HTH GSE Conceptual Framework: Leadership
* Act as change agents within and beyond the school.
* Serve as effective coaches, mentors, and critical friends to colleagues.
* Build and sustain adult learning communities based on support, mutual respect, and continual professional growth

GSE Year I
Equity & Diversity through Chalk Talk
In this reflection I explain my first experience with Chalk Talk in my classroom and how that experience propelled me to present the strategy at a staff meeting as a means to promote safe and equitable learning environments in all classrooms.
HTH 200 Equity, Diversity and Design Principles Final Assignment
Chalk Talk Protocol Student Handout

School Reform
Fellow GSE colleague Vickie Kuchinsky proposed some reforms to the Willowbrook School District.  Willowbrook, like many urban districts, faces issues such as large campus and class size, segregation and lack of consistent professional development.
Proposal to the Willowbrook School Board
Willowbrook School Board Response

The Board
A few years ago my fellow AVID  and English Language Arts colleague Mellany Parinas and I dreamed of a place in the teacher workroom where we could advertise AVID strategies and best practices to other teachers.  Two years ago we received permission and two bulletin boards were at our disposal.  I covered them with bright blue eye-catching paper and began to post strategies that teachers in all content areas could implement.  Some examples: found poems, quaker reads, exit slips, accountable talk stems and a list of of my colleague, Carmen's Juicer Lessons...  This year, I added differentiation strategies and made a colorful list of the survival skills Tony Wagner states students need to cultivate in school and cites in his book The Global Achievement Gap.
Juicier Lessons
Survival Skills

The Board
During Year II of Teacher Leadership each graduate candidate was required to jump outside their comfort zone and take on four or more Wicked Awesome Leadership Opportunities and then reflect on them.  Examples of Wicked Awesome Leadership Opportunities, or WALO's are: presenting work to colleagues using a structured protocol,  planning a project or curricular unit with a colleague and reading a book relevant to your practice and discussing it with colleagues.

WALO #1:  Book Club
This summer I realized how incredibly lonely reading can be. As I read articles on peer response groups, school culture and motivation I had the urge to turn to turn to the closest person and share what I had just read. Sometimes my husband lent a kind listening ear and nodded his head and drew parallels to his role as a manager, but it wasn't the same.
For the last few years my principal, Listy, has sponsored a book club. She usually chooses the book and buys a copy for each person who is interested. In the past the book club has met an hour or so after school is out at a colleague's house who lives a few blocks from school. Book club members take turns bringing food and beverage to share as we discuss the book.  Last year we began strong with the book The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner, but after the fourth chapter we never met again.
With my new found "Ah ha" about the loneliness of reading, I decided to revive the dead book club. There are several books I have purchased and want to read. I put an email out to the staff with some titles and suggested that the book club meet directly after school in the front office. I was hoping that this might attract those who had never been in the book club before because of day care obligations. I got a positive response from about 7 or 8 colleagues and my principal suggested we begin with the book Somebody's Someone by Regina Louise, as Louise was coming to speak to all students at our school about her life.
We met October 20th after school in the front office. Although I had "put it out there" in the hopes of new members showing up to book club, it was all of the regulars--which is great--I just hoped that we might pull in a few newcomers. There was some discussion that it was more comfortable, if not fun to meet at my colleagues off campus and this prompted my colleague to express her unhappiness about the meeting choice of the book club. It caught me totally off guard and  I wasn't sure how to deal with the negative energy.

What struck me about this experience?
1. This experience validated a few things:
a. It is always the same core group of people who do more than just their classroom job at my school.  How do we get others involved?
b. Sometimes people come to the table with issues we are unprepared for and we are caught off guard.

2. How has it influenced your thinking about:
a. The craft of teaching and working with students?
It is the same with students. It is up to the teacher to engage all students in leadership roles so that a few do not dominate. All students need exposure in participating.
As a teacher, I can have the best intentions, but I never know what baggage/issues my students are going to bring to class. With students, I think it is usually best to meet them were they at, with colleagues I am sometimes stumped...what to do???

b. Being a leader and collaborating with colleagues?
Grown ups are much more difficult than kids. While my peers and colleagues are most of the time very receptive to me, I am also aware that many have been teaching for so long that they don't want to stray from the routines they have established. Change is difficult.

How has it informed the development of your fierce wonderings and/or your Action Research Project?
I am just wondering how to be a good leader. How to inspire others. How to make others want to jump outside of their ring of comfort. I am feeling not so good at that. In fact, I don't even know if I know how to do that.

