful in her class. When I would observe in her room, I would attempt to give her feedback. Words like “good”, “effective”, “excellent” and “nice” were common in my feedback to her. She would always follow my feedback with her question, “What can I do to improve?” I would flounder around a little bit and give her some trivial bit of advice for improvement. At the end of my tenure there, the district adopted the Charlotte Danielson Framework and I found myself being able to list specific evidence I saw in her instruction, we could look at where that evidence fell in the Framework, then together we could look ahead in the levels of the Framework to see what actions would move her practice forward. We then had a shared understanding of how I, as an instructional coach, could help her and we could track our specific evidence and data toward this improvement.
Not about a specific framework
I know I have mentioned the Charlotte Danielson Framework frequently in this post. What I hope is obvious is that you don’t have to use that SPECIFIC framework, but the key is a common, consistent framework that everyone knows and uses. I have worked with folks from other states who have used a Robert Marzano Framework, or a state-developed framework. The magic comes from the common and consistent use of the framework, not necessarily the instrument itself. However, I have drank the Danielson Kool-Aid and feel it is an awesome resource.
So, what’s the purpose of this post? Giving evidence-based feedback and being able to coach a teacher toward improvement is not an easy task. This is a skill that must be practiced and fine-tuned. It will be overwhelming to you and the teachers if you try to implement wide-scaled evidence based feedback to everyone around all aspects of their instruction. My advice is to choose an area that either the school feels is a “leverage point” that the entire school wants to focus on, or at least choose a leverage point for each teacher and focus your feedback around that area. Nothing can turn a person off faster than be bombarded with feedback that goes in a million different directions. Focused, actionable and transparent feedback will be a win-win for both teacher and evaluator.
The Appalachian Leadership Lab Design Fellows have been engaged in planning the "scope and sequence" of the work the future Appalachian Leadership Lab Fellows will engage in. As the Design Fellows have worked with experts such as Tom Murray with the Alliance for Excellent Education, Mike Rutherford with the Rutherford Learning Group, and Randy Wilhelm with Knowvation, three key guiding concepts keep emerging as the key elements leaders in education must keep their eye on to support not only improvement, but innovation in their districts and schools. Those three areas have been defined as Culture, Coaching, and Collaboration. The Design Fellows are engaged in identifying what is critical about those three areas, but more importantly, how future Lab participants can engage in discovery about innovation in those areas to move beyond what research and theory tells us and truly explore how change in these areas can impact success for every one of our students.
Design Fellows are moving beyond the cursory look at culture in our schools that we have typically been involved in "assessing" and improving and are truly examining innovative approaches to impacting the culture, climate, and learning environment that not only improves the success of our students but actually provides the conduit and stimuli for high levels of learning and application of learning in real life problems and scenarios. Of course, Design Fellows have embraced the notion that innovation is not going to occur in classrooms with straight rows of desks. Innovative Learning Spaces are a key element of our work. Design Fellows are not only redesigning their classroom spaces, but are also redesigning learning spaces in their schools including the library media centers, student common area,s and other spaces to provide places for students to engage in collaborative hands-on work, Design Fellows are leading professional learning in their schools and districts to help their colleagues redesign their learning spaces and provide more interactive learning spaces, more opportunities for collaboration and design, and higher levels of content application. Check out the Innovative Learning Spaces Holler on www.theholler.org to see more of the work going on with innovative learning spaces and classroom redesign. Culture does not stop with the physical design of the classroom. Design Fellows are exploring innovative ways that schools can improve their overall culture and how individual schools can work together to impact the overall district culture. Their learning and resources will be shared on this site and as part of regional convenings.
The Appalachian Leadership Lab is utilizing coaching in many different facets of our work. Current Design Fellows will extend their work with the Lab in future years as "coaches" to new Fellows who will be extending the cohort work of the Lab and as presenters and trainers in our regional work. They will continue to develop their capacity as leaders as they develop the capacity of those they work with. They are working with Mike Rutherford to develop their capacity as instructional coaches and to identify the processes and protocols that support effective coaching. Providing actionable feedback is a critical element of coaching and will be continuing work with Justin Baeder from The Principal Center to discover more efficient, effective ways of providing actionable feedback for real time support, innovation, and change. Design Fellows are also engaged in coaching each other as they tackle Leadership Design Challenges to solve problems within their own schools and districts. Building our capacity to support one another is one of our greatest challenges but will reap some of our greatest results.
No greater opportunity exists through the Appalachian Leadership Lab than that of Collaboration. From the very first day our Design Fellow cohort came together a culture of collaboration permeated all of our conversation and direction of our work. The unspoken, underlying question in all we do, is "How can we help each other?" This question has been taken back to the schools and districts and as Design Fellows provide clinical professional learning for their colleagues, as Design Fellows support and lift up future Fellows, and as we plan the work for the future of the Appalachian Leadership Lab, that question of how we can support and help each other to be the best we can be weaves our work.
Our future blog entries will highlight our specific work, but this post was necessary to understand the key areas of our work. As we work together as a cohort and also plan regional opportunities to support all leaders in our region, we are continuously looking at how we can impact and innovate culture, coaching and collaboration to ensure every single child in our schools and districts are provided the very best learning opportunities.
Over the past several decades, a new model of interdependence has emerged. Margaret Wheatley describes this approach as one in which "people organize together to accomplish more, not less" She goes on to note, "Behind every organizing impulse is the realization that by joining with others we can accomplish something important we could not accomplish alone."
The Appalachian Leadership Laboratory is a newly designed professional learning opportunity that will engage committed rural teacher leaders, principals and district administrators in an inquiry-based clinical approach to instructional problem solving for high quality, shared leadership. The Appalachian Leadership Laboratory is a project of the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative and Appalachian Renaissance Initiative (A Race to the Top District Grant Awardee). Appalachian Leadership Laboratory Fellows will be instructional leaders (classroom, school, district, regional and beyond), with a highly developed inquiry orientation to instructional problems of practice that lead their schools and districts through transformation and innovation. The first cohort of principal, teacher and district leaders (2015-2016) known as Design Fellows have been selected to not only be learners but to be an integral part of the design team for the innovative learning and results of the Appalachian Leadership Laboratory.
The Appalachian Leadership Laboratory will be the model of practitioner-developed clinical, job embedded professional learning that builds shared leadership capacity to support innovation in rural schools and districts.
To develop shared leadership capacity in individuals, schools, and school systems in eastern Kentucky (and beyond) empowering them to exceed rigorous student achievement standards and stakeholder expectations and move beyond improvement and transformation to innovation in their classrooms, schools, and districts.
Goals of the Appalachian Leadership Laboratory
Goals of the Appalachian Leadership Lab support its vision, mission, and core beliefs. The goals are:
If you are interested in being part of the Appalachian Leadership Laboratory for the 2016-2017 school year, use the contact form on this site to submit your name and notice of interest.