In my seven years as an educator, I have worked in a school district that has been using the Danielson Framework to help guide teachers as they strive to improve their own craft. Each year, my principal has used this framework to evaluate the quality of my teaching and to provide me with feedback on what my next steps should be in growing myself as an educator. When I was first hired, I was provided with a consulting teacher to give me the support, tools and resources I needed to successfully make it through my first two years of teaching. Additionally, I was fortunate to have been placed at a school and on a grade-level team that provided me with a tremendous amount of support. My grade-level teammate, who is now a consulting teacher for other new teachers in the district, provided me with more guidance and support than a new teacher could ever ask for! She truly went above and beyond her duties as a teammate to help me be successful.
As a result of being placed in the care of so many amazing mentors and coaches, I was able to demonstrate proficient characteristics of teaching and learning at the start of my career. My focus then became one of moving myself towards exemplifying the distinguished characteristics as outlined in the Danielson Framework. During the 2012-13 school year, I had a mix of both proficient and distinguished marks as seen on my 2012-13 End-of-Year Evaluation. The following year, as my school district switched to a slightly new system for evaluating teachers and principals, I was again evaluated based on the criteria described in the framework. However, this time, being at the Focus level, I was only evaluated on Criterion 8. Criterion 8 examines participating in a professional community, growing and developing professionally, showing professionalism, and establishing team student growth goals. I was able to demonstrate distinguished characteristics in all categories as seen in my 2013-14 End-of-Year Evaluation.
Through my work in this program, I have had the opportunity to further explore the Danielson Framework, and continue to develop and hone my skills as a teacher. Prior to starting this program, I would say I was very familiar and comfortable with the Danielson Framework. But my knowledge was limited in that I knew what I was being evaluated on and how to demonstrate proficiency, but I was not always sure how to demonstrate certain characteristics to meet the framework’s criteria at the distinguished level. So when I was given the opportunity to do just that in a few of my courses, I seized the opportunity.
In my Accomplished Teaching class, I took time to explore the Danielson Framework through the lens of reflection and teacher leadership. I learned that, through reflection, one can work successfully towards accomplishing high levels of success in all four domains of the framework. Whether it’s 1b Demonstrating Knowledge of Students or 2a Creating an Environment of Respect and Rapport or 3b Using Questioning and Discussion Techniques, one of the best ways to achieve success is to reflect on your practice. In Reflective Practice to Improve Schools, it states that one should insert reflective practice everywhere. This can be done by taking time for oneself by reflecting on lessons taught in the quiet of an empty classroom after the children have left for the day, getting together with colleagues and reflecting in a more collaborative setting around goal areas set by the team, or even building in time for meaningful reflection with your students.
In the course, Leadership in Education, I was also given the opportunity to explore the Washington State Principal standards as outlined in the TPEP. Through this course I was able to examine the six standards through the lens of teacher leadership and was given the opportunity to develop a professional growth plan around the standards. The following is the reflective work I did to meet that expectation.
The demand for classroom teachers to take on more defined leadership roles within their buildings has increased significantly in the last several years. In my school district, it is not uncommon to have at least half of a staff charged with leading various committees, helping to facilitate the growth and development of their colleagues so that they may go back to their classrooms better equipped to support student growth and achievement. In my building, for example, we have two literacy facilitators, a teacher responsible for providing us with support as we navigate our new professional growth and evaluation system, TeachScape, and someone representing our staff at union meets. For me, that role is technology integration specialist. It is a responsibility that I love because I get to be at the forefront of any new technology rollout. As part of my role, I need to be aware of the digital resources teachers have available for use with their students and the ways in which technology can be effectively integrated into their classrooms. Furthermore, I need to be able to successfully deliver important information to my colleagues in a meaningful and engaging manner. The way in which I deliver instruction must come across as approachable and user-friendly, otherwise teachers will begin to resist the new digital resources available to aid and support teaching and learning.
