“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing…and the main thing is learning.” (Student Centered Leadership, 2011)
This quote describes our collective vision. We have all read it before. I believe that we are on the right track to continuously and collectively grow our district school board.
After thinking and reflecting after participating in the System Implementation and Monitoring Session and Pedagogical Leadership K-3 Session, I have even more confidence that our work is the right work for us. If we stay the course and do what we say we are going to do. If we continuously put the evidence of our learner’s thinking on the table, analyze it to deeply understand what they are thinking, and plan our next steps to move their thinking to the next level…and measure our impact. This is the essence of Responsive Instruction – one of our Conditions for Learning.
With time and commitment, we will embed this way of thinking as a habit of mind. We will move from theory to practice. We are “learning to do the work by doing the work, not by telling other people to do the work, not by having done the work at some time in the past, and not by hiring experts who can act as proxies for our knowledge about how to do the work” (City, et al.,2009). We cannot be told what effective practice/instruction looks like or sounds like; we need to construct this knowledge by engaging in the actual work. We know that “telling” model of learning does not permit this knowledge development to occur; if we “tell” we share our understanding of theory only.
I am confident that every formal leader in our organization understands this; thus we are at the Awareness Stage of Implementation. To move us to the Beginning Implementation Stage, (acknowledging that some of our leaders are actually at the Partial Stage of Implementation as they are in classrooms and responding to the learning daily), leaders have been challenged (and are being supported) in “trying to close gaps that exist between what we say we expect to be and with who we actually are.” Toshalis and Nakkula, (2012) refer to this as “behavioural drift” – the misalignment between what we say, do and value. We are asking ourselves these hard questions because we know that we need to increasingly become aware of this misalignment; as leaders our credibility is founded on the notion that we “practice what we preach” – that we model the practices that we want to see in every classroom. It is no longer enough to speak with educators about what effective instructional practices are; as school and district leaders, we need to show educators how to engage in these instructional practices.
We need to practice what we preach at every level of our organization. As a system lead, my reflections have told me (hence my problem of practice) that I need to formalize my analysis of the evidence of learning from Inquiries or PLCs that our schools share on our D2L site. This essential work is now booked into my calendar; Monday Morning Monitoring Conversations will begin with two – 30 minute, evidence focused conversations. We will run a six week cycle; thus every six weeks each school leader and I will share in the evidence, engage in collective analysis, monitor the responsiveness – and then I will use this information to plan my work. Let’s see how it goes by measuring impact on the precision of the school improvement work. I am hopeful that this level of monitoring with my colleagues will serve as a model that can be transferred into the schools; I know that I will have to name my actions in order to make them explicit.
If we know that true learning (a permanent change in thinking and behaviour that Katz taught us) comes from practicing, then we need to be working directly with learners. It is about what leaders actually do, the practices that they implement that will make the change; we need to be aware that this is making sure that our actions and messages are consistent with one another. “The more leaders focus their relationships, their work, and their learning on the core business of teaching and learning, the greater will be their influence on student outcomes.” (Robinson, 2011) There are no shortcuts to making change occur. But I know that if we do what we say we are going to do, growth will continue.
How are you moving theory to practice with your learners? What are you modelling?