EDU 6600 Communication and Collaboration Introduction and Self-Assessment

While reading this week’s article by Stephanie Hirsch and Shirley Hard, entitled, Building Hope, Giving Affirmation, I appreciated the focus on “the link between social justice and professional learning…” (p. 11).  Having been a teacher in the same district throughout three decades, I have experienced common situations as described by the authors– “Well intentioned teachers can be committed to great teaching, and still the beliefs, habits, and strategies they have adopted over the years may work against them”, (p. 11).  Thankfully, in the context of my interactions with others within my school and district as we work together to creatively solve problems, I can also identify with the statement, “Under the best of circumstances, school wide staff learning promotes collaboration, joint responsibility, and implementation of a compelling vision for teacher and students performance” (p. 12).  With my school now in its second year of working in Professional Learning Communities, I am looking forward to times of continued, productive work together as our staff serves the students in our care.

I also found the reading of chapter 25 in our text, Teacher Leadership, edited by Eleanor Blair Hilty, to be a bit of a “trip down memory lane” as it described the many changes in teacher leadership of the past—with particular emphasis on the last twenty years.  During my initial years as a teacher in the early 1980’s leadership was indeed “focused on the principal or the superintendent” (p. 265), however, soon gave rise to, “Opportunities for teacher leadership…in the form of career ladder and mentor teacher programs, the appointment of master and lead teachers and policies to decentralize and involve teachers in school-and district-level decision making, (p. 266).  Now, we have moved beyond the “teacher leadership initiatives of the 1980s and early 1990s…(with its definite) limitations of the teacher as ‘heroic leader’, (p. 278), to what I perceive as a much more enjoyable venture working in the context of professional learning communities.

The many of the benefits of professional learning communities are described in the article posted in Blackboard, entitled, Collaboration Skills. Of particular note and importance to me personally, was the statement, “Effective professional development provides adequate time for teachers to acquire, practice, and reflect on new concepts and skills as well as time to collaborate and interact with peers” (Abdal-Haqq, 1996). It is with gratitude that I share that this year– my district has managed to create a schedule which includes a weekly early release for all schools. So, each Wednesday afternoon, the buses arrive an hour early to take students home. During this “protected” time–each PLC group meets. Last year, before the district supported us in this manner, our high school created altered bell schedules—carving out time for two weekly student tutorials (one hour each—on Tuesday and Thursday mornings). Half of the staff provided coverage for the tutorials each Tuesday, while the other half of the staff met in PLCs. On Thursday, the staff switched roles—allowing the remaining staff to meet together in teams. We are only three weeks into the new schedule—but it already “feels” better. Personally, I am encouraged by the district support and presume others share my perspective.

Since the acquisition of my undergraduate degrees in 1981, I have taken numerous courses and workshops pertaining to my position as a high school special education teacher, however, many of my richest learning experiences have been gained through positive interactions with my colleagues. I heartily agree with Susan Scott, author of, How Conversations Can Change Educators’ and Students’ Lives, when she states, “If you want to become a great teacher, a great leader, gain the capacity to connect with students and colleagues at a deep level…” (p. 54).

I am looking forward to increasing my learning and experiences throughout the process of earning my Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction at Seattle Pacific University.

References

Hilty, E.B. (2011). Exploring new approaches to teacher leadership for school improvement. In E.B. Hilty (Ed.), Teacher leadership: The “new” foundations of teacher education (pp. 265-282). New York, New York: Peter Lang.

Hirsch, S., & Hord, S. (2010). Building hope, giving affirmation: Learning communities that address social justice issues bring equity to the classroom. Journal of Staff Development, 31(4), 10-12, 14, 16-17.

Scott, S. (2009). How conversations can change educators’ and students’ lives. Journal of Staff Development, 30 (3), 53-54.

Collaboration Skills, http://www.learningforward.org/standards/collaborationskills.cfm

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