As I embarked into this higher education path I wanted nothing more than to be an administrator of an Elementary or Middle School in Texas. I was able to even envision myself in the school district I currently work in working in school administration at one of the schools I have taught at. I was fortunate on my internship year to have the position of being the instructional technology facilitator and was able to help more in depth with the administrators of my campus and learn the in and outs of the administration side of the school.
Looking at all of this and having experienced it I am now thinking I am leaning towards more working towards becoming a department head or maybe the head of a academic department for the district. I am hoping the first step to this will be to become the department head for fifth grade on my campus and then moving towards becoming the English Language Arts and Reading department head. Eventually over time I hope to move into a more Reading Specialist position for a campus or even possibly a district. My ultimate goal is to move into the administration building and become a curriculum director for a district.
As a leader I hope to accomplish many things to my employee’s and staff like being stronger leaders in the classrooms, stronger teachers, and being able to empower students for long term success. I have always wanted since I entered education to see the end result of my students to be a positive one and love to see the academic growth my students show over the course of a school year. I think that being able to show teachers and staff how to be and become strong leaders in the classrooms will help to majorly accomplish this goal. For me a leader is someone who listens and empowers its learners to learn in a way that fits their own personal needs and not necessarily the needs of the teacher themselves.
I also think that using these techniques it will help teachers to become stronger educators in life and in the long run. Helping teachers, just like students, create a solid foundation is a great way to start them in the right direction and therefore it will be easier for them to lead themselves one day. And finally I would love to see in teachers, like I do with my students, long term success over the course of a year, two years and even ten years as they grow academically with the students. In Texas we are constantly changing the way things are being tested and handled. Being able to be a leader that is open to those changes will help me to accomplish my goals to the best of my ability while creating successful teachers and students.
In the beginning of these courses reflective writing did not seem to be an influential part of my learning process as a student myself. In my own classroom I did not use much reflective writing for my students because I saw it as time that I could be using on something else related to the content. Throughout the courses related to my master’s degree through Lamar University I have had to reflect in every course on what I learned throughout the class. At first I was skeptical about the reflective writing but as the course progressed I realized that by writing reflectively I was able to take the course material and transpose it into my own words. This helped me to have a clear understanding of what I learned and make it my own.
One of the meaningful things that I feel I should have walked away from these courses is that the best way to become a leader is to create ownership for the staff, and I relate that to reflective writing. In my reflective writing I am walking away with a sense of ownership from my courses, and this helps to realize the main facts of what the course was about. Reflective writing now has a new meaning to me; it is now more of me creating my own ownership to the material presented in the course. I have even now find myself using reflective writing more and more in my own classroom and finding it a useful tool to assess what the students are walking away from my lessons with. To me reflective writing is a great tool to check students understanding of what was taught and what was learned.
Reflective writing has had a significant influence on my practice currently in my classroom. Instead of using traditional quizzes and test I find myself using more reflective writings in my own classroom. It is a great form of writing to use to allow the students to use their own words to explain what they have learned in the classroom. In my future I plan on using reflective writing more and more in a leadership role for my staff to obtain information on how well the school is operating and working as a team.
I feel that if my current principal used more reflective writing in our faculty meetings then he would have a better understanding of what is going on inside the campus. When I am a principal with my own campus I plan on using reflective writing responses in order to check if my staff walked away from staff developments with what was intended for them to learn and to also make sure that the training was effective or not to use on our campus. I would also like to implement a feedback process that involves reflective writing, which will allow staff to respond to any procedures implemented on campus that might need to be adjusted.
By using this reflective writing process in the future I can make sure that my staff walks away with the knowledge they need in staff developments and in-services. This will prove to be an effective form of feedback for me and reflection on what skills they acquired. In Examining what we do to Improve our Schools Tool 8.1 the CARE Model: Planning Tool uses four steps to address change for the future the final step Evaluate allows the staff to reflective on the prior steps they have created (Harris). In this process the staff or administrator is to take steps into identifying and solving problems they are facing on campus. The first three steps are steps on how to implement and strategize the problem at hand.
The fourth step in the CARE Model is to ‘identify the best ways to evaluate the implemented recommendations’ which is a way for the person(s) making the decisions can reflect on what they have created. In the same book Tool 8.2 (Harris) provides a list of reflective type questions to be answered to examine school improvement. These are great questions to guide someone’s reflection or at the very least jump start their reflection process so they have a starting point. An example of one of the questions asked in Tool 8.2 is ‘What am I doing to sustain improvement?’ These types of questions allow me as a future administrator to use for myself and others to reflect upon what we are doing as a team to create positive school improvement.
