Saturday, December 31, 2011

Learning (with our students) (Steve Guditus)

Our last day before the holiday break was a half-day.  These days-before-breaks have notoriously had a bad reputation, especially half-days, but when I walked the classrooms on Friday, December 23, I saw wonderful things happening.  Students were learning; students were celebrating learning; students were reflecting upon learning.  Too often schools are full-speed-ahead on the curriculum train that we forget the value of (and consequently do not share the value with students of) stopping to reflect and celebrate our learning, our performance and our goals.

Actively participating in education!
In one seventh grade teacher's classroom I entered, students were reflecting upon their September-through-December learning, and setting goals for the new year.  Instead of nodding and watching from afar, I took some colored pencils myself, and sat down elbow-to-elbow with students to complete the task with them.  Though such a small task (and one barely completed as I was soon walkie-talkied away to an emergency), I later reflected that participating first-hand in learning is essential to being an educator and a leader.  Recalling what it is like to be a student, first-hand, gives perspective, shows students you are human, and best of all, it is fun and exciting to learn in middle school!

Though only a 10 minute sliver of the day before the holiday break, this small exercise was a genuine reminder that I need to daily be an observer (see picture to the right) and active participant in learning.  Authentically seeing and participating in learning is important to me; we make time for the things that are priorities for us.  What will you allow your priorities to be in 2012?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Urgency of Instructional Leadership (Steve Guditus)

As part of leadership (especially in a school), many things can morph into being the most urgent.  I can find myself in my office, away from students, working on one most-urgent project, and then jump to another most-urgent project.  Before I know it, the day is over, and I've only had face time with students at lunch and dismissal...and multiple most-urgent projects are still to-be-finished.  It can be easy to be sucked into the black hole of building manager and it takes a constant revisiting of urgencies, reflection and priorities to strive toward being a true instructional leader in a school.

To this end, working towards being a true instructional leader in my school will require me to:
  • Reprioritize what is truly urgent in my day: learning and teaching.
  • Each day, schedule myself for one hour of closed-door, productive, focused work on truly urgent assignments.
  • Participate in learning throughout the school day.
  • Use my PLN to continue to be a lifelong learner: it is as much as the habit as it is the content.
  • Share important resources with staff to encourage life-long learning and direction.
  • Converse with staff about learning and teaching, in a face-to-face manner.
  • Have the courage to tell someone, "I cannot do that now, but I will get it to you by X."
  • Be present in the hallways during passing to provide feedback to students and receive feedback from staff.
  • Be always positive with staff, students and parents.  The words I use matter!
I must remember that my to-do list can wait, because the students cannot.  I mustn't only say that learning and teaching is a priority, but show that through my actions; by doing so, I will further my journey towards true instructional leadership.