Intersections between Leadership Florida, Harvard Leadership: An Evolving Vision, Any Given Child Exchange, Florida Select, and Catalytic Thinking
2018 was a very good year regarding my own professional learning. I was fortunate to have some amazing opportunities to continue studying, to reflect on current practices, and to network with other highly knowledgeable, curious, creative entrepreneurs in a wide variety of careers. This impressive listing: Leadership Florida, Any Given Child Exchange, Leadership Summer Institute at Harvard — An Evolving Vision, Hildy Gottlieb’s Catalytic Thinking, and a Florida Department of Education Leadership Task Force afforded me some of the highest quality and rigorous professional scholarship in my career. Since I have dedicated myself to understanding, designing, and facilitating adult learning, I know how critical it is for completers to reflect deeply as they are learning new information or validating prior learnings. I also appreciate that all too often, people participate in training and rarely apply new knowledge in their real-world context. Consequently, I have taken the responsibility of connecting all the dots and purposefully finding ways to use at least some of what I have gained to have an impact on my present work.
During my year-long Leadership Florida journey, building relationships and networking was strategically emphasized by the design of the sessions. “It’s such a small world” is a common idiomatic expression, but so true as you meet and exchange information. The connections are almost uncanny. The content of each session was riveting as we learned about restructuring resources for high-performing schools; a growth mindset; the importance of human capital as a key lever in school districts; and discussed with great openness, racial equality. Effectiveness matters resonated so profoundly when I was reminded that the difference between an effective and ineffective teacher for three years yields 52 percentage points. Wow! School leaders must pay close attention as the impact is life changing especially for students in Title 1 schools where the teacher turnover is greatest. I ended this experience humbled to be included with this distinguished group of leaders and even more committed to building relationships within our own community.
One of my key takeaways from the Any Given Child Exchange was understanding more deeply “collective impact” and the rewards of continuous networking throughout the country. Learning from others that are engaged in similar work is so beneficial as we build upon experiences and programming. It was incredibly validating to know that Sarasota County is leading the pack in terms of arts integration and ensuring equity and access to the arts. EdExploreSRQ is a unique platform that other communities may want to replicate.
As a facilitator at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education Summer Institute, I profited from learning from other school and district leaders across the globe as well as gaining new knowledge from the experts in the field. Howard Gardner reminded us that “a leader is an individual who significantly affects the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of other individuals. Leaders change minds. Leaders provide leadership in two ways, through the stories they tell (narratives) and through the kinds of lives they live.” Deborah Helsing shared "Leadership is like a plumber. When it goes right, no one knows what you do and when it goes wrong there is poop everywhere." She advised us to walk in the shoes of others, to be visible, flexible, and agile because to make an impact as leaders we all must do the work together. Karen Mapp’s work with family engagement catapulted my thinking around ways of continuing to engage our families if we expect students to succeed. She references “family engagement rather than parent engagement” as the various ways that a child's adult caretaker (biological parents, foster parents, siblings, grandparents, etc.) at home, school or in the community, effectively support their learning and healthy development.
Maximizing the impact of technology was one more very persuasive presentation. Chris Dede explained that teachers teach as they were taught. He encouraged us to give teachers parallel learning experiences so the professional learning models what we want them to do with kids. This was validating because, through EdExploreSRQ, we have used boot camps whereby we take teachers on the Exploration in advance of them going with the students. The teachers collaborate on lesson plans and the impact on students has been dramatic based on feedback. I loved the idea of kids facilitating an “appy hour!” Jon Mundorf from our neighboring Charlotte County was a dynamic presenter and focused on our at-risk learners. He asserted, “If you only give kids one way to share their voice, you don't hear every voice.” The disability doesn't exist in the child, but the disability exists in the environment.
Hildy Gottlieb flipped my assumptions as I was trained, taught, and often utilized problem-solving models throughout my career...I even facilitated conflict mediation. The shift to thinking about aspirations and possibilities is beginning to be my new way of working in the various settings that I encounter or lead. Asking the right questions is always key and something that will take much practice for me to feel confident.
Admittedly, I struggled a bit to decide how I would go about transferring all of this learning to my diversity of work projects. It was more complicated than if I had one or two specific jobs. It finally occurred to me: I work with the school district, a foundation, a private school, and the local university. Amazing possibilities exist for greater collaboration, partnerships, and programming! Collective Impact between these entities could benefit teachers and students long term.
The possibilities are numerous and will evolve, and understandably, transforming learning requires changing the organizational culture at every level. The Patterson Foundation's way of work lays a solid foundation for moving forward through commitment, persistence, and embracing new ideas for a constantly changing world. How lucky I am to be alive right now and have a chance to continue making a difference in our community and beyond!