Monday, February 19, 2018

Revisiting Vision and Mission

Over the past few weeks, my students and I have been exploring the importance of vision and mission in the context of school leadership. We've discussed how the vision clearly defines the school's sought after destination, as well as how the mission outlines the course the school plans to take to arrive at the vision. Additionally, we've outlined how the mission statement should serve as a guide for all decisions as we move towards our stated vision. We haven't broken any new ground through these explorations, however, I think we all have a better understanding and awareness of the importance of setting a vision and mission not only as school leaders, but also for other endeavors we decide to pursue. This is always a win in my book, no matter the topic we're engaged with studying.

Something did strike me, though, as we read through countless vision and mission statements that schools post to their web sites for public consumption. I was surprised by the number of vision and mission statements that seem to have passed their expiration dates, and it got me thinking about how often school leaders should consider revisiting these important statements. Schools are regularly told tasked with implementing new programs, revising procedures for addressing local and state mandates, and even changing how they respond to requests from school community members. Although all of these tasks make up just another day for a school leader, I'm curious about how many detours they require schools to take as they pursue their stated visions. When, if ever, might some of these detours require the school community to revisit its vision and mission? Should schools revisit vision and mission simultaneously, or should some of these course altering tasks be considered to rethink mission alone?

I'm interested in your thoughts, so please share how you think schools should revisit vision and mission. Thank you! 

Monday, August 1, 2016

School Culture and Classroom Walkthroughs

For some time now, I've considered the value of classroom walkthroughs for improving learning for all of our students. More recently, though, I've been thinking about the utility of the classroom walkthrough to positively influence school culture. As a complement to both the formal and informal classroom observations that occur in schools every day, the walkthrough can provide practitioners with more data to inform their practice. School leaders can then use these data to spark conversations and build trust with the instructional staff, as well as to focus on the many positive components of teaching and learning. I think classroom walkthrough data can have a substantial influence on positive school culture, working towards achieving school goals, and improving learning for all students.

In a recent paper, Garza, Ovando, and O'Doherty (2016) discuss two distinct approaches to the classroom walkthrough: Bureaucratic and Collaborative (you can access this paper here). To summarize, in the bureaucratic approach, the school leader conducts the classroom walkthrough independent of any input, shares the information, and directs the plan of action with the teaching staff. Conversely, in the collaborative approach, teachers work with school leaders to collect and analyze walkthrough data, reflect on their meaning, and develop plans for professional learning and growth. Based on my experiences as a school leader, I think both approaches to the classroom walkthrough have value in positively influencing school culture, working towards achieving school goals, and improving learning for all students.

I'm interested in your perspective, so please consider the following:

  1. Given these two distinct approaches to the classroom walkthrough, as well as the other issues related to the classroom walkthrough presented by Garza, Ovando, and O'Doherty (2016), do you think one lends itself to positively influence school culture more than the other?
  2. Can you foresee a specific school culture that might be better addressed by embracing the other approach to the classroom walkthrough? 
Please share your thoughts.

Garza, R., Ovando, M., & O'Doherty, A. (2016). Aspiring school leaders' perceptions of the walkthrough observation. International Journal of Educational Leadership Preparation, 11(1), 156-173.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Professional Learning: #PSCchat for 3/7/16

We had a great discussion about Professional Learning during last night's #PSCchat. You can review the archive here.

Some key takeaways from this chat include:

  • Twitter, edcamps, and blogs are "go-to" sources of Professional Learning for many. Professional conferences and school/district workshops are also useful opportunities to engage in Professional Learning. In addition to these, one of my personal "go-to" sources is Reflective Practice.
  • Many rely on modeling and engaging in conversations about Professional Learning opportunities as a means to get colleagues involved in more sustained learning. Several participants mentioned it is often difficult to get other educators to move beyond those required workshops/in-services. Digital badges was mentioned as one way to possibly motivate others to seek out additional learning opportunities beyond those required by schools.
  • Participants feel that more professional learning opportunities are needed with regard to the following topics: Poverty, Technology, LGBT issues, Differentiation, Guided Reading, Communication, Self-Harm, Suicide, Abuse. 
I believe it is our duty as educators to continually engage in Professional Learning to provide our students with quality experiences at school every day. As we grow professionally, we can improve learning for all of our students.
Please share your thoughts about Professional Learning to keep this conversation going.