Collaboration

Rationale

For the collaboration portion of my portfolio, I chose to include my philosophy of leadership and my interviews with Hardin County’s Instructional Supervisors.  My philosophy of leadership shows how I plan to collaborate with all stakeholders to create successful schools and districts in the future. In addition, I also explain how collaboration has brought me to the point in my career that I feel a calling to help teachers and students succeed on a grander scale than my classroom.  Through my coursework in this program, it has become clear that being a leader is not something a person can do alone.  Great leaders aren’t ones who make decisions without asking for input or ideas from their followers.  A great leader is a person who realizes that it is the collaboration with all stakeholders that makes a school or district succeed.

Philosophy of Leadership

Inspired by Seth Godin’s Tribes, my philosophy of educational leadership aligns with his six C’s: Challenge, Culture, Curiosity, Charisma, Communication, Commitment, and Connection.

Leadership is about not being satisfied with the way things are and knowing that there are always opportunities for improvement and innovation.  A person cannot be called a leader if they are not leading toward these improvements and goals. I am never satisfied with the way things are or have always been.  Even as a teacher, my job is to continually look for ways to improve teaching and learning in my classroom. Students are in a constant state of flux. They find new ways to communicate, connect, and become involved in their world with each passing day.  Therefore, teachers should change their teaching to meet students where they are. A leader is someone who sees the constant flux in the world and adapts accordingly.

“Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

Leaders cannot effect change if they do not have the support of their tribe.  Much of that support comes from having a shared and positive culture. Having had several leaders myself, and having seen the various types of culture these leaders foster, it is clear to me that people follow those who make them feel valued and necessary to the success of the school.  As a leader, it is my responsibility to cultivate that positive culture that makes schools successful. This includes involving members of my tribe in important decisions regarding change, soliciting ideas and suggestions about goals, and celebrating successes.

A leader also fosters relationships with everyone involved in the educational community.  These relationships include those with parents, teachers, businesses, and the community as a whole.  As the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Without the support of everyone in the community, the education of a child cannot reach its full potential.  Leaders should cultivate these relationships through positive communications such as celebrating teachers who set an example of innovative and meaningful student learning in their classrooms, hosting “meet the teacher” nights for parents, or asking local businesses to speak to students about future careers.  

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford

A leader never stops learning, and curiosity is the key trait that facilitates this life-long thirst for knowledge.  When a leader is faced with a problem, they must make a well-informed and intelligent decision, which is impossible to do without wide a base of knowledge and experience.  As a teacher, I read journals, blogs, tweets, and anything else I think will contribute to my knowledge so that I can stay current in any teaching and learning innovations that I can use in my classroom to promote more effective learning.  I attend conferences to gain knowledge and have conversations with fellow educators that will allow me to bring back new ideas and methods to my classroom.  

A leader has this same responsibility to know the most innovative methods and pass them on to teachers and other leaders.  Improving teaching and learning does not stop once a person leaves the classroom. If anything, the curiosity that drives knowledge is more important as a leader than in any other position in education.  Teachers have very little time to seek out new ideas regarding teaching, which is why it falls on the administrator to sift through the piles of research and shared experiences so that they may pass along the most relevant and innovative information to their teachers.

Although it’s never been said that I have natural charisma, per se, what I do have are passion and enthusiasm.  Leaders are excited about their passions, which, inevitably, gets others excited, too. This positive energy radiates from leaders and is soaked up by their tribe.  It is a simple concept, but being positive, passionate, and enthusiastic about improvement, innovation, and change makes others see those things as less of a burden.

A leader has a vision and wants to see that vision through to fruition, which is impossible without communication.  An idea, an innovation, a vision is nothing if it isn’t made known and acted upon. A vital role in communicating a vision is having clear goals, a clear mission, and a clear way of conveying them.  

As an educational leader, I commit to improving education for students.  Each decision made will be made based on the premise that it is best for students.  Determining what is best for students is more than just deciding, it is using research, experience, and data to truly determine what will most benefit student learning.  This is one aspect of being an educational leader that will never change. Leading is putting aside what one may want to do or what may be easy to do and doing what is right for students in every situation.  

