This year has been an interesting one for me in that I feel that I have done more learning than I have done leading. Our focus has been on engaging students as readers and I have tried to read and understand as much as I can on this topic. Everything I have read has only confirmed for me what I have always known. Teachers are the experts. It is their tireless efforts to figure things out that has the greatest impact on students. When teachers start asking questions I need to listen and be prepared to push my sleeves up and help look for answers. For some time now our teachers have been asking why we use certain resources and why we have stayed with certain approaches to teach our students. Those questions are never easy to answer sometimes I don’t know. Although the answer is honest, it isn’t very helpful for the person who is looking for direction. People are asking because somehow they can no longer make sense of their approach to teaching and want to do better. I need to be prepared for this type of question and help sort through the muddle so that the end result is our students are better served.
Justin Tarte is someone I have come to follow on Twitter. He often shares words of wisdom about leadership and a recent tweet that resonated was the suggestion that asking someone what they think can be one of the best questions you can ask. I have used that question, not because I felt it was such a good question, but because it matters to me what people think. When I can hear people’s thoughts it is easier for me to make connections and to help make sense out of situations that appear troubling or challenging. It also helps me identify flaws in my own thinking which is so helpful for my own personal growth. However, his suggestion also reminds me that I need to intentionally ask this question because it includes the voices of everyone in the work we do.
This year I have worked with a talented team of teachers to explore how using SMART goals can have a positive impact on teaching behaviour. The team meets approximately once a month and the conversations they had have are incredible. The depth of understanding they have for their own practice, and the desire they possess to improve is motivating for me. We created an Edmodo group to track conversations and share ideas and documents. This has resulted in some significant change occurring in their classrooms. These teachers are challenging how literacy has been taught at our campus by carefully examining research and observations about their own practice. When this group of educators started they wondered why we assess students’ reading the way we do. They wondered why we stuck so closely to a resource when other literature was more suitable. They wondered how to manage a classroom where students were doing different things at different times. All of these wonderings were legitimate and deserved further investigation. I didn’t need to provide the answer, I needed to find out what they thought and boy did they let me know what they thought. Together we have puzzled our way through a year that has led to more questions than answers. It has certainly inspired me and I hope that it has given inspiration to them. Leading isn’t about knowing the answers, leading is about asking the questions, and then delving with people to find the answers. That’s exciting work and I am glad I signed up for it.