Instructional Leadership

It’s Been Awhile…Lessons Learned as a New Administrator


It has been awhile since I have blogged.  A long while.  So much has changed for me since I last blogged.  I could give the excuse that I have been busy with my family…which I have, but that is not it.  I could say it has been awhile because I switched careers and moved from consultant to vice principal at an inner city school, but that is not it.  I could say it is because I am back teaching grade two after four years out of the classroom, but that is not it.  I could say it is because I was finishing my master’s degree…which I did (yay!), but that is not it either.  I have not blogged because I could not get my thoughts together in a way that is coherent, organized and what I thought would be “blog worthy”.  So much has changed for me.  So much has been new and I honestly have been treading water, barely keeping my head afloat with so much change.  The learning curve has been straight up.

What’s different now, after 6 months in a school that brought me back to my blog?  I’m not sure to be honest but I can say that for the first time this weekend I had a moment to think, to feel centered, feel at peace with where I am, and in that moment it occurred to me that I am no longer treading…I am swimming! So in this moment of swimming I reflect on what I have learned during these last few months as I have transitioned from a consultant to a vice principal.

  1. There is absolutely a theory/ practice gap and this is NOT because teachers don’t want to implement the theory.  For me the gap exists in my practice when the needs of my students trump the theory I am trying to implement.  Every day I work and learn with children ages 4-13.  They are amazing individuals who are just that…individuals.  Each and every one of them comes to school each day with needs that they look to us to help them with and sometimes these needs are not the same as the lesson I have planned.  This does not mean that I don’t teach, in fact I do everyday.  What it does mean is that I sometimes have to change my plans to meet the needs of my students, and I don’t apologize for this.
  2. Learning in my classroom takes longer than I think it should and that is okay…in fact that should be celebrated!!   I spent 6 months coming to this important realization.  I felt defeated every time the lesson I planned took a week instead of a period.  My timing was off and I was down on myself for it. Prior to becoming a consultant I had great timing.  I could plan a lesson for a period and it would be completed within that period.  What was I doing wrong?  My ah ha moment came when I realized that I am a different teacher than I used to be.  I assess more in the moment than ever before and in those moments I make changes, shift ideas, and adapt to meet the needs of the students in front of me.  I embrace every teachable moment as it comes my way which means that I don’t always complete my lesson but I DO support my students reach the learning goals.  I am no longer driven by the lesson plan.  I am now driven by the needs of the students.  Instead of beating myself up for not achieving the plan I need to celebrate helping my students meet the goal.
  3.  Being a VP means I now have 153 kids.  I have always thought of the students in my class as my kids.  I spend my day with them, come to know them, and love them.  I laugh with them, cry with them, and learn with them.   My students consume my thoughts, keep me up at night, and always make me so proud.  What I have come to realize of myself as a VP is that each kid in the school is now mine too.  I now have a class of 153 students which at times is very overwhelming.  There are so many needs to meet and like a class some of my kids take more of my time and energy but each of them is mine to care for, love, and teach.
  4. I can’t implement everything at once and I am going to have to be okay with that.  I had 4 years to learn so much when I was a consultant.  4 years of stock piling ideas, taking pictures and dreaming about being back in a school.  At first I thought I could jump in and implement everything I had waited so long to try.  I wanted to do it all at once and was upset with myself when I couldn’t find the time to make it all happen.  I’m over this!  One idea at a time, one day at a time.  That is my new motto.
  5. I don’t always know what to do (and am now not afraid to admit it).  As a new school based leader I believed it was important for me to know what to do.  I felt I should have the answers to the questions, the solutions to the problems, the next steps at my fingertips.  I felt that the teachers, students, and parents were looking to me for this, and I felt the pressure of this self-imposed expectation.  I now know that I don’t have all of the answers and can freely admit this to others.  What I can also do is give myself the freedom that comes from not reacting with instant “solutions” but from taking some time to think, ask questions, and invite other perspectives.  In the end my actions are more informed and successful.
  6. I am so very happy to be back in a school as a teacher and as an administrator.  It is by far the toughest job I have ever had but it is also the most rewarding.   I see every day the impact I am having.  Daily, I am energized by the laughter, smiles, and learning of children.   I am blessed to spend my days with some truly amazing people.


Instructional Leadership, Learning, Teaching and Instruction, Technology, Uncategorized

The Role of the Instructional Leader in Technology Integration

Part 3- Gaining an Understanding

Technology use should live within instruction and learning. Since instruction and learning are a responsibility of school administrators so too is the integration of technology. Today’s leaders must strive to initiate, promote, and support the effective use of technology in the educational environments by creating and supporting opportunities for teachers to learn with, about, and from technology. In this way they can create and support opportunities for learning with, about, and from technology for students.

Julia Kara-Soteriou (2009) suggests that instructional leaders can jump into this learning by taking the initiative for their own learning in three key ways.

  1. Gain an Understanding
  2. Embrace and Model Technology
  3. Actively Demonstrate Leadership

I believe that those three components can provide leaders with the “on ramp” to creating an environment that is technology rich and more importantly learning rich.

In Gaining an Understanding leaders are required to “step into the technology pool” with a willingness to explore. Exploration can range from opening the channels of communication with colleagues about technology; to actively pursuing professional development opportunities; to joining a web-based Professional Learning Network (PLN). Opportunities to use technology for learning are everywhere and leaders need to grab those opportunities with the mindset of educators and learners. This proactive learning should be driven by the needs and interests of the leader, their staff and their students. Though gaining an understanding leaders are able to actively engage in conversations and share their own experiences. This can inspire others to begin their own journeys of understanding.

Within a plethora of possibilities for exploration lies the opportunity for leaders to choose their own adventure, have fun and learn. From adventures in trying new hardware (iPads, computers, Smart Phones, Smart Boards, Document Cameras, digital photography etc.) to adventures in trying software (YouTube, Twitter, Blogging, Outlook Calendars, Excel, Internal Portal Systems, Google Documents, Flickr etc.) the opportunities to harness and share these experiences in learning are plentiful. What is necessary in this exploration is for instructional leaders to gain an understanding of how the digital tool or technology works AND an understanding of how those tools can support, enhance and transform learning for teachers and students. Instructional leadership in technology grows from personal experiences and play.

Instructional leaders should be pioneers in learning. They are people who are willing to step out into the unknown, experiment and actively pursue learning. They also possess the skills that inspire others to follow them in learning. Through a willingness to take risks and share their own learning, leaders create a space where other feel safe to do the same. An instructional leader with an understanding of technology can make a significant difference in inspiring technology integration in schools.

Kara-Soteriou, J. (2009). Promoting technology integration through the leadership of school administrators. New England Reading Association Journal. 91-95.