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I've always taken time at the end of the year to reflect on my own teaching practice, and this year was no different.
Except for one thing: This year, I also reflected on my professional leadership, using the Teacher Leader Model Standards.
Released last year, the standards outline how teachers can play meaningful roles in meeting 21st-century learners' needs. There are seven domains or areas of leadership, along with functions that further define each one. I found that the standards align with my beliefs about what it means to be effective in my classroom, school, and profession.
So, after learning more about each domain, I formulated questions for myself—then reflected on my own practice this year and my plans for improvement. Below you'll find my questions—and summaries of my reflections.
My question: In what ways did I work with my professional learning community to solve problems, make decisions, manage conflicts, and promote meaningful change?
My takeaway: Before the start of this school year, I worked with colleagues to shape my school's improvement plan. Next year, I can improve in this domain by implementing training on peer coaching that I will complete this summer. As a peer coach, I will be prepared with the listening skills, observation strategies, and questioning techniques I need to aid colleagues with improving their practice.
My question: How did I systematically research best practices and model this process with my professional learning community?
My takeaway: This year, I completed a systematic study of service learning, presented my findings to some of my colleagues, and invited them to join me in a project. Collectively, we decided on service-learning project called Writing Buddies: Gifted and talented students wrote children's books for intellectually disabled students, and then worked with the intellectually disabled students to illustrate them. Next year, I would like to encourage even more teachers to engage their students in service-learning projects and collect more data about their impact on student learning.
My question: What job-embedded professional development did I lead or facilitate this year? How did it align to the school improvement plan and impact student achievement?
My takeaway: Working from a plan developed by my PLC, I led a school-wide effort to incorporate differentiated instruction into every lesson. My efforts helped start an important conversation about meeting the needs of all students. I will improve this endeavor by analyzing the data from standardized tests with my PLC and then identifying and sharing more resources that will improve our efforts to differentiate instruction next year.
My question: How did I use collaboration to model and improve new instructional practices?
My takeaway: My colleagues frequently ask to observe me (or ask me to observe them and share my insights). I'm always flattered—and it's great when I learn that a technique I've demonstrated or advice I've given has been successful in others' classrooms. But to be honest, I've not always "made time" for this collaboration. I want to be more open next year—and to push my own observers to help me improve rather than just telling me what they're going to take back to their classrooms.
My question: In what ways did I collaborate with my colleagues to conduct action research?
My takeaway: As the lone teacher of gifted students at my school, it is difficult for me to engage with my PLC about this. I must find creative ways to collaborate regardless of my oddball position and lack of common planning time. Currently, I find myself chasing down teachers for up-to-date information on my students' performance in their regular classrooms. Virtual collaboration via Google Apps may provide a solution for me next year. Weekly assessments and scores can be shared and analyzed beyond the constraints of time and place.
My question: In what ways did I promote partnerships with families and the community as a means to improve students' learning?
My takeaway: I maintain regular communication with my students' families and have some partnerships with the community through programs such as Junior Achievement. My teaching practice could be improved further by inviting students' families, businesses, and community organizations to partner with me as a means to meet student needs. Teachers cannot be expected to be experts on all topics. I've identified several curriculum areas in which students' learning could be enhanced by inviting stakeholders to share their expertise, which may be related to their careers, hobbies, or culture.
My question: How am I advocating for the teaching profession and for the policies that benefit student learning?
My takeaway: I frequently email politicians and school board members to share my expertise and opinion on various topics, but this strategy is not having much of an impact. Next year, I will focus on one or two issues, identify relevant research and classroom examples, and seek out opportunities for face-to-face meetings with decision makers.
For me, honest reflection on my teaching practice is my best evaluation tool—and it has been refreshing to find a way to reflect on my professional leadership, too. Some of my activities may never show up on my official evaluation, but they're an integral part of who I want to be as a teacher.
If you are a teacher leader (or want to be one someday), you might find the Teacher Leader Model Standards to be a good tool for reflecting on your professional leadership. You can't possibly succeed at every aspect of every domain—but the standards will certainly help you identify some things you're already doing that are significant (and some areas for growth).
I discovered that I need to concentrate much more time and energy on Domain Five (Promoting the Use of Assessments and Data for School and District Improvement) in the 2012-13 school year. I'm already looking forward to reflecting on my leadership goals this time next year now that I've taken the time to identify them!