Saturday, September 15, 2012

Are You Vulnerable as an Instructional Leader?

The other day I was having a great conversation with Bill Ferriter about flipping faculty meetings. In my discussion I was talking to him about some of my instructional goals for the campus this year and  how important it was that I have a culture where the staff could be vulnerable in their discussions about instruction.

Bill, a teacher himself, posed this question to me. "Well John, how vulnerable are you in your instruction?" He went on to say that it's real easy for the instructional leader to ask everyone to be vulnerable when he, himself, doesn't have to be vulnerable. This statement gave me pause as I started to reflect about how many times in my career I have asked teachers to do something that I, myself, didn't do at all.

As leaders, it's very important for us to set goals for the team. It is imperative to set a vision of where we want our organization to be. It's also vital to describe the behaviors and attitudes that we must all exhibit if we want to reach our vision and our goal.

So it all comes back to the title of this post, am I vulnerable as an instructional leader? I would say that I work hard to be an instructional leader because I have a good understanding of what curriculum should look like in instruction at all levels, what it should look like in an assessment and intervention,
and how the organization must work interdependently to link those things together.  I make plans to create the structure and culture to give teachers the autonomy and safety to discuss instructional practices and how we as a campus can improve; however, I think that I can do a better job as an instructional leader by putting myself in the place that I ask teachers to put themselves every single day.

An essential trait of an instructional leader is the ability to model instruction. Am I willing to put myself in front of the teachers teaching a lesson and ask for them to give me feedback on how to become a better teacher? Some ideas have emerged that I need to put myself in the teaching role, teach a lesson and have my teachers evaluate me on the things that I think are very important. One idea that I have started to implement is doing read alouds throughout the campus and asking the teachers to evaluate me using the district balanced literacy components on an effective read aloud.

When I sent an email asking my staff to help me become better at elementary instruction by doing read alouds, I received lots of positive feedback and requests for me to come to their classroom. Teachers were enthused and positive that I wanted to be a part of their instruction and that I was asking them for help.  This warm and welcoming reception made me feel more comfortable about being vulnerable in my own instruction.

I have two hopes in this activity that I'm about to begin. First I hope that the teachers will give me honest feedback on where I need to improve as a teacher, and second I hope that through their observations this will create a natural dialogue among teachers about what essential components should be in a read aloud to make them meaningful and focused on learning, as well as give the staff the confidence to be vulnerable with one another about instruction.  Ultimately, I want them to learn from one another, and as a bonus, I hope to get made fun of a little bit, so that I can be closer with my staff.

Are you vulnerable as an instructional leader?  If so, I would really enjoy your feedback and opinions about how you make yourself vulnerable as an instructional leader.


  1. I'm incredibly vulnerable as an instructional leader. As a school level coach, I not only modeled lessons in math workshop with the hopes of bringing conversations and questions to reflection points, I went as far as video taping myself, sharing it at a staff meeting, then asked teachers to do the same but just reflect on their video by themself or with another colleague. As a district level Instructional coach, I continue to model lesson, provide meaningful feedback to teachers after observing in their class, as well as ask questions to help them reflect. I also get down and interact with students in every classroom so teachers can see that I'm there to support them and model best practice we expect of them.

  2. That is great to hear. As a campus principal it is difficult to jump into the classroom especially if you are not comfortable with the grade or content. As a secondary teacher in an elementary setting, I have to push myself to learn my new content. Thank you for your comments and sharing your experience. They helped me identify ways that I can be more vulnerable with my staff.