At the same time, we were in the process of developing a year long-journey aimed at building teacher leaders and maximizing on the ability of our administrators to be strong instructional leaders. We could immediately see the connection, and contacted our coach, Brenda Clark, to share our thoughts. She was immediately on-board and our planning began. Borrowing from the text, Clark reminded us that work is "definitely doable, but undeniably difficult." The commitment from all levels of our district was immediately evident and contagious. Educators have been communicating, collaborating, and working together as a team all summer to design and begin this important journey.
July 17th kicked off the journey at the district and building leadership level. Clark and her colleague, Denise Holliday, questioned, pushed, coached and supported us through the beginning efforts to gain insight and baseline data into our current reality. To borrow from Jim Collins, she emphasized that we sought her assistance in helping us move "from Good to Great" and that this was only the beginning of the hard work on a journey with no finish line. After a difficult, reflective, and exhausting two-days, I am more energized than ever! I can feel the same passion from my colleagues and I cannot wait to bring our teachers together for the first time under this shared message and benefit from their partnership, collaboration, support, and insights. We have the skeleton of a collaborative Professional Learning Community (PLC ) defined by the work of the Dufours and ongoing professional development, and now we will have the systems to define the goals, measure the outcomes, and build capacity beyond the life-cycle of any one leadership team.
Clark and Holliday left us with very specific homework that they will coach us on virtually until our next session in August. It is important that we develop the mission, vision, and goals of our PLCs aligned to our district strategic plan and school improvement teams. Each team needs to understand their goal in order to measure their effectiveness and outcomes. In order to do this, we need to assess our plans and ensure that we are targeting and measuring a small number of objectives. Clark is coaching us to have all of our collaborative teams understand and own this, along with the importance of the Plan, Do, Study Act cycle. As best stated by Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan, "High performing systems have virtually all of their teachers on the move. It's a school thing, a professional thing, and a systems thing. The only solutions that will work on any scale are those that mobilize the teaching force as a whole- including strategies where teachers push and support each other" (Professional Capital 21). We will continue this journey with coaching and support at all levels of our system this year building our capacity to continue the work, and strengthening our skills in embedding the work in our culture so that it truly is built to last.
Dufour and Fullan Videos
Introduction to Clark and Holliday
Denise Holliday was a teacher and administrator for the Iredell-Statesville Schools. Her focus on teaching and learning under the structures of strong PLC models assisted the school district in their cycle of continuous improvement. They were able to reach their goal of being in the top ten schools in the state by 2010 two years early, moving from one of the lowest performing districts in the state.
Clark and Holliday are now national consultants, coaching school districts as they begin their journey toward continuous improvement and systems change.