“Transformational leaders create the right environment and seek to critically understand the needs of the organization and motivate others to work together to collaboratively meet those needs.” – Time for Change: 4 Essential Skills for Transformational School and District Leaders by Anthony Muhammad & Luis F. Cruz
Change and innovation are two words that are an integral part of the Principals’ Institute. As a member of cohort 8, these two words were at the forefront of our learning experiences and at the core of my transformation target. I would like to share how these two words continue to guide me as a campus leader.
Change. As a campus, we spend a great deal of time reflecting on our current reality and where we want to be as a learning organization. We have open dialogue about what is working and what isn’t working to meet the needs of our learners and families. We strategically abandoned some practices, phased out some practices and replaced them with structures and processed that help us move toward our target. This included protected time during the school day for educators to collaboratively plan, dedicated time for intervention and enrichment, intentional professional learning, timely and targeted response to intervention, and vertical planning for core content areas. Leadership is a verb, and change can be difficult; so it is important to develop your why as a campus and constantly revisit your why and align it to your campus goals. We truly embrace learning by doing and collective responsibility for problem-solving. Effective leaders have a balance of assertiveness and the ability to build leadership capacity in others to led the change process.
Innovation. As public schools, we can sometimes feel bound by laws, policies, procedures, and standardized testing. However, the key is to generate collective responsibility for problem-solving and developing innovative solutions. We will often look at a practice and think about how to make it better. For example, we have identified the need to build capacity in our parents for social and emotional learning. I posed one question to my instructional leadership team: What do our parent need to know? I posed a similar question to parents: What do you need to know from your administrators and teachers? As a result of collectively problem-solving this one question, we have implemented a parent book study series and a parent academy. Our parent academy will be conference style; where parents attend sessions based on their interests and needs. We will offer sessions about core content, and well as social and emotional learning topics. Our parents had the opportunity to participate in two book studies: Teach Your Children Well: Why Values and Coping Skills Matter More Than Grades, Trophies, and Fat Envelopes by Madeline Levine, and The Gift of Failure; How The Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed by Jessica Lahey. We were asked to productize our parent book study initiative and present it to our district Strategic Design Advocacy Committee. This is just one example of how collective responsibility can translate in to new, innovative ideas. (I’ve curated resources here for any principal interested in our journey with parent book studies or looking to implement book studies on their campus.)
When I think about change and innovation; I think about problem-solving through multiple perspectives, building leadership capacity in others, creating a new path, and “leading within the box” (as Roz Keck describes). Our kids deserve it!