Sunday, January 6, 2019

A Must-Read for Each School Leader

Jeanne Spiller & Karen Power LEADING with INTENTION8 Areas for Reflection and Planning in Your PLC at Work

As a school leader, I am continuously on a path to refine and improve my leadership skills to facilitate learning for both our amazing students and staff. Spiller and Power, authors of Leading with Intention have generated a tremendously practical resource for school leaders to use while “reflecting and planning our work” to enhance learning. In each of their eight chapters, they have culminated an area of practice found in the PLC process as defined by DuFour and Eaker as, “An ongoing process in which educators work collaboratively in recurring cycles of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve.”

I found two ways a school leader could read Spiller and Power’s book Leading with Intention. You can read each chapter in succession to reflect on the leadership practices that are needed and which leadership practices to avoid to facilitate learning. The chapters can also be read individually as the reader prioritizes the leadership steps needed to refine their school’s PLC systems. I also thought of it as an excellent reference tool to continue to go back to as we progress in “achieving better results for the students we serve."

Chapters topics include strategies on how to achieve focus and stay intentional. Honestly, this is hard to do when there is just so much to do. ”The struggle is real.” The authors also discussed the “systems and protocols” needed to “establish and maintain organization” including, “practices that focus on trust, respect, and belonging.” The saying goes, it’s not what you do, but how you do it. These chapters speak of this truth.

Confession, Karen Power is a colleague and I could continue to hear her voice loud and clear when reading the chapters on shared leadership and using evidence for decision making and action. These two chapters I continued to re-read to glean a greater understanding on how to “build the team”, create “shared leadership among staff members”, and “guiding the team” in “taking collective responsibility for student learning.” Personally, this has been the greatest reward for me as a building see teachers take ownership of student learning by prioritizing the essential questions of a PLC embedded in the data team process. These chapters helped me refine my leadership skills.

Another chapter discussed the importance of prioritizing each student. Each being the keyword followed by a chapter on leading instruction for improvement.  I came into this role as a building principal because I wanted all teachers to lead in their classrooms with the knowledge needed to be instructional leaders. The authors guide the reader on how to “focus on instruction in a PLC” in a “positive classroom environment” through collaborative inquiry considering “an equitable learning environment” which includes “equal access to learning for all students in a school."

Finally, the last two chapters remind you of the value of "fostering communication" and "developing community and relationships". “Strong communication skills are a key feature of powerful leadership” which includes developing “productive listening habits” to develop “deep understanding” in order to have the “crucial conversations” needed when “stakes are high..opinions vary..and emotions are strong.” Communication is often referenced in many leadership books, but the authors clarify the communications skills needed for school leaders in order to have meaningful conversations on student learning. Putting “the why before the what” “people are more likely to understand the work and commit to it.” Whew! This is the hard part and it takes a commitment from a leader to level up one’s leadership “in the spirit of whatever it takes.”

At the end of each chapter, I used the reproducible tool provided for the reader to record their “current reality and next steps.” Key components of each chapter list a reminder of what great leaders do and what great leaders avoid. Writing my reflections as I read provided a perfect opportunity to record my thinking and plan my next steps to drive the change for our school improvement plan. Here are a few of my insights.

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