A Winning Strategy

horseraceOver the past school year, we five started to notice a curious thing. High school students bestowed by fiat the title of “Principal” on their Spanish teacher. They routinely referred to two teachers in particular as “admin” and started going to the two of them for issues about which they might previously have reached out to Connie or Joy. Staff and parents alike began noting and commenting upon the presence or absence of one or the other of us five on each of the two campuses. It all had a little bit the feel of a horserace.

We get it. It’s human nature to want to know what’s up. Is someone’s star rising? Is another person’s star falling? In the absence of clarity we perhaps should have been quicker to provide, we suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that the reductive place all the speculation seemed to be headed was to laying odds. Is Joy leaving? What about the other four of us? Are we getting ready for some big reveal that recasts who’s in charge at either or both schools? Are there “promotions” in the works?

If you made time to attend the State of the School presentation this past week, we offered you some answers in one of our overarching themes. We are very intentionally broadening our definition of school leadership. The current Admin Team isn’t going anywhere, but we are purposefully cultivating teachers who can share the privilege and the responsibility of leading CSD into the future. We launched the Teacher Leader program three years ago as the initial stage of this effort. Each year since then, we’ve tweaked and reshaped it as participating teachers build skill sets and identify areas of interest that allow us to share out the administrative load.

But if none of the five of us are leaving, what’s the point?

At the risk of getting far too expansive, we believe the point is in the very nature of education itself. As educators we are committed to pursuing continuous improvement in our school’s structure, instruction, and curriculum. We see ourselves as the keepers of CSD’s mission to provide an optimal learning environment that reflects the tenets of the Basic School. But we also see ourselves as stewards who must always be looking 20 years down the road and building the school’s long-term viability.

Year in and year out we measure our progress toward those ideals, asking ourselves always how can we be better? We collect and analyze data about our student’s performance and growth. We read the literature and compare its findings to our observations in the classroom. We gather insights from our teachers. And we listen to our students and their parents, comparing their perspectives to our intended outcomes. Together all of it fuels our plans for school improvement and protecting the school’s future.

Sound familiar?

It should. It is the model for education our students follow. Learning is, by definition, both an iterative and cooperative undertaking. Knowledge is not a static, private commodity to be hoarded. It reflects instead an exchange of ideas, an insistence on questioning those ideas, and the willingness to revisit those ideas based on the answers that emerge. The more thinkers and learners at the table, the richer the interchange and the deeper the skill it yields.

Seating teachers at the leadership table, we believe, is a powerful way to enrich and broaden our school’s growth and ensure its sustainability. For that reason, we don’t believe that the number of seats at the table is finite or that occupying them implies the status of a win, place, or show at the races. At CSD, education leadership does not push its way to the top, it ripples outward from the center. As administrators we aim not just to expand leadership within the ranks of CSD, we hope that through our efforts, the leaders we grow here will branch out into the community and the broader world of education to help seed changes in public education our children so desperately deserve.

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