Inspired. Hopeful. Thankful. Three words to describe my work with schools and district this week. As always, I learned as I coached.
I often compare school improvement to turning a page. When you are in the middle of the work, it overwhelms and doesn’t always produce results as fast as we would like. I remind my principals that being intentional and focused on the right work will reap the rewards; just not overnight. You can not skip ahead to the end of the book. You have to put the time and effort in and it may not always feel that it is worthwhile however, you will know when you have turned the page…
I had several celebrations and conversations with principals this week who actually felt and saw the pages turning. They were able to articulate, that, after a rocky start to this school year, they could see growth in both professional practices and student learning. They could describe the common language built through consistent collaboration and a deeper understanding of how a focus on evidence-based practices and student learning was making a difference. As one superintendent said, we are seeing below the surface of the iceberg; taking a deeper dive and noticing where to go with next steps.
And, as a continuous process, school improvement leads to “what now” conversations. In my experience, the more pages that are turned, the greater the need for fine-tuning and clarifying what is, and, what is not working. Christy Cross, Principal of Huntsville Elementary School in Texas said it best this week, “As we improve processes and have the resources in place to improve our school, we have more clarity on what needs to be done next. It is as if we now see everything”. Ms. Cross has developed strong collaboration and a focus on student learning and she recognizes that to sustain the improvement, she must continue to shine a spotlight on what is not working (yet). I am confident that her staff will rise to this challenge and I left that coaching conversation feeling very hopeful and blessed to work with her.
For the past several months, I have been living in an apartment building surrounded by beautiful trees. As the autumn leaves fall from the trees, I am able to see more and more of this wonderful harbour. I have clarity of what is around me; similar to what happens as we stay consistent and true to our school improvement focus.
As we head to a much needed and well deserved break for educators, I am inspired by the pages, that I saw turned, this past week. School improvement feels messy and unfortunately, many give up on the right practices because they have not had the patience to deeply implement. They move on to the next program or look for a quick fix recipe. Authentic school improvement takes strong and consistent leadership, a deep understanding of collaboration, evidence-based decisions and a laser-like focus on the student. And lots of patience and celebration.
To my principals, district leaders and of course, the hard-working teachers who I meet in my virtual coaching journey, I thank you for your inspiration and commitment to constant improvement. We have vulnerable conversations and you take courageous steps in your own professional and personal development. You are saving student lives, one page at a time.