Finally, leaders know how to connect people for the good of all.  When two people in two different schools have similar ideas, for example, they should connect to flesh out those ideas with conversations, brainstorming, and collaboration.  The most valuable and innovative ideas come from collaboration, from conversations, and from a collective goal and mission. It is a leader’s responsibility to find people who could benefit from connecting and help them connect.

Instructional Supervisor Interviews: Hardin County Schools Chief Academic Officer and Director of Secondary Curriculum and Instruction

I interviewed the Director of Secondary Curriculum and Instruction and Chief Academic Officer for Hardin County Schools on May 22, 2019 and May 29, 2019, respectively.  Hardin County School has approximately 14,100 students in grades pre-k to 12. 

 

FEMALE

MALE

AFRICAN AMERICAN

AMERICAN INDIAN OR ALASKA NATIVE

ASIAN

HISPANIC OR LATINO

NATIVE HAWAIIAN OR PACIFIC ISLANDER

TWO OR MORE RACES

WHITE (NON-HISPANIC)

MEMBERSHIP TOTAL

All Grades

6871

7229

2062

36

185

1145

89

1088

9495

14100

Director of Secondary Curriculum and Instruction 

The job duties for this position include keeping standards information and pacing guides up to date, creating teams to update pacing guides, observe teachers and administration to identify strengths and weaknesses, and providing one on one instructional help for teachers. These duties, thankfully are just what I imagined for this position.  By this description, I am more convinced that I want to pursue this career path. While I love teaching students, I believe I would better serve them at this point in my career and moving forward by helping their teachers be more effective in the classroom.

A duty that the supervisor discussed that is not “normal” for this position is the oversight of Perkins/CTE funding.  He felt that this duty should fall under finance, rather than instructional supervisor. However, he did concede that the job description is vague, so it comes down to what the Chief Academic Officer wants and needs.  Sometimes this includes overseeing tests, sometimes it includes “other stuff” as needed. I think this is typical for any job. There are always things that need to be done, and a good employee and team player will pick up the slack for the sake of the students.  I see this often with my own principal. He will cover classes, drive busses, and do whatever is needed to make sure students are getting the best education we can provide.

Chief Academic Officer

The CAO meets weekly or bi-weekly as an Instructional Service Department PLC to discuss curriculum, instruction, and assessment opportunities at each of the levels.  The discussions range from reading fluency and phonics initiatives at the primary level all the way to college and career readiness at the high school levels. They have placed an emphasis on foundational skills at the elementary level for reading, writing, and math so the students have the fundamentals they need to succeed not only in school, but also in life.  He says he wants ALL students to be productive members of society. After the interview, he sent a list of duties he is responsible for as Chief Academic Officer, which I have copied below.

“Oversees all aspects of ISD; supervises a staff of 8 directors and approximately 100 employees in the 8 areas; plan, create, analyze, and facilitate all aspects of the budget for the Instructional Services Department; budget oversight for department; facilitates and coordinates accreditation process (district wide); facilitates all aspects of ASSIST; coordinates, plans, develops, and ensures implementation of CDIP/CSIPs; coordinate achievement gap reports for district; facilitates instructional rounds at all levels through ISD directors; liaison for all issues related to high schools; disaggregate state test scores for schools and share with the public and Board; lead the CVC Committee for Special Education student identification and referral; facilitates the  selection process for Governor’s Scholars; liaison for dual credit and other opportunities with local universities; directs implementation and analysis of district-purchased programs including iRead, Math180, Apex, CERT (ACT Practice Program), ALEKS Algebra I Enrichment Program; spelling bee announcer; Parent Advisory Council co-presenter; serve as district representative on Certified Evaluation Appeals Committee; writes grants for district-wide improvement and enhancement activities and programs including Project Lead the Way and VEX Robotics; grant coordinator for VEX Robotics grant; coordinates district policy review process for curriculum, instruction, and assessment, including writing new policies/altering existing policies as needed; coordinates and presents at monthly Board meeting (Focus on Academics); coordinates district efforts with Confucius Institute (Chinese Program at the Middle School Level); facilitates creation of pacing guides and curriculum documents district-wide; analyzes and approves early graduation requests; leads district innovation work through the Innovation Lab Network for KDE; and leads and facilitates work of the Intensive Support Team to assist schools in need of improvement; works with Advance Kentucky to promote grant opportunities in our district in the areas of AP math, science, and computer science.”

