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Continuity from the Classroom to the Staffroom

Education Director, Scott Murphy

Leading with Intention

How often have you been involved in leadership training where you went through Powerpoint slide after slide listening to the hum of one person’s voice explaining the virtues of collaborative learning?

When have we, ourselves, been guilty of providing professional development on the practices of reflection and how it cements learning for students only to end our workshop abruptly with little closure and, gulp, no reflection?

The incongruities we often create when working with leaders and teachers can have a negative impact on learning for those we are seeking to grow.  When we misalign our words and actions or separate our adult interactions from those we expect in the classrooms, we lose credibility and influence.  We direct, but we do not lead.

One way for us as we begin school this year and consider our first moves with staff and students is to ask one simple question.

What is most important for us to model?

This is a question we explore often in leadership workshops when considering how we build bridges between leadership, classroom instruction and student learning.  At its best, there should be no gaps, no incongruities, no translations necessary.  What we do and what we say should match up…perfectly.

This “parallelism” has the potential for deep impact as well.  When teachers can experience effective collaboration at their staff development, they are more likely to implement effective small groups in their classrooms.  When teachers are asked quality, stimulating, open-ended questions in their workshops, they are more likely to craft similar questions with students.  When principals are provided time for peer discourse and sense-making of new learning, they are more likely to share the same opportunities with their own teachers back at school.

What we are seeking to achieve is continuity of a learning culture in which it does not matter whether it is a district meeting for leaders, an opening day professional development for staff or a third period math class for students.  What we do and how we do it is pervasive throughout the culture and is grounded in learning first and foremost.  Our classrooms inform up and out to direct us in how we lead for impact and growth.

To achieve this congruity and begin the year with impactful professional development, here are several steps each leader might take.

  • Become crystal clear on what classroom engagement your students should experience and assure you design your professional develop to mirror it. If you value discourse for students, create it for teachers.  If classrooms are to be communities of learners, then focus your processes on engaging collaboration and respectful relationships.
  • Model what can be done in classrooms and be transparent about what you are doing. If your teachers read a text, then use a protocol, have them engage each other and debrief not only how the process worked for them, but could also be used in their classrooms.
  • Facilitate learning. Give purpose, use structures aligned with intentions, keep processes moving, ask quality questions, model listening and provide opportunities for reflection.  Create the experience which teachers are expected to create in classrooms.  Let them “feel” it.  Have the courage to ask the debrief question, “How did that work for you?” and “What did you learn with that process that informs your own teaching?”
  • See yourself as a learner to empathize with students and teachers. Put yourself in the same seats in the classroom and the staffroom to best inform your modeling.

While it is clarity we often want, it is a learning culture we most definitely need.  Allow this year’s beginning of school to be your opportunity to model it exquisitely and courageously for your staff and students!


Effective Mentoring & Coaching Institute

Develop skills and strategies to effectively mentor, coach and lead adult learning that impact student growth.
September 27-28, 2017, Denver, CO

In this institute you will learn a collaborative and inquiry-based approach to professional communication which focuses on supporting colleagues’ thinking around planning, reflecting and problem-solving. You will learn how to refine your language to support novice to experienced teachers using coaching, collaborating, and consulting that best fits the situation.

Learn More and Register to Attend

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