In the future, it is my hope that I will be able to broaden my roles and responsibilities by getting involved in other leadership opportunities. I would love to become a mentor to new teachers, providing them with the guidance and support they need to survive their first few years of teaching. I would also love to join committees involved in the selection of new curriculums and/or the development of assessments and other resources that will be used by teachers throughout the District. Regardless of the specific leadership roles I may take on in the future, there are common characteristics that are necessary for any leader to exhibit. The remainder of this blog will serve to examine those essential leadership characteristics while reflecting on my strengths and weaknesses as they relate to the WSP Standards. Furthermore, I will share insights into the areas I must work on developing in order to successfully fulfill my roles and responsibilities as an effective leader.
WSP Standard One
Visionary Leadership: A school or program administrator is an educational leader who has the knowledge, skills, and cultural competence to improve learning and achievement to ensure the success of each student by leading the development, articulation, implementation, and stewardship of a vision of learning that is shared and supported by school/program and community stakeholders.
Strand 1 – Advancing a school- or program-wide shared vision for learning.
Strand 2 – Putting the vision for learning into operation.
Strand 3 – Developing stewardship of the vision.
To be a successful leader, one must have a clear school vision that supports achievement and learning for all students, a vision that is shared among a variety of stakeholders. A school vision, regardless of how unique it may be, must be grounded in the fundamental belief that all students can and will achieve at high levels (Disposition 1 – the educability of all students & Disposition 2 – high standards of learning). As a leader, one must take the necessary steps to “advance” their school’s vision, putting “the vision for learning into operation” and developing “a stewardship of the vision.” In other words, it is the responsibility of the school leader to take ownership of promoting the school’s vision while ensuring that all stakeholders are also able to stand behind and promote the school vision. It is imperative that a school leader makes changes and adjustments to the systems it has in place in order to ensure the vision is fully supported and implemented. Each year, schools will find themselves with new teachers and families joining their school community. It becomes necessary, then, that a school leader take the time to revisit the school vision annually, consulting others as they assess the effectiveness of the vision and how systems may need to change in order to better support the school’s vision.
My Visionary Leadership Analysis completed during my Leadership in Education course serves to illustrate how my school strives to meet the rigorous demands of WSP Standard One. A critical component of my school’s ability to continually advance our school’s mission, putting it into operation and building a stewardship of the vision is because my principal encourages a participative decision-making process when making important school-wide decisions. This model is supported in Owen and Valesky’s book, Organizational Behavior in Education. The authors’ state that it is important to “develop greater harmony and consistency between the goals of the organization and the human needs of people who work in them (Owens & Valesky, 2015).” Using a participative decision-making process allows us as a school to gather information via various types of surveys, which help to inform the decisions we make collaboratively as a staff the following year.
According to the Jung Typology Test, I am an ISTJ personality (introverted, sensing, thinking and judging). As an ISTJ, I am devoted to my job and responsibilities. I am also very dependable. My ISTJ personality is an asset because I am willing to do whatever it takes to ensure the success of all students (Disposition 5 – ensuring students’ success). These traits are important when developing and sustaining a school vision because, as a leader, one must always keep the school’s vision at the forefront of his or her mind when making important decisions. Being devoted to my roles and responsibilities as a leader will allow me to keep the school’s vision at the center of decision-making when determining what is best for kids.
However, as an ISTJ, I may come across as aloof or unapproachable. In order to help create and sustain a school vision that is supported by all stakeholders, I must actively work on being approachable so that others see that I am willing to work with them in order to get the task accomplished. As a leader, one must be willing to listen to and consider all sides presented by various stakeholders, working together to keep the vision central to all key decisions that will ultimately affect students, staff and parents. As my school’s demographics or the dynamic of the school shifts over time, I need to be ready to facilitate a discussion about the school’s vision and how it may need to be adapted or changed in order to best meet the needs of all students. By working on being approachable and open to the views of others, in addition to collaborating with a variety of stakeholders in keeping the vision present, I will be able to make smart decisions when deciding what is best for student growth, especially if what is currently in place no longer supports students and their needs.
Goal: I plan to work on developing my ability to be open and approachable so that others may feel comfortable seeking me out for guidance and support.
Rationale: I know that collaboration among stakeholders is essential if a school’s vision to be successfully implemented and sustained over time. By being more approachable, I will ensure the continued growth and productivity of my school staff and students. [Standard 1, Strands 3]
WSP Standard Two
Instructional Improvement: A school or program administrator is an educational leader who has the knowledge, skills, and cultural competence to improve learning and achievement to ensure the success of each student by leading through advocating, nurturing, and sustaining district/school/program cultures and coherent instructional programs that are conducive to student learning and staff professional growth.
