3D School Leadership
As we enter 2013, teachers and administrators will reflect on the school’s existing strengths and weaknesses. High performing schools ask questions such as, “Which students are struggling? What will we do to support them in 2013?” New Year’s Day is a time when people around the world establish new personal and team goals. Among the most common personal goals are weight loss, financial goals, spending time with those you love, and volunteerism. How can school leaders capitalize on this transition from 2012 to 2013? How can goals drive the work of teachers and schools?
New Year’s goals and resolutions are shattered annually. In some cases, creating a goal on New Year’s Day is a ritual and follow-through is an afterthought. If school leaders want to move their students and staff to the next level, then they need to adopt a 3D School Leadership mindset. 3D School Leadership includes Direction, Differentiation, and Dedication.
A precursor to improvement is a clear understanding of the goal. Educators often enter a new year and don’t pause to reflect on the current reality (i.e., Where are we? Where are we going? How will we get there?). Blanchard (2007) contends, “Goal setting is the single most powerful motivational tool in a leader’s toolkit” (p. 150). A school without clearly defined goals is like a ship without a rudder; it lacks direction and a slight wind could easily blow it off course (Wiles, 2009).
School leaders often boast that they have a mission and vision statement framed in the front office. While there is a time and a place for mission and vision, 3D Leadership defines the ‘What’ and the ‘How’. What are we going to commit to as a school staff between January and June 2013? How will the direction of the school impact our grade level/course? Based on my teaching assignment or administrator role, how can I help the team stay on course in 2013? DuFour, DuFour, & Eaker (2008) wrote, “One of the most pressing questions a school must consider as it attempts to build the collaborative culture of a PLC is not, ‘Do we collaborate?’ but rather, ‘What do we collaborate about?’” (p. 28). A lack of clarity on intended results is a barrier to growth and continuous improvement in most schools. When teachers and staff return in 2013, revisit the school’s direction.
If you have been in a faculty meeting, participated in a webinar, or served on a School Improvement Team, it is likely that someone has offered differentiation as a strategy for supporting student achievement. 3D School Leadership emphasizes differentiation for students, families and staff. A one-size fits all approach to education is not going to work any better in 2013 than it did in 2012. Differentiated instruction, assignments, and assessments will increase student engagement and achievement. Tomlinson, Brimijoin, and Narvaez (2008) highlighted the non-negotiables of differentiation: “respecting individuals, owning student success, building community, providing high-quality curriculum, assessing to inform instruction, implementing flexible classroom routines, creating varied avenues to learning, and sharing responsibility for teaching and learning” (p. 3).
How can a school leader differentiate for families? In 2013, a 3D School Leader can provide communication to families through Facebook, Twitter, Email, Phone Messages, Blog, and the traditional newsletter. If you are not reaching all of your families through existing communication strategies, you may benefit from a differentiated communication plan. Another way to involve families in school events is online through surveys, responses to social media posts, and a Twitter Chat with a unique hashtag. You may find that families are more involved in the school when they have a voice in determining the events at Open House, PTA meetings, and school events. Utilize a differentiated approach in 2013 and see if you are able to reach more families.
One final focus of the 3D School Leader will be differentiation with staff. Flipping the Faculty meeting, meeting individually with grade level teams, creating a school discussion thread or corkboard.me, and encouraging teachers to lead professional development are a few strategies for differentiation with school staff. You may be surprised with the results!
It is difficult to find classroom teachers who aren’t dedicated to their students. I am amazed by the time, creativity, and teacher leadership that I see on a daily basis. 3D School Leadership requires the entire staff to dedicate their time, talent, and efforts to the school’s goals. Classroom goals should be aligned to the school’s goals. In education, it is easy to focus on my class and my students. 3D School Leadership will embrace the abilities of each staff member and use their strengths to support school goals. One strategy for increasing dedication is for each grade level team, or course (at the high school level), to develop S.M.A.R.T. Goals. A template for developing S.M.A.R.T. goals is available at All Things PLC.
Increase the number of students who graduate College and Career Ready
Increase the number of students who are reading on grade level
Support my co-workers in implementing the Common Core State Standards
The S.M.A.R.T. goal template will help your team become dedicated to the goal, rather than having an awareness of the goal. Use your collective skills and abilities to make a difference in 2013.
3D School Leadership is more than establishing goals or identifying existing weaknesses. Once teachers and administrators embrace 3D School Leadership, they will begin to move in the right direction. Too often, schools approach goal setting like many individuals approach New Year’s Resolutions. Purchasing a gym membership, buying an alarm clock, reading a motivational author, and using a day planner or Google Calendar are all great ways to start the new year. It’s not where you start in January, but where you are as a school team in June.
Determine to make 2013 different than the rest. Identify the school’s direction. Use differentiation with students, families, and staff in an effort to meet your school goals. Remember that dedication to a goal is much more important than having a goal. Margaret Mead reminds us, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens [educators] can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
Steven Weber is the principal at Hillsborough Elementary School located in Hillsborough, NC. He blogs at ASCD EDge. Recently, his blog titled A Bucket List for K-12 Students made the Top 10 Blogs of 2012 on ASCD Edge. Connect with Weber on Twitter @curriculumblog.