Sunday, July 22, 2012

Lazy Days of Summer Are No More

I have had many interesting conversations since the wrap up of the school year, and some individuals think or believe since school is out of session that my workload has or will lighten for me professionally and for k-12 educators in general. I always laugh at these statements and share with these individuals that my summers are my busiest times for working with educators and administrators around the nation. And....some k-12 educators and administrators are working their hardest to make greater gains with professional technology literacy skill sets, learning new facilitation strategies incorporating blending learning best practices, and trying to stay on top of the demands coming at them from the state and federal government demands of the Common Core, PBIS, RtI, and the new Teacher evaluation process of the Danielson model- especially in the state of Wisconsin. 


The summer is my highest demand with working with k-12 schools to ignite and jump-start their new strategic plans and visionary technology infused initiatives. I really enjoy working with k-12 school's innovation collaborative teams with sharing success stories and resources of what is working well around the nation- but to also share with them what is not working and how to make immediate and lasting change. So many schools have brilliant ideas- but they just do not know where to get started. Their system-based approach, or leadership organizational structure, and/or action planning of deliverables- tied to target learning outcomes or an accountability factors appear to be in total disarray or completely missing.  I ask myself at times- how have some schools made great k-12 system changes with a total buy-in from all of its members, and where others are greatly struggling with even the simplest day-to-day activities? The answer lies in the leadership style.... and the instructional facilitation strategies and methods to empower all stakeholders.


But how do you get to this point? Even our most influential k-12 administrators leaders are missing the boat at times when it comes to the "facilitation strategies and methods to empower all stakeholders."  The top down approach and dictator of delegation does work well in education and in this day and age. A collaborative and professional learning community approach is best to "build the boat first with all of your trusty teammates" taking into consideration their identified strengths and weaknesses. Then setting your sails high for uncharted waters with "job embedded and specialty interests groups." By empowering your teammates with professional and collaborative learning tasks that have personal meaning and interests to them- and noting that it directly correlates and compliments with their job embedded performances- can make lasting and positive change. It can also contribute to some very smooth sailing of waters, but also more risk taking adventurous journeys to discover and explore new territory, while sharing and actively listening to more in-depth conversations with their teammates. 


When is the last time you as an educational leader posed a learning questioning scenario to your K-12 teammates to ponder, explore, discover and uncover multiple solutions to make change? What if you did this each time as part of your schedule professional development in-services with your k-12 staff? Empowering your staff to take ownership and provide an opportunity to share their critical voice in the positive lasting change in your k-12 strategic planning and new technology initiatives could lead to some monumental change and drive with your teammates. This initial setup modeled process does take time and trust on behalf of your staff and yourself as an instructional leader- but their will be overwheleming positive benefits for years to come. 


Here are six action steps to get you started that I share with administrative leaders regularly to empower their instructional leadership approaches within their PLC's, and to strengthen social collaborative teaming.


1. Model and setup social norms for safe and positive collaborative teaming adventures and discoveries.

● Listen respectfully.
● Discuss issues, not people.● Probe ideas; do not criticize philosophies.
● Show respect for online views of others.
● Avoid side conversations.
● Avoid use of mobile devices to check personal emails during dedicated teaming adventures and discoveries, but the tool can be used to locate and discover resources or new ideas.


2. Focus first on what meets the needs of the children we serve for all learning outcomes.  


3. Fostering shared leadership experiences for all learners in large groups and within "Dynamic Duos" of "Transformative Trios" as teams to empower meaningful conversation, curate their knowledge and shared collective wisdom from the group.


4. Action planning visual organizer: identify the problem to be solved, outline goals/objectives, targeted learning outcomes with embedded resources, individual teams responsible, and an active accountability timeline to share out progress, accomplishments or setbacks.


5. Shared collaborative online workspaces and backchannel chat reflection areas such as: Wiki, Google Site, TodaysMeet or a Backchannel for continuous communication streams, sharing of ideas/insights/resources/research and ongoing critical reflection of lessons learned.


6. Celebrations: Ongoing event from both small and large accomplishments from teaming adventures, discoveries made, job embedded transformations and successful strategic planning implementations.


Please feel free to share with me additional steps to strengthen these beginning an ongoing instructional approaches within a PLC environment, and to strengthen social collaborative teaming best practices. Would love to hear your thoughts and collective wisdom.


Naomi