Strand 1 – Advocating, nurturing, and sustaining an effective school/program culture.
Strand 2 – Advocating, nurturing, and sustaining student learning.
Strand 3 – Advocating, nurturing, and sustaining coherent, intentional professional development.
Standard Two is focused on instructional improvement. As a school leader, one must be able to “demonstrate understanding that student learning is the fundamental purpose of schools.” This is achieved when a school leader is able to “advocate, nurture, and sustain” an effective school/program culture, student learning, and the professional development of his or her staff/colleagues. This includes developing systems that support students’ needs as individual learners in addition to developing systems that foster a sense of collaboration around curriculum, instruction and assessment practices among teachers for the purpose of improving teaching and learning (Disposition 3 – continuous school improvement). A school leader must be willing to hold all stakeholders accountable for their choices and actions, ensuring that all decisions are made in the best interest of students.
According to the Managerial Grid, I demonstrate a high concern for both results and people. As a leader, I am able to take feedback and criticism in order to work with others in developing a common understanding of objectives, and will strive to find ways to improve team performance (Disposition 3 – continuous school improvement). Additionally, with my ability to take feedback and criticism and turn it into positive change, I am able to develop a sense of trust and respect among those with whom I work. As a result, others will feel more comfortable in taking risks and finding creative ways to work towards successful outcomes (Disposition 6 – willingness to continuously examine one’s own assumptions, beliefs, and practices & Disposition 12 – development of a caring school community). Furthermore, according to Douglas McGregor’s X-Y Theory assessment tool, I value the Y theory of management. This means that I believe that people will strive for excellence in what they do and will be willing to take responsibility and show initiative. Based on this belief, I would assume that my staff would be willing to come together, working collaboratively in order to create an optimal learning environment for their students while implementing “best practices” in their classrooms. Additionally, according to the Ross-Barger Philosophy Inventory, I am a pragmatist. I would be open to allowing teachers to use a variety of methods and processes in their classrooms, as long as they prove to be successful. This view, I believe, would also help to foster a sense of trust among those with whom I collaborate, as teachers would know that I trust them to make sound decisions for the purpose of supporting student growth and achievement.
It is the responsibility of school leaders to hold their staff accountable for their choices and actions, especially when decisions are made in the areas of curriculum, instruction and assessment. If there are staff who are making decisions that do not support the school’s vision or do not support the success of all students, it will the leader’s responsibility to help get those staff members back on track. These types of conversations may involve conflict, especially when the staff in question believes firmly in what he or she is doing. According to the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, I am at times able to find ways to compromise while at other times I am more likely to avoid or withdraw when potential conflict arises. This is something I must work actively to change, as conflict is an inevitable part of any collaborative working environment. It will be important that I learn ways to effectively problem solve with those with whom I am working in order to ensure the school’s vision is upheld and student success is promoted (Disposition 5 – ensuring students’ success).
Goal: I plan to work on developing the dispositions that are conducive to compromise and problem solving when conflict arises.
Rationale: This goal is very important to me because it takes the collaborative efforts of many to improve instruction for the purpose of advancing student learning, including difficult conversations about what is the “best” course of action. I need to be open and willing to accept others’ ideas and suggestions if I am to show that I am willing to compromise and problem solve. In working on developing the ability to effectively compromise and problem solve as opposed to avoid or withdraw when conflict arises, I will be able to better support those with whom I work. This includes students, teachers, parents and other community members. [Standard 2, Strand 2]
WSP Standard Three
Effective Management: A school or program administrator is an educational leader who has the knowledge, skills, and cultural competence to improve learning and achievement to ensure the success of each student by ensuring management of the organization, operations, and resources for a safe, efficient, and effective learning environment.
Strand 1 – Uses a continuous cycle of analysis to ensure efficient and effective systems.
Strand 2 – Ensuring efficient and effective management of the organization.
Strand 3 – Ensuring efficient and effective management of the operations.
Strand 4 – Ensuring management of the resources for a safe, efficient, and effective learning environment.
