What Digital Leadership Means To Me (Being Connected)

Top-3-leadership-traits-5

I’ve been on an incredible journey for the past few years.  I have been scooped up and sucked into the magical vortex of being a truly connected educator.  This means that I’ve gotten my head out of the hypothetical sand that is ‘just my school’ or ‘just my district’ and I have made powerful, wonderful connections with brilliant and inspiring educators from all over the world.  I swear that there is not one DAY that goes by that I don’t tap into that treasure trove of knowledge.  Not one day.

Sometimes I just peruse the Twitter feed, bookmarking items of interest for later reading or just plain ‘liking’ various posts that make me think.  I receive notifications for certain people or organizations that I follow, and I search for hashtags that interest me at any particular moment.  I interact with interesting people, I continue conversations privately through direct messaging, I get further in-depth through incredible group Voxer conversations, I cherish opportunities to chat via Google Hangout, Skype, or appear.in……and I travel – sometimes far – for the beautiful opportunity to have face-to-face meet ups.

It turns out that that are so many more like me.  I swear, five years ago, I never would have known it.  I lived in a bubble, never knowing that there is a whole universe of educators who are reaching out to find others who want to learn, grow, work overtime, play overtime, create new learning opportunities, try new things, network, share ideas, share failures, ask for help,  go to workshops and conferences and meetups and hackathons and CoffeeEdus and edcamps on weekends – just for the fun of it!

I’ve found so many new friends who have given me a new hope for the future of education.  I’ve found optimists who eschew the negativity of the faculty lounge and the union meetings and who embrace the FUN that learning brings (for little kids and for us big kids, too!)   These are educators who aren’t ashamed to ask if they can borrow your innovative idea so that they can tweak it and make it their own ~ and they’re cool enough to mention you and give credit for the idea.  These are professionals who want to help each other grow, sharing opportunities like grants and conferences and proposals and contests…without secrecy, insecurity and competition.  These are innovators who say, “Look at this amazing thing I created.  I want you to have it, too.  Here, I’ll share it for free.”  These are my kind of people.  I’ve found my tribe.

15423148215_2a3e8cb41a_z

In the next few days, I’ll continue this post because getting connected and being connected was only the beginning for me.  It was the beginning of a true leadership journey.  The friends I have made, the knowledge I’ve gained, the network I still bow down to, and the confidence I’ve acquired have led me to places beyond my dreams.

*** In part 2, I’ll share highlights from one of my presentations called, “Take the Leadership Leap”

Thoughts on Collaborative Peer Coaching

I was recently asked to consider some advantages and disadvantages of the practice of peer coaching.  This is different from the subject-specific edu-coach model we hear so much about these days.  This isn’t a Literacy Coach, a Math Coach or a Tech Coach.  This is old-style, tried-and-true, perhaps forgotten, real, collaborative PEER coaching.  It has been said that peer coaching can become the heart of professional development. 

coaching-cartoon

Peer coaching is a professional development model in which pairs of teachers work together through initial discussions, classroom observations, and coaching meetings to refine specific areas of their teaching.  It is a model that has received much recognition over the past few decades, and is often celebrated in research.  All systems, however, have pros and cons, and teachers may or may not find peer coaching beneficial.  There are many factors to consider in order to determine if a coaching model is truly an effective means to change and enhance classroom teachings and practices of teachers for development of students.

Ultimately, the human component needs to be considered first.  The peer coaching model will presumably be most effective with teachers who are willing or at least semi-willing to engage in collegial pairings with the intention of improving their instruction.  In other words, choosing teachers who are receptive to change is paramount. Similarly, the way in which teachers are paired for these relationships is critical.  There needs to be such an extreme level of trust that allows for vulnerability, freedom from judgement, openness, and a sincere intent to improve instructional practices.  If these factors are in place and a well-constructed peer coaching pair has been established, I believe there is a tremendous opportunity for professional growth.

Joyce and Showers (1980) specified the process as :”two or more teachers who meet regularly for problem solving using planning, observation, feedback, and creative thinking for the development of a specific skill.”  Leadership authors Sullivan and Glanz state, “Through ongoing discussion of teaching and learning, curriculum development, and implementation, peer coaching can become the heart of professional development.”   In my opinion, all four of these authors paint an obvious picture which would result from the ideal peer coaching set-up.  Given the right teachers who have a choice in whether or not to participate and perhaps choice of their peer coaching partners, it seems to be the absolute epitome of what teaching should be.  I am an optimist, and I embrace models like this.  I strive for continuous self-improvement and want to keep learning, and I strive to surround myself with educators who share that mindset.  However, even I can imagine some of the pitfalls.

Given human nature, hurt feelings and jealousy can arise.  Insecurities may surface.  Competition can become an issue, and perhaps not in a healthy way.  As a matter of fact, most of the downfalls of a system like this have to do with negative human emotions.  I can’t think of any instructional down side, nor can I think of any negative impact on students.  The issue of finding time, sometimes professional release time, can be an issue, as it often is in education.

With robust administrative support, this is a model that could work beautifully in schools.  First, administrators would need to commit to establishing time and resources to make peer coaching possible.  They would need to guarantee teachers release time for peer and even larger group reflective discussion.    A good administrator would allow for some choice in the way the model is implemented and how the pairings take place.  A good administrator would initially present this is the most positive way, with assurance that it is not ‘observation’ and a celebration and accolades for those willing to try it.  A good administrator would be a cheerleader for this type of model.

Teachers helping teachers improve their craft through collegial reflective practice?  Isn’t that how it always should be?