True to its cause, Teach to Lead is literally being built WITH teachers and BY teachers. This building process is known as Commit to Lead, a virtual community where educators can share their teacher leadership ideas and vote on other ideas. To further develop ideas into implementation, Teach to Lead hosted three national summits. Selected teams were invited to spend a weekend developing their teacher leadership ideas with the support of highly skilled critical friends. Our team (@keglesia, @MrsWhite17,@hurat_alex, @christina_coach) was honored to be invited to Teach to Lead's final and most recent summit in Boston to further develop our plan for advancing teacher leadership.
1. Purpose - The design of the summit was artful in that it created supports for individual teams to think deeply about the intention of their own ideas while at the same time connecting their purpose to Teach to Lead's larger purpose of improving student learning. Michael Fullan, a leading researcher in school reform, advocates that sustainable transformation cannot happen unless we 'connect peers with purpose'. During our summit, Teach to Lead connected peers to purpose through:
Networking - 'Speed networking' sessions allowed participants to find others who shared their purpose and passion.
Social Media - Twitter (#TTLSummit, @TeachtoLead) and Facebook were used before, during and after the summit to keep us connected to Teach to Lead's purpose. Geography is no longer a barrier for our rural district in central PA because social media allows us to remain local while connecting global.
Tag lines- Throughout the summit, powerful tag lines were shared to clarify and communicate our purpose. Tag lines create a memorable phrase to sum up a team's purpose. My favorite tag line from the Boston summit was, "Teachers need to set the table, not just sit at the table."
Resources to Support Purpose in Professional Learning -
- Professional Learning with a PURPOSE: Assessing Professional Learning (LearningForward Michigan)
- The Power of Why (Simon Sinek TEDX - shortened version)
- Why Activity (National School Reform Faculty)
- Your Design Work is Suffering Because You're Afraid of the Wrong Answer
- Telling somebody they must do something (taking away their autonomy) almost always invites resistance.
- Autonomy is not a free-for all. The key is to provide opportunities for teacher autonomy while clarifying non-negotiables.
- Remember that too many choices can be overwhelming and end up being just as frustrating as having no choice.
Crowdsourcing - One way Teach to Lead created autonomy was by utilizing a crowdsourcing approach where teachers briefly shared their own ideas on how to advance teacher leadership and voted on other ideas. Our team conceived our idea, developed our idea, and owned our idea. Ownership creates a deep sense of responsibility and passion.
Form vs. Freedom - Our summit was not a free-for all with no parameters. Actually, it was very structured with schedules, non-negotiables, and timelines. Jim Knight refers to this as a balance of 'form and freedom'. The difference is that our team had the freedom to develop our plan in a way that we felt best met the established criteria.
Accountability - Autonomy is not void of accountability - it drives it. Autonomy builds ownership. When you own something, you accept full responsibility. The Teach to Lead summits built in opportunities for teams to hold each other accountable. Half-way into our work session, each team member had seven seconds to 'pitch' our idea (commonly known as an elevator speech). Because we owned our idea, this level of accountability caused both excitement and anxiety for our team. If our idea or elevator speech tanked, we couldn't pass the blame. We needed to accept responsibility which is the the highest form of accountability. At the close of the summit, all teams shared their implementation plans and solicited feedback via a gallery walk.
Resources to Support Autonomy in Professional Learning:
- Why Edamp? (Kristen Swanson via Edutopia)
- Effective Professional Learning Strategies and Their Use in Future Ready School Districts (US Department of Ed Office of Technology) -
- Learning Forward
- How Teachers are Learning: Professional Development Remix - For an overview and comparison of popular tech-based professional development tools, check out their free PD report.
3. Mastery - A third driver of motivation is mastery - our desire to get better at whatever it is we're doing. Teach to Lead built in several supports to help teams achieve mastery:
Growth Mindset - Upon arrival, our team was anxious because our idea was just that - an idea. Teach to Lead assumed a growth mindset with team projects so all teams could continue moving towards mastery. The goal was to grow our idea, not compare our finished product to others.