A school leader must always be willing to examine one’s own assumptions, beliefs and practices (Disposition 6 – willingness to continuously examine one’s own assumptions, beliefs, and practices). This means taking time to evaluate one’s own management systems. A school as an organization must ensure its systems support students’ safety, learning and well-being (Disposition 5 – ensuring students’ success). This includes how the budget is spent, how student discipline is handled, how the specialists’ schedule is organized, how specific programs are implement school-wide, etc.
As identified on the Managerial Grid, I am someone who is able to take feedback and criticism and turn it into productive and positive decision-making. This is a useful trait because as school leader, I will need to be willing to examine the systems I have helped to put into place in order to determine their effectiveness and how efficiently they are running. By being open to the feedback and criticism of others, I can use that information to reflect on my own decisions and make adjustments accordingly (Disposition 6 – willingness to continuously examine one’s own assumptions, beliefs, and practices).
A huge part of the success of any school organization is the leader’s ability to delegate responsibilities to those with whom they work. It is not reasonable to expect a school leader to make all of the decisions when it comes to things like how the budget will be spent, what the specialist schedule will look like, how special programs will be implemented, etc. As an ISTJ personality, I can become easily frustrated when others are not able to rise to the occasion and complete a task in the manner that is expected. This can become my downfall as I may feel the urge to micro-manage others once I’ve delegated certain tasks. This can potentially place a strain on my relationships with others and increase the level of distrust among those with whom I work. It will be vital that as I delegate roles and responsibilities to others, I am willing to step back and trust that they will follow through and do a great job!
Goal: I need to work on learning to trust that others will successfully follow through on their commitments.
Rationale: By focusing on this goal, I can then take the energy and attention that I would have misplaced into micro-managing others and focus instead on ensuring that the structures and systems are running smoothly and continue to support students’ emotional and personal needs. Furthermore, by working on improving my weaknesses in this area, I will continue to establish a culture of trust and support, which is necessary in any well-managed organization. [Standard 3, Strand 2]
WSP Standard Four
Inclusive Practice: A school or program administrator is an educational leader who has the knowledge, skills, and cultural competence to improve learning and achievement to ensure the success of each student by collaborating with families and community members, responding to diverse community interests and needs, and mobilizing community resources.
Strand 1 – Collaborating with families and community members.
Strand 2 – Collaborating with and responding to diverse communities.
Strand 3 – Mobilizing community resources.
Standard Four promotes the power of collaboration with families and community members, response to diverse community interests and needs, and the mobilization of community resources. As a school leader, it is important that he or she reaches out to families and the greater community. Seeking to collaborate with these stakeholders is integral to the success of all students. Families and the community serve as a link between school and home. By building a strong relationship with parents and other community members, a school leader can more effectively reach all students, especially those “hard-to-reach” students. Just as teachers collaborate together in their own professional learning communities, so to should the families and community members collaborate with the school leader and his or her staff. Furthermore, as our communities grow in diversity, it is important that a school leader take steps to get to know those with whom they are interacting with on a daily basis. This is important because when considering the programs and instructional practices that are implemented, a school leader and his or her staff must be aware of the diverse cultures and how those cultures may influence student learning (Disposition 4 – culturally responsive programs and leadership). A school leader must also take steps to utilize community resources to improve the quality of education for all students. This may include reaching out to businesses and tapping into their resources such as getting school supplies donated to students in need or creating a relationship with the local doctor’s office so students and their families can receive necessary health care services (Disposition 12 – development of a caring school community).
According to the Leadership Survey, my leadership style focuses on high task and high relationships. This is an asset because I value both providing students with a quality education as well as maintaining strong relationships with others. The Managerial Grid further supports this because I show a high concern for both results and people. Knowing that I must work with diverse groups of people, I will do my best to make choices that preserve both the quality of education for students as well as nurturing the relationship I have with others by taking steps to ensure my students and their families are well supported with regard to their safety, learning and personal well-being (Disposition 12 – development of a caring school community).
Where I might end up struggling to meet this standard is when faced with situations involving potential conflict. Again, as mentioned on the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, I am sometimes an avoider when it comes to conflict. Collaboration inevitably brings about conflict in some form or another.
