Five years ago, I made the transition from classroom teacher to district administrator. Last year, I shared a four year reflection and it only seemed appropriate to share another annual reflection.
First, a summary of the action items I aspired to work towards last year around this time:
In no particular order...
Continue attending the quarterly area curriculum director meetings (Develop existing relationships and strengthen new ones)
I attended all four meetings this year in our area. During the first meeting, a fellow curriculum director had a familiar facial expression...one that I knew very well: a desire to change the world in one year, but not knowing exactly how to maneuver the paperwork and wade through the acronyms well enough in order to stay ahead. I invited this person to spend a few hours away from the office a few weeks later to share templates, ideas, success and struggles, and those other types of conversations about curriculum and assessment that curriculum directors get excited about! A new professional relationship was gained and others were strengthened through these meetings. My only regret is not following up with this rookie colleague more often to see how things are going on at her schools.
Seek out a leadership role in the area special education director meetings (Deeper learning in this area. Consider finding an informal mentor)
I failed in finding an informal mentor, however I successfully co-facilitated an area special education director meeting this spring. My co-facilitator and I have plans to continue these meetings next school year. Dates are on the calendar!
Spend several hours observing and reflecting with district administrators in a similar role around Iowa. (Establish a more formal learning community, face-to-face or virtual)
Major failure. We have a Google+ Community setup around teacher leadership, but it didn't happen. I appreciated the opportunities to network with district administrators around the state at the Iowa ASCD Curriculum Leadership Academy in April, however this was a one time event rather than an ongoing occurrence. I plan to volunteer at the Iowa ASCD Summer Conference at the new curriculum directors' breakfast in order to meet fellow directors from around the state.
Pursue central office academic literature describing validated practices of central office administrators.
Winner! The longer I work in this role, the more I am realizing I need to pour into principals so that they can pour into their teaching staff. As I think about the Iowa educational context, I see others around me in a similar role: central office administrators in school districts with 1100 to 2500 students who may or may not have been principals themselves, trying their best to support principals' instructional leadership in a non-evaluative way. Through an early educational database search, I have read over twenty-five studies. The urban central office administrators described in these studies typically play a dual role: supporting and evaluating site administrators. I have a hunch a gap may exist in the literature capturing the perspectives of folks like me: smaller district office administrators supporting principals' instructional leadership in a non-evaluative context. It may turn into a dissertation topic! Even if it doesn't, this academic literature exploration has been beneficial for me thus far.
Finally, I wanted publicly state how much I am excited for the upcoming school year. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and I'm grateful the administrative team has allowed me to grow during the past five years. Our superintendent is moving to a larger organization and I'm excited to learn under a new leader. I'm also jacked to work alongside our district's first instructional coach cadre. I've often felt my reach in the central office is limited in some areas. I believe the teachers a committee has selected for this cadre are all well qualified and eager to learn. I anticipate they'll push my often cautious outlook on systems change and I believe I'll look back one year from now and realize how little I really knew about instructional leadership.
On a somewhat unrelated note, I am thankful for a virtual friend of mine, Bill Ferriter, whose writing continually pushes me and most recently reminded me that blogging really does matter. #whyblog