Sunday, May 17, 2015

Disconnected Leadership - Something to Think About

I look forward to reading Peter DeWitt's blogs in EdWeek.  I find myself agreeing with him most of the time about issues like school climate, accountability, testing, and leadership. One of his recent blogs was about Disconnected Leadership.  Peter conducted a survey and suggested that there are 3 areas that are at the heart of the disconnect between teachers and school leaders:  faculty meetings and classroom observations which in turn affect school climate.

This blog made me reflect on how I lead at our school.  I wondered whether our teachers felt the same way as many of the teachers in the survey.  I think our teachers would agree that we do try to communicate as much information as possible via emails or our staff bulletin rather than through faculty meetings. Many of our teachers know of my aversion to sitting in meetings where we "sit and get" and where the agendas are composed of compliance issues and mandates.  This is primarily why I do my best not to do that to our staff.  However, Peter suggests that another reason why teachers may be disengaged in faculty meetings is because they have not been asked for their suggestions and have not helped to co-construct the agenda.

Peter also mentioned that classroom observations are a problem, especially when teachers are at the receiving end of feedback and the observation does not create new learning opportunities for them.  A major component of our State's evaluation system is a teacher observation using the Danielson framework. I personally do not believe that 30% of a teacher's evaluation should be based on one observation, and I've shared my viewpoints previously in an earlier blog. I enjoy going into classrooms to talk with kids and see what kind of learning is taking place, but I prefer less formal observations that give me information about what goes on in the classroom on a daily basis and not just once a year during a required observation.

Finally, Peter shares that school climate is impacted negatively when relationships between leaders and their staff are strained, and he suggests that we start by changing the way we do faculty meetings and classroom observations/evaluations.  I agree.  I believe that how we conduct faculty meetings, professional development sessions, or observation feedback with our teachers should mirror what we want to see in the classrooms where the outcome would be excited learners following their passions and trying new ideas, collaborating with their peers, and self-reflecting to improve.  The first step is being open to ideas from our staff to determine faculty meeting agendas or professional development sessions.  The second step is to work with teachers to build their capacity to lead these sessions with their peers.

After all, education is about the learner and the learning.  This is true not only for students but for teachers and school leaders as well.


  1. Hi Jan,
    I am glad you look forward to my blogs. I always enjoy the dialogue we have on Google. I have no doubt that you are a part of the small percentage of principals who have collaborative faculty meetings, co-constructed evaluations and a supportive school climate. I sometimes worry the same people I may be writing about are not the ones reading blogs.
    I appreciate the mention in this blog. Hope you are well.

    1. Thank you, Peter! So nice to hear from you on Google :-) We have a few more weeks of school and then it's summer break. Of course, we don't really have a break; as we wind down this school year, we're already in the midst of planning for next year. We just finished Smarter Balanced Assessments, and I really don't want to see the results. It was brutal. By the way, I heard that NY had the lowest "honesty gap" of statewide assessment results compared with NAEP results. I think NY also had the most students opting out of the tests. Take care, and I'll continue to read your blogs.

  2. New reader and I like how you incorporated the 4 C's into your title. I am an aspiring admin looking for blogs to read that inspire and teach on my journey. I like how you bounced of Dewitt's blog post sharing your reflections. I blog from a Lerner and teacher leader perspective at

    1. Hi, Melissa! Thank you for reading and responding to my blog. I'm glad you're blogging as a new administrator. It can be challenging, but I find that it helps me to reflect on my actions and to celebrate our successes. I enjoy reading other educators' blogs and learning from them, and I'll be sure to check out your website and your blog. Take care!