In all my roles in education – teacher, Peer Coach/ Staff Developer (i.e. Literacy Coach), Literacy Administrator, Vice Principal, Principal, and now Director- I have always thought of myself as a learner first, then a coach, and finally a leader. In our profession today, I think it is important that we take into account each of these roles and learn to empower everyone within our system to see themselves as all three. It is when we build capacity in all of us to learn, coach, and lead, that we will be able transform education for the success of all students.
The phrase life-long learner is bandied about in interviews, vision statements, blogs, article, and professional literature, but how many of us are truly learning new things that help us grow, personally or professionally? In my life I have learned to speak a second language (Spanish), I have learned to play various instruments at beginning levels (piano, clarinet, violin, and French horn), and I have earned a Bachelor’s, Master’s degree, and a Doctoral degree, some, but not all of which required new learning. I read a lot, fiction for pure relaxation and enjoyment, and educational and leadership texts for professional growth. But how much of that translates into new learning? It seems that unless I am forced, or I force myself, to apply what I read, I haven’t truly learned anything new. That application has most recently appeared in the form of the creation of a new Instructional Technology Council in my district, which I am facilitating.
That has led me to explore all of the resources available online to educators now and the need to learn more- about twitter, PLN’s, blogging, Diggo, Evernote, edcamps, etc. This blog will be the application of my latest realm of learning, as I embark on this professional journey of inquiry. I hope that my colleagues always see me as a learner and that they will learn alongside me.
When I used to tell my friends and family outside of education that I was a coach, they would give me the strangest looks. I know they pictured a baseball or basketball coach, on the sidelines of a sporting event, which is somewhere you would rarely find me! Within the education community we are still defining and redefining what a coach is for schools. One of my favorite parts about being a coach was the side-by-side work in classrooms with students and teachers. I loved when a teacher found success in his or her own classroom as a result of our collaboration. Coaching can play a critical role in school improvement, but not all schools are able to afford a full-time coach to support teaching and learning. Regardless of budget constrictions, coaching can and should take place in all schools. All we need to do is empower our teachers to see themselves as coaches. Each and every one of us has strengths we bring to our roles in education. The more we are able to build opportunities to share these strengths, through PLC’s, Lesson Studies, peer observations, and on-site, teacher-led Professional Development, the more we will see that coaching can take place every day in our schools.
My role as a leader has evolved as I have changed positions. As a teacher I never thought of myself as a leader, at least not until a mentor principal put me in that role. If she hadn’t encouraged me to seek new learning (in the form of my Peer Coach certification and my Master’s Degree) and use it to lead and support my colleagues, I don’t know how or when I would have seen myself, a teacher, as a leader within my school. It is so important for all of us, at all levels of education, see ourselves and one another as leaders. Some might say that a leader is not a leader until someone is following her. Does that mean that the more followers I have on Twitter, the better a leader I am? In one sense, absolutely! In another sense, not at all! Educational leaders must be instructional leaders, visionaries, connected to what works well today and what will help us in the future. It is time to build capacity within one another, within our system, for leadership to shine in new ways.
How will you learn, coach and lead today? How will you share what you learn from the experience?