Byron's Babbles

Leadership Ink

Regardless of your position on this topic, “inking” is in. What I’m talking about is tattooing. The interest of young and old in getting a tattoo is increasing. Many of our heroes have ink and we maybe want one too. Amazingly, 25% of those getting tattoos regret it within the first month of getting the tattoo. Now, to be clear, I don’t really think I want a tattoo right now, but I do have a temporary tattoo that won’t seem to go away. Let me tell you the story.

This past weekend we used Emojis as a “through line” for our Focused Leader Academy (FLA) December retreat. The first activity we did had participants pick an Emoji temporary tattoo and put it somewhere on their body. Check out the picture of the sheet of available tattoos. The catch was, you needed to explain why you picked the tattoo you did and the significance of where you placed the ink on your body. Needless to say, we had a lot of fun with this.

This was an exciting and inspiring activity. The explanations were very well thought out. Some were comical, while at the same time being very meaningful and heartfelt. I am hoping our Cohort #2 FLA members will reply to this post with their stories. Here’s mine:

“I chose to put the two pink hearts Emoji on the inside of my right wrist. I explained this was because I love FLA and love facilitating the learning of our teacher leaders. In the words of Cohort # 1 graduate, Jill Landers, these weekend retreats are Byron’s “leadership heroine.” She’s right; I’m addicted. Furthermore, I placed the tattoo on the inside of my wrist because by personally working with our teacher leaders it helps me keep a pulse on what is going on with our teachers.” ~ Byron

Now, here we are almost a week later and my temporary tattoo looks just as good as on the day I applied it. At first I got a little concerned, but I have gotten used to it and actually really like it. I keep getting questions about it. Questions like the one at the state board of education meeting this week, “Byron, do you really have a tattoo of two pink hearts on your wrist?” These questions give me the chance to say “Why yes. Let me tell you why and about the journey our teacher leaders are taking through our Focused Leader Academy.”

So, if you were going to get some first time, or new, leadership ink; what would your tattoo be and why?

Teacher Evaluation Norming: “What Can We Create Together?”

file4When creating the ideal school community for meaningful teacher evaluation we must clearly define the expectations for effective teaching at our schools. We must also effectively communicate the criteria that will be used to evaluate teacher performance. Personally, I believe the most important aspect of teacher evaluation is to ensure professional growth for our teachers in order to move them toward being highly effective. Our school has become a part of the Indiana Teacher Appraisal and Support System (INTASS) and I love how Dr. Sandi Cole, Director of Center on Education and Lifelong Learning puts it: “Teacher evaluation must be something done for teachers, not to them.” This statement has become a core value of our work of overhauling our entire teacher evaluation process. The INTASS process rests on four basic elements of a quality evaluation plan: a) Clear, frequent, and transparent communication among a wide base of stakeholders; b) Professional practice measures that are mutually agreed upon by stakeholders; c) Multiple measures of student learning outcomes, and d) Fully aligned post-evaluation processes, including job-embedded professional growth and support for all educators.

Another crucial part of this process is the norming of evaluators. We have chosen to have a monthly retreat of our evaluation team to ensure that evaluators have an accurate and aligned perception of classroom practice and student growth. This norming process also guarantees assigned evaluation ratings that are accurate reflections of teacher effectiveness. During norming, evaluators align or “calibrate” their scoring so that every member of the team applies the rubric consistently across teachers, and of the team of evaluators scores consistently with one another (inter-rater reliability). Having similar scoring and uniform expectations of teacher effectiveness is critical if you want to make meaningful comparisons among teachers.

I have also found the norming to be a good time for our administrative staff to engage in professional development for the purpose supporting effective leading of learning. A healthy team culture—and ultimately the school’s performance—rely on the team’s ability to encourage individual improvement in constructive ways. Through our norming process, administrative team members are learning and practicing the skills and dispositions necessary to mentor, coach, and evaluate colleagues. Our norming process has enabled the team to practice a model of shared leadership. By having regular norming retreats, team members are able to refine their collaboration skills and dispositions to ensure the team’s ability to act according to its shared purpose of enabling and empowering all of our teachers to be highly effective.

At this past week’s norming retreat I was struck by the amount of learning and professional growth that also went on with the administrative team of evaluators. There were discussions of how to more effectively use technology, sharing of best practices witnessed such as for checking for mastery, and new ways of engaging students; just to name a few. We even discussed the use of Emojis for engaging students. I couldn’t help but draw my own Emoji (shared in the picture above) as I graphically facilitated the norming retreat. We also were able to identify areas where we need to provide professional development learning opportunities for our teachers. I believe my role as a leader is not necessarily to always be a better role model or to drive change; my role is to create structures and experiences that bring our community of staff members together to identify and solve their own issues and drive improvement. Holding these norming retreats has enabled this structure of experiences for our administrative staff.

This norming process has become an important piece of being able for our school community to answer the question of “What can we create together?” I believe we are creating a community of continual improvement and one where our teachers are valued as professionals and given the feedback and resources to be the very best. I am attaching images of our notes from our latest norming retreat so you can see what went on:

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