This year has been a unique one for me. Not only have I spent almost 10 months mentoring 23 teachers (4 Science, 1 Technology, 4 Math, 1 Engineering, 4 Mandarin, 1 Spanish, 2 Writing, 2 PE/Health, and 4 Special Education), but I have also had to evaluate these teachers according to Charlotte Danielson's Framework for Teaching, using my skills from the Illinois Teachscape Training.
While there have been satisfying aspects to my work, it has been challenging. It was the first time my coaching was combined with evaluating. Relationships have been even more delicate and complex; I've had to be explicit, channeling Robert Irvine from Restaurant Impossible, Super Nanny, and the Dog Whisperer (one must always be "cool, calm, and collected"),so that teachers understand my passion for improving their practice and the intensity I will bring to our daily work together. I've had to focus on how I communicate with others and assess how other adults communicate and learn.
At a time when Chicago Public School principals are feeling choked of their choices (see the Chicago Catalyst articles), I too, can agree that it is hard to lead a school, teachers, and students when I am not able to make systemic changes to impact student learning. I believe that all students have the right to learn, and that right begins with meeting them at a level in which they can understand. Sometimes this means differentiating within a classroom; other times, it means pre-assessing students to determine what classes and course load will lead them to the most success. Determining what those changes are often involves asking hard questions with no real answers, taking actions that involve dramatic change while the ship is already sailing. Change is good. If you've watched any of the recent episodes of Cosmos, you've seen how life, that survives, is life that is willing to adapt and change. Our world is different, and so are our students, therefore, our schools must be different.
I am going to continue to work with students and schools, so I need to have the ability to make real change. When I am not allowed implement effective strategies, I don't want to be a school leader. It seems like no matter where I go in schools, the ability to make fundamental decisions is controlled by people off the front lines. This recent awakening has led me to the belief that I need to make a pivot. I want to make a change in this world, so I have to find a way to maximize resources.
Schools are more than their students - they are the community, the families, the teachers, the districts and the networks. I want to make an impact on the lives of children. I have to be involved with an organization that is on the forefront of learning. I also need to find a way to get the technology that is available to the most privileged students, to ALL students in the US, or at the very least, Chicago. Using technology to interact with this world, is the future OF this world. Let's enable students to be 21st century citizens of our global society. Give me the ability to lead.