EDU 6600: Communication and Collaboration

EDU 6600: Module 2

How do you see
teacher leadership emerging around improving student learning?  Where have issues of resistance
appeared?  What aspect of the research
bolsters you to move forward?

Throughout the week, I have appreciated reading the postings of other students in this course. It has been encouraging to hear of the positive interactions and collaboration taking place in the districts represented within this class—even in the midst of the budget challenges. Additionally, while reading and responding to one of the posts this week, I was reminded of situation which required tremendous courage a few years ago—involving intervening within our department when communication was less than optimal. Over time, the risk-taking communication required—was beneficial for all.

While listening to this week’s screencasts and reading the
assigned chapters and articles, I could not help but reflect on how fortunate I
am to be part of a school district which actively and strategically implements
what I believe to be a successful “service delivery model” for professional
development. Certainly, like most districts during this time of budget crises,
we have our significant challenges to contend with, however, I am particularly
thankful for new commitment our district has made this year to teachers by
supporting a K-12 weekly early release day.
Each Wednesday, students throughout the district are released one hour
early to allow time for previously formed Professional Learning Community (PLC)
teams to meet together for purposes of collaboration.

Within my high school setting, I see teacher leadership emerging around improving student learning
in a variety of levels including, teacher teams organized at the
departmental/curriculum level as well as in geographical teams.

In my particular department, I believe our team of four
special education teachers would all agree with Zepeda’s statements in in her
book, Professional Development: What Works: “Feasibility….Teachers want to know
if they are making progress toward the end-goal, and teachers need to feel a
sense that what they are being asked to do makes sense—that the work is
doable—that they can achieve what they set out to do (p.4). In keeping with our
school’s improvement plan, we have created “power standards” for each student
with an Individual Education Program (IEP) and have woven these into their
individual academic goals. Additionally, we continue to craft quarterly,
formative student assessments, which we analyze and evaluate together as a
team, allowing us to experience what Zepada describes: “When teachers examine
student work together, they can share ideas, approaches, and instructional
materials; they can co-develop curricular materials and they can make
comparisons about which materials or approaches appeared to work (p.10).

Geographically, our school is divided into four “pods” which
are designed in such a way as to allow 9th and 10th
graders to have their “core” classes of English, math, science, and social
studies—with the same team of teachers. The teacher leaders for each pod meet
regularly to discuss any needed issues related to the “nuts and bolts” of our
day-to-day operations of our school at the classroom level–however, their primary
purpose is to actively “lead” at a level that is as close as possible to the
needs of students. The pod leaders—and the other teachers within each pod—are
obviously the same teachers who serve as the general education teacher within
each student’s IEP team. Naturally, there is a built-in expectation and
mechanism for collaboration between general and special educators—with the
common goal(s) centered on improving student learning.

I must say that by nature, I tend to be a bit
“PollyAnnish”—(looking at situations optimistically, for those of you
“youngsters” in this course who may have no idea who PollyAnna was!)—so my reflections
on this week’s readings (in relationship to practices within my district) may
not entirely match those that my teaching colleagues might write.  Issues
of resistance that I currently observe in my setting are related to “lack of
sufficient time” and “redundancy of tasks”.
The very nature of a special
educator’s job involves—student goals (and data), student objectives (and
data), evaluation of student progress (and data) as well as collaboration and teamwork
(and data)—and did I mention data? Our team is continuing to experience the
addition of state and federal requirements related to documentation along every
step of the way in the IEP process. Many of these requirements relate to the
same and requirements of our PLC work.

My goal as the curriculum leader for our department is to
facilitate our weekly team discussions and dovetail or blend these
expectations– from both IEP and PLC perspectives– in a manner which provides collective
encouragement to my team, as we together work with students and aim for meeting
our school improvement goals. Unfortunately, a “resistance issue” which directly impacts my at a very personal
level is that for the first time in my memory, as a veteran teacher of thirty
years—the district has completely cut the stipends for individuals serving as
leadership team members and curriculum leaders. I currently serve my school in
both of these positions.  The dilemma, of
course, involves time. How much additional time am I expected to continue to
give—outside my school day?—and still reserve time for my family and time
necessary to engage as a full-time graduate student?  (The flip side of a “dedicated teacher” in my
case can be a “compulsive workaholic”. Having lived through burn-out in past
years, this issue is a very real occupational hazard that I must guard
against.) The Teacher Leadership Skills Framework article supports this notion:
“The natural curiosity of teacher leaders makes them life-long learners who are
open to new experiences and challenges. Juggling many important and personal
roles, they effectively prioritize their work to maintain a sense of balance
(p.1).

The aspect of
research that bolsters me to move forward
is as follows:

Hilty states, “Leadership in public education is a matter of
guiding a community to realize its potential to do the best job it can for its
children. There are many priorities but only limited resources with which to
succeed….(p.100). My experience continues to lead me to believe that what I read
in this course is supported by current research.  As Zepada describes, “…relationships with
others, builds cohesion and this “connective leadership” is what will help to
bind people and their values to the work they do in the process of working with
one another (Zepada, p.23). It is in the context of a collaborative team that I
continue to find encouragement to persevere on behalf of my students.

Hilty, E. (2011) Teacher Leadership: The “new” foundations
of teacher education. New York: Peter Lang.

Zepeda, S. (2008). Professional Development: What Works. New
York: Eye on Education.

Teacher Leadership Skills Framework: pdf retrieved October
5, 2011 from https://learn.spu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_60188_1%26url%3D

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