Goal: I need to work on developing my sense of collaboration and problem solving when dealing with others, whether families or community members, who may not see things the way I do.
Rationale: By focusing on this goal, I will be able to work passed any insecurity I may have in order to provide my students and their families with the necessary supports and resources they need. [Standard 4, Strands 1 & 2]
WSP Standard Five
Ethical Leadership: A school or program administrator is an educational leader who has the knowledge, skills, and cultural competence to improve learning and achievement to ensure the success of each student by acting with integrity, fairness, and in an ethical manner.
Strand 1 – Using the continuous cycle of analysis for self-assessment of professional leadership
Strand 2 – Acting with integrity, fairness, and courage in upholding high ethical standards.
A school leader must always act morally and ethically in their role and/or position as they hold a position of power and have the ability to affect great change. This requires a school leader to examine his or her assumptions, beliefs, and practices in order to make decisions that are grounded in good morals and ethics (Disposition 6 – willingness to continuously examine one’s own assumptions, beliefs, and practices). Creating growth goals is a way for a school leader to examine his or her assumptions, beliefs and practices in a meaningful and productive way. As stated in the WSP Standards, a school leader will act with, “integrity, fairness, and courage in upholding the high ethical standards” (Disposition 8 – bringing ethical principles to the decision-making process). Furthermore, a school leader will accept and take responsibility for his or her decisions (Disposition 10 – accepting the consequences for upholding one’s principles and actions).
In the course EDAD Leadership in Education, I read Houston, Blankstein and Cole’s Spirituality in Educational Leadership. This was a very powerful text because it allowed me to examine the principles of intention and moral purpose, attention, unique gifts and talents, gratitude, unique life lessons, holistic perspective, openness and trust. I was able to use this text and the discussions I had with my fellow cohort members to further develop my understanding of Washington Principal Standard 5.
School leaders are faced with making a myriad of decisions each and every day. Sometimes those decisions are simple, while at other times the decisions are difficult and complex and could have lasting impact. As an ISTJ personality type, I have a keen sense of right and wrong. This will be an asset to me as I strive to fulfill Standard Five, which requires a leader to make decisions and act in ways that exemplify integrity, fairness and courage (Disposition 8 -bringing ethical principles to the decision-making process).
However, being an ISTJ personality, I may at times speak too candidly which could result in putting strain on the relationships I have built with others. It will be important for me to work on developing my ability to speak truthfully, but do so tactfully. This will ensure that I maintain the positive and trusting relationships I have worked hard to develop and maintain.
Goal: I plan to work on communicating my thinking and beliefs in a way that is supportive, showing care and concern while maintaining integrity, fairness and courage by always presenting the truth and what is right.
Rationale: By focusing on this goal, I will be able to keep the communication lines open, thus allowing me to continue to collaborate with a variety of stakeholders on maintaining a shared vision, improving instruction, etc. [Standard 5, Strand 2]
WSP Standard Six
Socio-Political Context: A school or program administrator is an educational leader who has the knowledge, skills, and cultural competence to improve learning and achievement to ensure the success of each student by understanding, responding to, and influencing the political, social, economic, legal, and cultural context.
Strand 1 – Understanding the role of schools or programs in a democracy
A school leader must always be willing to advocate and take action to ensure all students are provided with a free, quality education (Disposition 7 – the right of every student to a free, quality education). This means that a school leader must get involved in the politics of education, taking a stand to voice opinions in order to influence decisions made at the national, state and local levels.
Knowing that I have a keen sense of right and wrong, according to the Jung Typology Test, means that I will be able to voice my beliefs and support what I know to be true and just with regard to public education. I can assert myself in a way that advocates for those who matter most, the students and their families (Disposition 11 – using the influence of one’s office constructively and productively in the service of all students and their families).
