whats the problem of
When Katia came to Bret Harte three years ago, she observed that the ILT wasn’t always focused on instruction. She was new to administration. Luckily, her admin prep program was focused on action research and cycles of inquiry. She spent the year working with the ILT, made up of teachers who showed interest. They collaborated on how the ILT sets the purpose, product, and processes all focused on data driven instruction. The first year was full of lots of time to calibrate on the “how” to do instructional leadership work. In her second year of ILT leadership, she cultivated a relationship with a co-leader thought partner to ensure they both were on the same page around the direction of the ILT. The ILT was gaining a lot of momentum. Then the pandemic hit, and distance learning became the way. She and the new ILT struggled to find their way to collaborate around how to support quality instruction through team leadership.
BRET HARTE MIDDLE SCHOOL
SUPERPOWER: VISIONARY EXTRAORDINAIRE!
personal leadership:key questions and realizations
How do you drive the leadership of a team without taking over? Katia reflected that she tends to be a very directive leader, but that doesn’t always work when you are cultivating shared leadership in an ILT model. She continues to try things, “hacks”, and reflect on what are the right supports and frames for collaborative work. An essential part of Katia’s leadership this year was shifting to becoming more of a listening leader. She consistently gathered feedback, and changed her language from “what we’re going to do” to “tell me more”. This shift in stance was essential.
What does ILT look like in this new context? How do we work together in this new, new? With so many new team members, leading an ILT in a year like we’ve never seen before, Katia and her team really had to rethink what was possible for the essential purpose, process, and products of the team. She consistently is reflecting on where the team is calibrated, having a common understanding and language, versus were not on the same page. At times, this has felt like a step forward and two backwards. Overall, this year has challenged Katia’s personal leadership in a way that has really helped her grow. Having a thought partner along the way has made a world of difference in Katia’s ability to stay on the “balcony” to see the big picture of the instructional work of the school.
What are the current systems, structures, processes related to this challenge? How are they working in concert? Where are the gaps and needs?
What are the technical needs?
What are the quality of the relationships between the stakeholders nearest this challenge? How do they identify in relationship to the challenge? What are the values, beliefs and mindsets of those involved?
What are the relational/adaptive needs?
How is the information flowing? Is there two way communication? Is there space to make meaning collectively?
What's up with information?
What is the equity imperative connected to this challenge? What is creating inequity in relationship to this challenge?
How about equity?
What are the root causes of this complex challenge?
Based on what's happening above and below the green line...
Turn over: Katia thought because the team had done so much norming and forming in year 1, the team could jump right into the work. However, it was clear that with new team members, some of that institutional knowledge around the ILT was lost.
Burn out: The pandemic has been a tough time for everyone, especially teachers. She kept hearing- “we’re doing too much” and seeing low energy in her team. She felt it herself, and kept wondering- what is possible this year?
Thought partner: Katia had taken the time to cultivate a strong relationship with a co-leader of the ILT. This relationship took work, but resulted in someone she could really reflect with, bounce ideas off of, and receive tough feedback from.
Experience: Katia had gone through the work of norming and forming the ILT 3 years prior, so she had leadership experience calibrating with a team.
Teachers: The teachers on the new ILT are all high capacity teachers who had strong instructional skills in their own classes.
Feedback: Because of the challenge of not knowing how to move forward, Katia and her thought partner decided to start collecting WAY more feedback from the staff to gather staff voice. They used this feedback loop to craft decisions that were very responsive to the needs of the staff.
Support: In year 1, Katia’s administrative program and coach were aligned with the practices around cycles of inquiry. This helped her get support and coaching around her focus with the ILT.
Distance Learning and all things pandemic: Katia and her team are challenged by what can be accomplished in distance learning. It’s hard for students, it’s hard for teachers, it’s hard for the ILT. How does the team continue to build momentum in such tough conditions?