Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Lead Learners - At All Levels

This post is actually the basis of a talk that I will be giving as part of a course requirement in the CNY Leadership Development Program later in June.  I'm posting part of it here today because I'd like to piggyback off of a recent post by my friend Dr. Peter DeWitt. You can read Peter's post by clicking here.

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I have been in this profession for close to 15 years, and next year I turn 40, so as you can imagine, one of the questions that I get pretty frequently is, "So when exactly are you going to take the leap into building administration?" Or, "So when are you going over to the dark side?"  My answer is the same - I'm not. I'm not taking the leap into building administration, and I'm not going over to the dark side, wherever or whatever that may actually be. I love where I am right now. I love what I'm doing. For a long time the questions, and the disappointed looks from some of my friends and colleagues bothered me. Don't get me wrong, I'm flattered that they think that I would make a worthy building or district leader, but I have to wonder what is wrong with leading from the classroom? You see, what I contend is that we need leaders everywhere, and that leadership is much more than the position or title you may possess whether it be instructional leader, lead learner, or some other title.

We need leaders, of course we do. We need learners too. Here is where maybe I'll play a little with semantics, but I really believe it is more, much more. In schools, and in districts we need lead learners. Not one but many. I know many leaders, principals particularly, after reading the work of Viviane Robinson and Michael Fullan, have decided to call themselves the lead learner, rather than the principal. I appreciate the shift, but I also believe that words matter, and that they have power. I really believe that the intent is not to have "the lead learner", but to be "a lead learner." Semantics? Maybe or maybe not.

My position is quite simply this; we need many lead learners throughout our organizations. We need faculty and students to take on the role of leading the learning at different points, at different stages, and to different degrees daily. This is one of the reasons why I am more than content to remain in the classroom, and believe that I need to be there. It is part of what excited me about the CNY Leadership Development Program in the first place. I believed that the skills and knowledge that I would acquire in the program would help me to have a greater impact in my classroom, my school and my district. It has. I have been able to see our organization in different ways; I have a greater appreciation for all the working parts, and how all the working parts fit together. I have had the opportunity to meet, and to work with some amazing colleagues that I would not have otherwise.  I have increased my professional learning network, and it has caused me to think more deeply about how each role within a district is important, and how we truly need to think about how we encourage leadership at all levels. This brings me back to being a lead learner. We need lead learners at the district level, we need them at the building level and we need them in the classroom, and when I say in the classroom I am referring to all the individuals in a classroom the students, teaching assistants, teachers. Everybody.

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