Leadership Teams - Steve Barkley

Leadership Teams

A blog on the Gates’ Foundation website explores 4 Ways that Leadership Teams Create Conditions for Success in Schools.  Here are the four with some of my thoughts and observations:

#1 Strong leadership teams enable teachers to work with their peers and focus on improvement rather than evaluation

I have written and spoken often about the value in seeing teaching as a team sport and a public act. The complexity of the desired student learning outcomes that we seek requires teachers’ collaborative effort and responsibility. Science teachers need to be able to provide instructional feedback on student written work that includes the development of writing skills. I believe that necessitates some time where English and Science teachers are examining student work together.

Teaching standards in subject isolation provides very few opportunities to develop the skills of creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration. Quality project based learning requires teachers collaborating for students to work through the lens of several content areas at the same time.

Teachers who have spent a year working with a student, knowing a student, should be involved with the next year’s teacher in goal setting and strategizing to maximize a student’s success. I have worked with several elementary schools that structure vertical meetings throughout the year for this purpose.

This teamwork requires trust which I believe is best built by increasing the peer coaching opportunities within the school. As teachers see each other work with students and see student results, the confidence in their colleague’s commitment to student learning is established.

#2 Strong leadership teams involve teachers in decisions about curriculum, assessment, instruction, and professional learning 

If teachers are to commit to the hard work of PLC’s they must know that they are empowered to learn what they need to do to support student learning and be able to implement their learning for gaining student success. If teachers believe that they attend PLCs to carry out work designed and assigned by others, real impact on student learning is unlikely to happen.

Consider the degree to which your PLC’s are engaged in implementing, facilitating, collaborating, or innovating. Teacher motivation and commitment increases as they engage more in innovating. What responsibility do you as a school leader have in increasing teachers’ participation in collaboration and innovation?

#3 Strong leadership teams engage families and communities

What do you identify as a vision of engaging families and communities? The Gates Foundation article states, “When leaders reach out to the community—and especially parents—to involve them in the day-to-day life of the school, these community members and parents are more likely to support teachers and students and help them succeed.”

I believe that parent and community members must be engaged similarly to my description above for empowered teachers. The schools work with them must be empowering by being collaborative and innovative. One -way communication going out from the schools is not engagement. Parents and community must believe that their involvement helps shape the school improving the outcomes for all learners.

Connecting the home and the school in a culture of learning not only enhances the skills of students and parents,
but also 
positive relationships between the parent and teacher.

Handbook on Family and Community Engagement

Consider this example of bringing community into your classroom, shared in an ASCD express post titled, Helping Students Imagine What They Can Become by Bernadette Grace.

Last year, we brought perspectives and experiences from more than 65 people into our classroom through a letter-writing campaign inviting adults from all professions to send us pictures of themselves in 3rd grade and then tell us a bit about their lives as accomplished adults. We populated a bulletin board with the participants’ submissions under the heading “Be Who You Are—Imagine What You Can Become.” We heard from the likes of Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, Pittsburgh Diocese Bishop David Zubik, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, CBS News broadcaster Bob Schieffer, former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and dozens of local entrepreneurs, engineers, newscasters, politicians, civic leaders, business executives, military personnel, sports figures, scientists, and medical and educational professionals, just to name a few. The students were amazed to learn that their career possibilities are endless.

 Several local professionals accepted our follow-up invitation to speak directly to our class. Guests read their favorite books and told stories about their careers.

Technology should increase the opportunities for school and community to engage collaboratively in providing learning opportunities for students.

#4 Strong leadership teams create a safe, nurturing learning environment for students.

It is important that schools frequently consider how they define safe and nurturing.  What does physical and emotional safety look and sound like to your students and your staff? To what extent does nurturing include challenging? How does the leadership team collect data to assess safe and nurturing?

A video, 5 Keys to Social and Emotional Learning Success. identifies students building skills in:

  • Self- Awareness
  • Self- Management
  • Social Awareness
  • Relationships
  • Responsible Decision Making

Consider watching the video with your team and exploring implications for your students.

What are the areas of focus for your leadership team to further impact your students’ success.

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