4. What surprised you? What questions remain? What are some possible next steps?

You win some, you lose some. I am not sure if I will pursue the book club. It was decided that we would pick up where we left off last year with the book The Global Achievement Gap. I've already finished it. Book club is meeting this Wednesday. I have about 48 hours to make up my mind.
Possible next steps...Go back to blogging. I started that, and then became paralyzed by my work load, I've been on a real downer, maybe expressing what I am learning through writing will allow me to see some of the bright spots. It all seems very slow and difficult right now.

WALO #2  Facilitating the Success Analysis Protocol

For WALO #2 I facilitated Jen Villalpando's Collegial Conversation in December. This was my first time facilitating a protocol and I was a bit nervous, to say the least. Jen's goal was to generate ideas for a final product for The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. About 7 teachers, beside myself and Jen joined us. 3 of these teachers were from Innovations Academy and the remainder came from different schools. Teachers represented both elementary and middle levels.

What struck me?
The idea that a group of teachers convening on a Saturday, almost all from different locations, grade levels and experience levels, none of them really knowing each other, to give and take away STRUCK me.
I was a bit concerned that no one from HTH was in the group to support me as a facilitator. What if I messed up? What if no one participated? But that didn't happen. There was plenty of silence at first, and that was awkward. There was a brief moment where Jen and I looked at each other like, "Uh-oh, no one is saying anything." I realized afterward that silence is okay. Jen's question was broad and thinking time was necessary.

How has this experience influenced my thinking about the craft of teaching and working with students?
I definitely wish that I could use the protocol in the same way Jen did to fine tune my lessons. How could I do approach this with my staff? How could I get overworked, tired teachers to give up an hour of their before school or after school time?

How has this experience influenced being a leader and collaborating with colleagues?
A month later, after this experience, I took the plunge and sent an email out to my English Department asking for help. With the support of my principal and six other teachers I presented a dilemma using the Project Tuning Protocol after school on January 11th. My colleague Carmen volunteered to facilitate the protocol, even though she had never done this before. In fact, none of them had participated in anything like this before. My colleagues came up with some great ideas with me and they voiced the idea that they, too, took a lot away.

How has this informed the development of my Action Research Project?
I'm not quite sure about this, but I am thinking about the use of protocols and how perhaps I can use the Success Analysis Protocol with my students on the final project of this next critique cycle. This may help me with my findings section.

What surprised me? What questions remain? Next steps?
I would definitely like to push for another Tuning Protocol soon with my department. The sooner the better. One of my colleagues suggested that she was interested in presenting.
How do I get the teachers who never volunteer to step forward or do I just focus on the bright spots and wait to see the idea of protocols catches on?

WALO #3:  Facilitating the Success Analysis Protocol
On Wednesday, February 23, I met with the 6th grade English teachers to facilitate the Success Analysis Protocol. This is the first year our 6th grade team has taught the diversity model. The diversity model schedules all students in a mixed ability class. It requires that 30% of the students in a class be gifted and talented certified. In the past, students have been scheduled into classes based on ability. This year our site decided to adopt the diversity model and forge forward with mixed ability classes. I credit my principal for marching forward with this idea, despite the reluctance of some teachers.  Because some teachers were opposed to this, our principal decided to phase it in, one grade per year. I thought meeting with the 6th grade Language Arts team and facilitating a discussion based on our successes with the diversity model might provide evidence we could take to the staff as we move forward in changing the culture of our school and rolling out mixed ability classes.

1. What struck you about this experience?
Initially, my colleagues seemed hesitant to participate in the protocol. Afterwards, I asked them why and my colleague Cindy said, “Strange and new.” Another said, “Fight or flight.”

I had one participant who arrived late and was upset about some external issues. She did not want to follow the protocol and when I redirected her and explained that the purpose of the protocol was to discuss/analyze our successes with the diversity model she became upset, because she had wanted to share some of her classroom challenges and said I had taken the wind out of her sails. I emphasized that we were focusing on our successes and we could speak about her issue afterwards. I think she was bummed with me.  After all participants had taken a turn sharing and we went into debriefing, my colleague Stacey said, “I’d really like to talk about the process of the protocol. I really appreciated the fact that we got to discuss what we are doing well. We’re doing these incredible things and we don’t often get to sit down and celebrate our victories.”

