This past fall, a group of NYC leaders brought Helen Keller’s words to life. They organized to form an Intra-district Innovative Networking Team. I, along with Julie Foss, had the opportunity to support the group composed of principals and assistant principals with professional learning around their vision for teaching and learning practices. The group used their knowledge to develop a common language framework around high-yield instructional practices and a learning walk protocol. Their collaboration sought to support the vision for their students across the district at every grade level.
The plan seemed straightforward enough; however, it required the willingness of members to be vulnerable and take risks, which can be challenging and scary. I was overjoyed that this group of leaders was willing to engage immediately in the facilitation process. They openly discussed their current realities, successes, and challenges. Julie and I watched them engage in productive struggle as they dove deeper into identifying what they would produce as a team. It was amazing to witness.
ALP organized the communication and facilitation to keep the team on track, but, as you can imagine finding the time to commit to working with a team on top of leading your school was sometimes a challenge for team members. This team did not succumb to these challenges. Instead, they supported the work of the team asynchronously when they could not attend in person.
Ultimately, the team created a customizable “Look for Tool” to support educators in creating classrooms where students’ behavior demonstrates: Agency, Inquiry, Collaboration, Reflection, Communication, Adaptability, Critical Thinking, and Problem-Solving are all supported by differentiation.
Putting the Plan in Action…
On December 1st, 2022. The team gathered in person for a set of Facilitated Learning Walks. John Greggo, principal of Russell Sage J.H.S. 190, graciously opened the doors to his school. The team calibrated around the “Look for Tool” and discussed the logistics and outcomes for the day. Once prepared, the teams headed out in small groups to observe student learning in action. It should be noted that educators who were not part of developing the tool were participating in the walks. Members of the formal team were eager to receive feedback on the tool’s usefulness and potential.
The results were loud and clear. We Want More!
The maiden voyage of the “Look for Tool” was a success. We made note of how the common language developed through the tool allowed for a rich dialogue around students’ learning behaviors. I was pleasantly surprised at how eager they were to plan another set of learning walks. The proverbial cherry on top of the day was their thoughts on how to innovatively use and support the “Look For Tool” and further their work as a team.
Engage your Leadership in Innovative Collaboration
It’s no secret that the actual planning and creation needed to achieve any vision is normally a heavy lift. However, this lift can be more manageable and effective when you have the support of fellow leaders in developing ideas, strategies, and practices in support of the vision.
The goal of this Innovative Team’s collaboration was to build a network connected around supporting student growth through high-yield instructional practices. Supported by their facilitated experiences and group collaboration, they created resources that will help schools throughout the district achieve their vision for learning.
Ask yourself, what would a group of innovative leaders in your district produce with time, collaboration, and support? Interested in hearing more and discussing the possibilities? Read more about the ALP Inspire Services, to see if they would be the right fit for your learning community.