EDU 6600: Communication and Collaboration–Week 3

Reflections on the Richness of Teamwork~

Throughout the course of this week, the readings and
discussions within Module 3: Adults as Learners– have caused me to recognize
the wealth of opportunities for teamwork I have had, and continue to have–in
the context of my school settings. The topics addressed have included
professional development efforts, adult learning, and various forms of coaching
relative to the teaching profession. I can personally speak to the importance
of strong leadership and to the richness of team experiences as they offer both
inspiration and renewal and are particularly necessary in a helping profession
that at times can be extremely exhausting as we endeavor to improve student
learning.

The article written by Joanna Michelson, entitled,
Filling a leadership vacuum, reminded me of an especially strenuous time period
in my career that caused me to wonder if I had “taken a wrong turn” somewhere
along the way. Even though the “vacuum” in my situation–created by an
administrator’s “fuzzy” leadership qualities–was not directly observable by
student, I believe that the effects of such leadership and her lack of being
fully “present” and attentive to our concerns as a staff– set an unsettling tone
for us as teachers. This in turn, detracted from our ability to fully provide
services to our students and their parents. Thankfully, this situation (including
her manner of operation) eventually improved, however, I must admit there was a
time when I identified with the sentiment expressed in the article, “Maybe I
should stop my work at this school. But if I stop trying to improve the school
culture — and students’ learning —who will take over? Who’s in charge here? Can
teachers reform a school without the principal’s (administrator’s) support?
(p.22).

Although my school does not have a formal coaching
program currently in operation, we are now in our third year of implementing
Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s). From my perspective, based on what I
observe within our special education team’s PLC, I would have to agree with the
findings cited within the Joyce and Showers article,  “Results of our early studies showed that
teachers who had a coaching relationship – that is, who shared aspects of teaching,
planned together, and pooled their experiences – practiced new skills and
strategies more frequently and applied them more appropriately than did their
counterparts who worked alone to expand their repertoires (p.3). Within this
team setting, I realize the truth of what Zepeda speaks of in chapter 5
regarding principles of adult learning. Specifically, “…adults seek knowledge
that applies to their current life situation; they want to know how this new
information will help them in their development, (p. 123).

Reading the various posts this week in our online class,
I have noted many references to situations where, “… teachers learn from one
another while planning instruction, developing support materials, watching one
another work with students, and thinking together about the impact of their
behavior on their students’ learning (Joyce and Showers, p.5).  Additionally, posts have reflected information
presented by Zepeda regarding how coaches can positively engage others in
conversations about teaching:  “Suspend
judgment…Listen more, speak less…Avoid trust blocking responses (such as):
Evaluating…Advice-giving…Topping…Diagnosing…Warning…Lecturing…Devaluing…” ( p.
190-191).

One again, although my personal experience with coaching
(both as a coach and the coached) continues to be informal, I can attest to the
statement that, “Effective coaches know the strengths and concerns of the
teachers they are working with, and effective coaches are able to keep in the
game of supporting the attainment of individual short and long-term learning
goals, (Zepeda, p. 165).

As authors Joyce and Showers note, “A skillful staff
development program results in a self-perpetuating process for change as well
as new knowledge and skills for teachers and increased learning for students.
(p. 7). Last week during our school’s leadership team meeting, our principal
passed out copies of a document which listed our school at the top of the list
of 10 neighboring high schools with regard to results on last spring’s state
assessments. Clearly, something is “working” within our building, and as a
large team of educators, we are inspired to continue moving forward to an even
brighter future.

References

Joyce, B. & Showers, B. Re-printed from Joyce, B. and
Showers, B. (1996) The Evolution of Peer Coaching. Educational Leadership, 53
(6): 12–16 https://learn.spu.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-697824-dt-content-rid-53590_1/courses/EDU6600_9479201121/JoyceandShowersarticle1.pdf

Michelson, J. (2007). Filling a leadership vacuum (page
20 in .pdf) CASE STUDIES @CSTP, Teacher to Leader, Dilemmas in Teacher
Leadership, Leadership Cases 2007

Zepeda, S. (2008). Professional Development: What Works.
New York: Eye on Education.Readings. (Ch. 3, 5, 7).

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Tracy Williams on October 21, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    Laurie, I think that this grabbed my attention the most ” the importance
    of strong leadership and to the richness of team experiences as they offer both
    inspiration and renewal and are particularly necessary in a helping profession
    that at times can be extremely exhausting as we endeavor to improve student
    learning.” You really captured the duality of leadership and “teamness” that aims for bringing out the best in everyone focused on student learning. It is great to hear how the texts match up with your experience.

    Reply

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