2. How has it influenced your thinking about:
a. The craft of teaching and working with students?

I think maybe pulling one students work, a exemplar, and taking it through this process as a model for other students to understand what went into crafting the work, besides the student set criteria, would be interesting.

b. Being a leader and collaborating with colleagues?
Teachers, people, can be difficult to work with. I had two teachers who came in with big personalities today. One, being the teacher I mentioned above. After I had to redirect discussion twice because participants weren’t following the protocol, the other would remark, anytime someone commented, “Is that part of the protocol?” in a sarcastic manner. This was really hard for me and it made me wonder how my administrators have stayed so calm in the past when grown ups behave this way.  It was also difficult because I was putting myself out there, and trying to do something that we could all benefit from, and I felt like the sarcasm was undermining and under valuing my efforts.  She eventually stopped and during our debriefing she said that the process was valuable. How do I deal with that in the future, or is ignoring it just the best solution?

3. How has it informed the development of your fierce wonderings and/or your Action Research Project?
Focus on the bright spots.

4. What surprised you? What questions remain? What are some possible next steps?

I am hoping that the teachers that participated in the protocol will talk about it with colleagues who were not present. Some of the 6th grade teachers that participated it today also participated in the tuning protocol a month ago for a lesson of mine.  I've really bonded with many of the 6th grade team through our meetings around the diversity cluster and I eat with many of them at lunch.  I admire their dedication to students, but also their consistent desire to try new things, like project based learning and blogging.  I feel lucky to work with these people.  How can I inspire the seventh grade teachers to do the same?  Or can their model of collaboration inspire other grade levels at our school?

Walo #4: Professional Development/Productive Group Work and Task Design

For my last WALO, I signed up for a two part course on Productive Group Work and Task Design through my school district, San Diego Unified. The instructor of the course was Nancy Frey, a professor of literacy in the School of Teacher Education at SDSU. As part of the course we received a book she coauthored titled Productive Group Work: How to Engage Students, Build Teamwork, and Promote Understanding. I heard about this course through a colleague who had taken another course by Frey. Because my action research is founded about students working together, I saw this as an opportunity to learn more about how to foster effective collaborative groups.

1. What struck you about this experience?

Being a GSE student of HTH for the last two years, I was struck by the idea of being stuck to a chair for two and a half hours and being lectured to. My experience with HTH has been exactly the opposite, and it was amazing how quickly I assumed the role of obedient student and began taking notes. After all the majority of my own education mirrored this and the powerpoint visuals that accompanied the lecture required minimal output from me. I didn’t leave feeling rejuvenated, refreshed and ready to throw myself in the trenches 12 hours later. I left with a few good reminders, but no urgency to return to the second part of the course.

2. How has it influenced your thinking about:
a. The craft of teaching and working with students?

Like I realized when I was working on my findings, I think sometimes I am in such a rush to get the kids working that I forget to lay down the norms or perimeters. One important take away that I used over and over today in my classes and even posted on my desk is saying, “I’m looking for… and I am listening for…” before I unleash students. Easy, but I often forget this.

Another take-away was the idea that when it comes to productive group work, the task needs to be difficult enough for group members to rely on each other.

Frey did show some video footage of elementary students working in groups. After the video played, we debriefed what we saw at our tables noting the effective traits of the groups. Some traits that stood out were use of academic language, students rephrasing what they heard other students saying, students facing each other…

One thing I loved was Frey’s definition of group work, she called it the helping curriculum and talked about how students working together productively build a bridge to stay in the classroom—to not be a statistic in the drop out rate. I never thought of it that way before. I like to read more about this when I get a chance to open the book.

b. Being a leader and collaborating with colleagues?
Don’t lecture. Provide student work or video to influence teachers.

3. How has it informed the development of your fierce wonderings and/or your Action Research Project?

As I’ve mentioned in the conclusion of my action research that students collaborating and working together can be a place of discomfort. Are they really using instructional time effectively? I need to be more proactive in setting the norms, or establishing norms with my students so that time working together is productive.

4. What surprised you? What questions remain? What are some possible next steps?

What always surprises me is the value of reminders. This course was a reminder of what I need to do in order to be a facilitator of productive group work. At this point in the year I often assume that my students know what to do—and then when they don’t I want to launch into that, “Hey, it is May 19th, I shouldn’t have to tell you that you should be…” If I simply launch group work with reminding students of the expectations, explicitly stating what the task is and how much time they have to complete it, I would save myself and them some unneeded frustration.