DOMAIN I School Community Leadership
Competency 001- The principal knows how to shape campus culture by facilitating the development, articulation, implementation, and stewardship of a vision of learning that is shared and supported by the school community.
In this competency I learned many things on how to create a vision for my campus and how to make it happen. I found it is not only important to make your school have a vision or just a common goal but the process of getting to that vision is equally important. Competency 001 is the foundation for that solid house you want to build, without the foundation a house will eventually fall and break, just like a school would without a solid foundation. As a leader of my campus it is my duty to look into creating a climate that promotes higher level thinking and teaching. When I do obtain my own campus I will be using this competency to ensure that higher expectations are required. It is not just enough to create higher standards and expect people to follow them it is equally important to create them in such a way that they can become obtained.
In order to make these goals and visions obtainable and reachable it is important not to just let one person make these decisions, but to allow all stakeholders to have a say in the creation and implementation of them. I found throughout all of my courses that the most important factoring in leading your staff and students in any direction is the ownership that they have in the school. It is important that all stakeholders have a clear understanding that each party involved was and is clearly represented. I know that I feel better implementing a plan that I took part in planning or know someone in the plan that had my best interests and the student’s best interests at heart.
I found myself spending 23 hours on this competency with my principal and assistant principal. The majority of the time was spent prior to school helping the committees to set up the vision and goals. We then revisited the vision in the middle of the school year to adjust to the changes our campus faces. It was also important that my principal have me sit in on grade level meetings to see if each grade level had a clear understanding of what the vision meant for them and what it looked like in their classrooms and for their students. I would say in this section of the domains I believe that I am walking away with the most mastery because of all of the actual hands on time I got to spend working with my campus vision and missions.
The principal knows how to communicate and collaborate with all members of the school community, responds to diverse interests and needs, and mobilizes resources to promote student success.
In this section I learned the importance of correctly communicating with all staff, students, and community stakeholders for my campus. Although it was difficult at times to get parents to communicate and participate at school functions I was able to learn a lot about the process of correctly communicating with them. I was able to assist in almost every letter we sent home with students explaining our events. We not only had to have a copy in English but we also had to translate all letters in Spanish as well. Over the course of the year, logging over seven hours, as paper became more and more precious I was able to focus more on call outs over the phone system and also to work on maintaining accurate information on the schools website. I had a bit of the upper hand in comparison to others in these course because I was able to find ways through our website to communicate effectively with the community. In our many multicultural events we held on campus (Hispanic Heritage Art Contest, Black History Writing Contest, Math Night, and Science Night) I was able to have exposure to the positive effect it has on students through multicultural awareness.
On this competency I spent around seven hours of internship time (I believe more logged hours were possible). Another wonderful thing I learned during this lesson was how to correctly manage school wide communication that took place on campus. I was very fortunate to have a very supportive principal who was willing to take me under her wing and allow playing a huge role in all activities on the campus. My principal always told me anything you would not say out loud make sure you do not put it in writing. She taught me through example and doing how to effectively write and create e-mails to be sent to the staff. I know now the importance of tone in my writing to ensure the way the e-mail is received it is received correctly.
The principal knows how to act with integrity, fairness, and in an ethical and legal manner.
One of the most memorable things I will walk away from this course is the question to always ask myself “Is the decision to the question in the best interest of the child(ren)?” My mentors (principal, assistant principal, counselor, veteran teachers) taught me this valuable lesson that any decision, no matter the size, has to have the student’s best interest at heart. This is a great way to keep you in check to make sure you are being ethical and act with integrity in everyday decisions as a campus administrator. The legal portion of this competency comes with the knowledge of making sure to follow all state guidelines set for by the Texas Education Agency. One of the best ways I found to make sure you are following the rules legally is to ask questions. My internship supervisor, Sherry Gore through my eighteen internship hours, taught me to never be afraid to ask questions or research the answer before making a decision.
The way she taught me this was not in a direct manner but more indirectly. By demonstrating to me on topics that she was unfamiliar with how she asked other principals or administrators to solve her problems I learned his valuable lesson. With the ever changing ways of education in the State of Texas, and the Country for that matter, it is important for an administrator to make sure they are up to date with all their knowledge about the laws concerning the education of the children in their school. It is also the responsibility of the principal to make sure their staff knows about any changes in laws and procedures. Making sure the staff knows of these changes it will make the transition to the new ones a smoother one for their campus and thus make the impact less stressful on the children.
DOMAIN II Instructional Leadership
The principal knows how to facilitate the design and implementation of curricula and strategic plans that enhance teaching and learning; ensure alignment of curriculum, instruction, resources, and assessments; and promote the use of varied assessments to measure student performance.
