Friday, April 9, 2010

Playing School Leadership Team: The Challenge of Real Versus Make Believe

My cohort and I are currently in our fifth week of studying Organization and Administration, the fourth course of our five-course plus internship certificate program for Administration and Supervision through JHU & ISTE. The course is unlike any of our previous ones. Each week we undertake a real-life school leadership team challenge and submit a component of our overall Administrative Action Plan based on the real data of one of the schools where we work, (in this case, MY middle school).

O&A is what I’d call hands-on learning. We have our hands on real data for a school that really exists. It is not make believe. The challenge for me personally is that I work in and know this school and all its players. I know the plan that the real school constructed and I know how it’s playing out in the current school year. I have to pretend that it’s August and we are looking at this just-delivered data and preparing for a new school year. Some of what we come up with parallels what really happens, but not all of it, and in those cases, I’m proud of our work and would really like to implement our ideas to see what kind of results we would achieve.

I’m not crazy about the fact that my role on the leadership team changes each week. One week I’m a principal, the next week a guidance counselor, the next week a parent/community liaison, and then a department chair. While I understand the importance of representing and walking in the shoes of each of these stakeholders on the team, I would much rather practice being a principal. I’d rather have my instructor evaluate how I handle the principal’s role in the context of this team with each piece of the puzzle that’s presented.

For the first half of O&A, I’ve been resisting the course structure, but I’m beginning to “get it.” For the first time in the program, I want the instructor to lecture me, to tell me “this is what a principal does and this is how you do it.” I’m coming to realize that he is in fact doing just that. He’s saying principals are given a set of data to drive decisions, a relatively fixed amount of money, time, and personnel to improve student achievement, a parent and community to support and involve, and a representative team with which to create and implement the plan. He also provides a fair amount of literature and research on what others have done that worked and shares his own experiences of being in the driver’s seat of a high school.

The only piece that’s not the real deal is that we pull all of this off virtually, and not gathered around a conference table face-to-face and rubbing elbows. Oh, and the fact that we all submit an Administrative Action Plan individually, after weekly feedback on the team-submitted component parts, where in the real world the work of the team gives birth to one document, not five. But we're preparing five principals, not one, so it's important to have evidence that all can perform the task.

Carry on, Leaderhip Team, we're more than halfway there!