I think the most interesting part of the CAO’s duties is that he is responsible for all levels of instruction in the district. I’m not sure how I would handle the responsibility of overseeing elementary level instruction with having a background in high school – specifically high school seniors.  My experience is about as far from elementary as is possible, so it is admirable that he is able to switch his thinking from one set of learners to another.

Director of Secondary Curriculum and Instruction 

One of the biggest challenges stated by the Director is that testing often takes control in education. Because of high pressure and high-stakes testing, schools, especially KSI and TSI, are frustrated.  The focus is drawn away from teaching the whole student and placed on teaching the test.  

He thinks administration are often too focused on KPrep.  His major issue with KPrep is that It doesn’t give feedback, just a score. MAP is his test of choice because it gives specific feedback that can be used to target a student’s needs. If a student isn’t ready for what we need to teach, we have to fill in the gaps, and MAP shows us those gaps. By using this kind of testing effectively, we stop wasting time for both students and teachers.  

Chief Academic Officer

  The CAO states that working in the sixth largest district in the state of Kentucky can certainly be a challenge because he services 23 facilities.  Therefore, one of the biggest barriers to effectiveness is communication. Because of this, getting everyone on the same page with the implementation of the mission and vision of the district is often a challenge.  The goal of the Instructional Services Department is to help break down these barriers and to be more active in all schools and at all levels. Being present in grade level and department PLCs has enabled him and his department to better understand the successful practices and processes that occur in the district.  

Better understanding of these practices and processes has given him the opportunity to share the district’s success  all stakeholders across the district. For example, social studies teachers at the high school level have come together to start working on the curriculum maps for the new standards.  They have also implemented an enrichment math program (ALEKS) for all Algebra I teachers in the district. These opportunities allow teachers from across the district to come together and work for a common goal so that all students can be successful.  One of the biggest successes he states is that schools and teachers are no longer working in isolation.

I know that communicating with everyone involved in any given project is difficult at times.  I am currently involved in a committee at KDE to write the new technology standards for the state.  Even with our small group, we sometimes have breakdowns in communication that cause problems and adversity.  I agree that clear communication and transparency is one of the keys to success in a position such as the Chief Academic Officer (among others).

Director of Secondary Curriculum and Instruction 

The director emphasized that the job isn’t to tell kids how to take a test. He said to maintain my moral compass, and remember that I am in this for students.  He said that he wants kids to learn, not to win an award or get a notch in his belt. He said to maintain that mentality, and despite all the bad stuff, it’s about the kids, not me/us. Keep the focus true.

Chief Academic Officer

The CAO gave me a list of things that he thinks are the key to success in his position.  They are as follows:

    • Be a great LISTENER.
    • Focus on COLLABORATION. 
    • Be VISIBLE.
    • Focus on PEOPLE and PROCESSES – not programs.
    • Be CONSISTENT.
    • Focus on RELATIONSHIPS.

I think this is solid advice, and I can see the merit in all of these points.  It seems as though they all go back to communication and relationships. I am all for transparency, so I think I have a good start on these points.  

All in all, these interviews were a perfect experience for me to truly discover what might be expected of me in an Instructional Supervisor position.  I honestly didn’t have a concrete idea of what such a position entailed until these interviews. I had only see job descriptions posted online, which we all know never tell the whole story.  I felt like I was able to get insight into the truth behind the titles by doing these interviews. I am resolved that I want to pursue a position as an Instructional Supervisor, and I just need to get my foot in the door!