One of the major witnessing to competency 004 was that of how our campus was having year after year to adjust to its ever growing numbers of bilingual and ESL students on our campus. Each year we a faced with the challenge of how to adjust to the growing numbers not only with resources but also with the staffing of these new positions needed. In all campus purchases, technology or academic workbooks, we find ourselves looking as administrators on the campus at what kind of Spanish and ESL supplements were available and how well they will work for our students needs.
I found it very interesting in choosing our new reading textbooks in how different the Spanish supplements are for the different adoptions. As a person on the committee, logging over twenty-three internship hours, for our school to help us choose our next adoption it was made very clear to us at the beginning of the process that we needed to make sure we are considering not only the English portion of the textbook but the ESL materials are equally important.
I knew going into it that the ESL supplements were important but it never crossed my mind how important it is to our campus. With my campus being one of two bilingual campuses it was important to my principal that our vote was heard at the district level when choosing the newest adoptions. The next step in this was implementing a new reading textbook while adjusting to the new district wide curriculum CSCOPE. It was my principal’s job to make sure that all of her staff was well aware of how to use the materials mandated by the district for our new instructional focus always keeping the students best interests at heart when training the teachers to prepare for our school year of academic success.
The principal knows how to advocate, nurture, and sustain an instructional program and a campus culture that are conducive to student learning and staff professional growth.
All too often there is going to be a change in policy or educational law, and with these changes there is always going to be changes in educational practices that have proven to be effective. The older methods of teaching are not necessarily the best methods to be used to reach the students of 2011. This competency ensures that the principal keep up with the best practices and methods out in the world to use for the success of our students and staff. This includes making sure that the staff is up to date on the latest practices in teaching in new and exciting ways to reach children. I spent close to twenty-one hours working with my principal and instructional facilitators to ensure that our campus had what we needed to implement new teaching practices in our classrooms.
This section requires a lot of research into the newest needs of the students and then the needs of the staff to meet those needs. One example of a staff development that I was part of implementing with the principal and instructional facilitators was when we had to move into a new online lesson planning system. This system was completely online and making paper lesson plans not necessary. It was my responsible to make sure the staff was trained in how to use this new system to its full potential. I had to attend training provided by the company ht owned the software as well as district training to show me how to show the staff how to use this new system. It was essential that the staff knew how to implement this program because it was soon to become a mandate by the district to improve district lesson plan sharing throughout the entire district. The essential great thing for the teachers was that of making teachers resources more readily available to district employees across the district.
The principal knows how to implement a staff evaluation and development system to improve the performance of all staff members, select and implement appropriate models for supervision and staff development, and apply the legal requirements for personnel management.
With this area I feel I need a little more practice, and that is my fault in the internship hours and plan. I do however plan on using my current principal to help me to understand the evaluation process of a staff member. With only putting in eight hours into this area of focus I feel that I need to focus more on the PDAS system. I know the system as a teacher but I feel I need to works towards better understanding of the administrator side of the evaluations. I did focus my attention on part of this aspect as determining the needs of the staff and creating a staff development for the staff to grow from. With the help of the assessment specialist on my campus I found that we as a staff needed more focus on how to properly prepare the kids to take tests for a long period of time.
We gathered information and tips for the staff to use while preparing the students for their long awaited TAKS tests. We then used a simple evaluation survey at the end of the training to evaluate the effectiveness of the training to meet the needs of the teachers and students. We produced a lot of reflective time for teachers to share their own experiences in the classroom that allowed students to work to their best potential. With the knowledge of the results of the survey we used the knowledge we gained to conduct follow mini-trainings to assess the needs of the staff after they implemented the practices. The reason we conducted the mini-follow ups was because of the survey evaluation at the end of the training said they enjoy the trainings we have but they need further help after we implement the training in our classrooms.
The principal knows how to apply organizational, decision-making, and problem solving skills to ensure an effective learning environment.
Spending close to eighteen hours working on this competency it clear to see that this competency is an important one in relationship to the effectiveness of a campus. One major thing I learned from my principal was that you need to be organized enough to make sure you put together a quality interview to ensure that you put together a quality staff. I was fortunate enough to be able to sit in the interview process of one of our future teachers. The before part of the process was the preparation in getting ready for the interview, my principal using the Gallup interview process so she must be organized and ready.
During the interview quality questions prove to be the most effective in choosing future staff members. Following the interview there is a debriefing with the hiring committee to ensure that the newest staff member would be a good fit for our campus and our students. We then moved onto working with the staff and interviewing them on what needs to be improved on campus. The next step in this process for my principal and I was to look towards the staff and see how well they internalized or resisted change in our continuous improvements implemented at the campus. We had to look at what changes were the best for the students as a whole and the needs of our at risk students.
Courtney from Study Moose
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