Hear how superintendent Paula's experiences as a former teacher have influenced her approach and the need to bring teachers to the table:
Listen to Paula's perspective on how to strategically match principals with relatable deeper learning schools:
Learn about Maya's supportive principal who walks the walk of their school mission and models a student-centered approach:
"Everything changed when money ran out and we got a new superintendent."
"It all depends on who your boss is."
"You have to treat teachers as agents of change versus objects of change."
Changes in school leadership and mission are frequent and discouraging, leaving teachers without the context, consistency, and support needed to deepen learning for their students.
Teachers told us about the challenges of changes in their working environment, curriculum, administration, and school mission. For example, one teacher described how high administrator turnover and discontinuous school initiatives throughout his long career at a large urban school has led him and his colleagues to be distrustful of leadership and disengaged with “new” trends. He specifically mentioned that school reformers are often ill-equipped to historically contextualize and effectively communicate change. Another teacher at a small urban school described a major shift she experienced in school mission, structure, and support after a change in funding and superintendent. Prior to the change, she had positive experiences with the competency-based Diploma Plus model her school formerly embodied and recounted how the block scheduling, teacher teams, and on-site project development support enabled teachers to deepen learning for their students. After this leadership decision and mission change, she found it impossible to maintain the same quality and depth of learning for her students.
Making a space for teacher voice, and allowing classroom educators to participate in decision-making helps create an environment of trust and experimentation.
We spoke with several principals who had a teacher-centered methodology in their leadership approach. In one case, after a visit to Summit Public Schools, a principal we spoke with felt the Summit model of student-directed learning would be very impactful at her small urban school. When she returned from the site visit, she provided information to her teachers and asked them to participate in the decision about incorporating the model or not. Together, they landed on an iterative approach in which some interested teachers would pilot the model in their classrooms in the next year. Adversely, She described the tell-tale sign of disempowered teachers is their silence during a meeting. Creating an environment where teachers are engaged as decision makers, and are able to speak their minds without repercussion is crucial for creating an environment where teachers will feel comfortable taking risks to deepen learning for their students.