However, of all six standards, this is perhaps the one I also feel most unequipped to handle. I have not yet developed a strong understanding of the legal issues surrounding education. Furthermore, my pragmatist view on education could serve to be a hindrance because of my personal feelings towards top-down mandates that I don’t necessarily believe is what is best for students. Some of those include No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. In my experience and based on the research I’ve read, I have not seen much evidence that mandates such as NCLB or RTTT are effective nor are they benefiting our students in the ways they set out to do. In many respects, they go against much of what I believe education is about which includes giving school districts and individual schools the ability to make the important decisions that will directly impact their students and their families. It is the principals and teachers, on the “front lines”, who should be making the decisions that will impact students because it is they who are the ones working with students and their families on a daily basis. Teachers and their principals should be able to have the freedom to create learning environments that allow students to experience learning in a hands-on, interactive and collaborative manner. As a school leader, I would find it difficult to promote such top-down mandates. However, if over time mandates such as NCLB or RTTT ever did prove to be what is best for student success, I would be willing to set aside my personal feelings and work to promote them for the greater good of the school community (Disposition 9 – subordinating one’s own interest to the good of the school community).
Goal: I will strive to educate myself in the political, social, economical, legal and cultural contexts that will help me to make informed decisions.
Rationale: By focusing on this goal, I will be able to take meaningful steps towards ensuring the students and their families under my charge are well supported and afforded the same opportunities as everyone else because I will be better able to advocate on their behalf. [Standard 6, Strand 1]
As I reflect on the six WSP Standards and examine the information gathered by completing a variety of assessments, I have come to realize that I possess a lot of strengths when it comes to the specific characteristics needed to fulfill a leadership role in education. I have also come to realize that there is much I need to improve upon if I am to be an effective leader over a long period of time.
As a leader, I am someone who values both results and relationships. I firmly believe it is important to set high expectations for those with whom you work, while also taking the time to establish strong, trusting relationships. Results and relationships, no doubt, directly impact one another. However, part of building a trusting relationship with others is related to how you react and respond to others. While I know, and my assessments have proven to me, that I value relationships and will strive to develop strong relationships, I can at times come across as aloof or unapproachable. This can become a problem as I collaborate with others. I need to consciously think about how I present myself so that I show others that I am willing and able to come to the table with a variety of people to make decisions that will support student growth and achievement.
Another area I must work to develop is my ability to work through conflict. This is something I know I struggle with, as conflict makes me feel uncomfortable. I will often try to withdraw or simply avoid it. This is not the disposition of a leader as it is the responsibility of a leader to face conflict head-on, working to problem-solve and/or compromise. However, I am good at accepting feedback and criticism, turning that feedback into positive change. So, when conflict does arise, especially when it involves specific feedback or criticism of my choices or actions, I know I will take the necessary steps to enact whatever change is needed.
Through the process of reflecting on the WSP Standards and my strengths and weaknesses, I was able to develop goals that will allow me to work on shoring up any deficits I have to ensure I become a capable, successful school leader whether that be as a mentor coach for new teachers, working on committees involved in the improvement of curriculum and assessment or as a facilitator within my building helping my colleagues learn to navigate and integrate the numerous technology resources available to them and their students in the classroom.
Barger, R. (1999). The Ross Barger Philosophy-Inventory. Retrieved from http://www3.nd.edu/~rbarger/ross-barger
Blake, R. & Mouton, J. Blake-Mouton Managerial Grid. Retrieved from http://www.bumc.bu.edu/facdev-medicine/files/2010/10/Leadership-Matrix-Self-Assessment-Questionnaire.pdf
Danielson Framework (this .pdf outlines each component of the Danielson Framework which was used during my Accomplished Teaching class)
Houston, P. D., Blankstein, A. M., & Cole, R. W. (2008). Spirituality in Educational Leadership. Thousand Oakes, CA: Corwin.
Jung, C. Humanmetrics Jung Typology Test. Retrieved from http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp
Kilmann, J. & Thomas, K. (2010, March 2). Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument. Retreived from https://www.skillsone.com/Pdfs/smp248248.pdf
Owen, R. & Valesky, T. (2015). Organizational Behavior in Education: Leadership and School Reform. 11 ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.
Principal / Program Administrator – Washington State Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB). (n.d.). Retrieved April 7, 2015, from http://www.pesb.wa.gov/pgppilot/standards-strands/principal-program-administrator-career-level
York-Barr, J., Sommers, W., Ghere, G., & Montie, J. (2006). Reflective Practice to Improve Schools: An Action Research Guide for Educators (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.