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Leading Unstoppable Learning: boost leadership efficacy and create a school climate in which teachers manage positive classroom environments

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Designed for K–12 leaders, this book examines how to develop responsive leadership characteristics that establish positive learning climates and foster schoolwide success. The author shares key strategies and practices for establishing a sustainable learning culture, such as creating an inclusive environment, inspiring teachers to become leaders, and supporting the creation of student-centered classrooms. The book takes readers deeper into student needs through the lens of adapting learning: modifications, differentiation, and accommodations.

Benefits

  • See what it looks like when leaders co-plan curricula and behavior management with teachers before the school year starts.
  • Learn how to monitor formative assessment to ensure student achievement and proper feedback.
  • Consider driving questions designed to spur productive discussions among school leaders and collaborative teams.
  • Ensure that learning targets are met with lessons given in the classroom.
  • Read real school vignettes that illustrate the importance of critical leadership characteristics.

Contents

Foreword by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey

Introduction

Chapter 1: Leading Learning Planning

Chapter 2: Leading Learning Target Launches

Chapter 3: Leading Learning Consolidation

Chapter 4: Leading Learning Assessment

Chapter 5: Leading Learning Adaptation

Chapter 6: Leading Learning Management

Epilogue: A Final Word on Systems Thinking and Leading Learning

References and Resources

Index

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7 Chapters

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1 Leading Learning Planning

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Four steps to achievement: Plan purposefully. Prepare prayerfully. Proceed positively. Pursue persistently.

—William Arthur Ward

I remember a time when purposeful planning’s importance was very clear: I was observing a first-grade teacher who was introducing students to the week’s new sight words. Most students did not know the words, but five did. They recognized them from the pretest. When I saw this, I asked myself what those five students were learning. How many minutes of daily instruction did the teacher dedicate to words or work they already knew? Wouldn’t they (and the remaining students) benefit more if the teacher had planned differentiated instruction before the day began?

Because systems thinking leaders help guide teachers, purposeful planning is one of the most important aspects of the role. Unstoppable Learning (Fisher & Frey, 2015) recommends that leaders begin a planning process by considering these driving questions:

•Do the teachers know their students?

 

2 Leading Learning Target Launches

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The man who can make hard things easy is the educator.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

At Claremont Academy, the school year started off with leaders engaging teachers in pedagogy sessions to highlight the importance of students knowing the intent of every lesson. Teachers read articles, watched videos, and discussed the importance of students knowing what they were learning. On the first day of school, I walked into every classroom to see if the teachers had posted learning targets. Of the twenty-five classrooms I visited, twenty-three had learning targets clearly visible—a promising outcome. I posted a statement of congratulations in the schoolwide bulletin and held personal coaching conversations with the teachers who were not in compliance with the goal.

That was the good news. My subsequent classroom visits did, however, help me identify some learning target implementation weaknesses. Firstly, several teachers hadn’t collected learning evidence. Students needed learning targets that were more explicitly written. I knew this because during the classroom visits, I asked students questions such as, “What are you working on?” and “What are you learning right now?” Instead of answers that aligned with learning targets—“We’re learning how to summarize stories” and “We’re multiplying fractions”—students gave answers like, “We have to write sentences from the story” and “We’re doing math.”

 

3 Leading Learning Consolidation

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The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.

—Martin Luther King Jr.

During a second-grade classroom visit, I noticed the teacher was leading his students through a sight-word lesson. Many students already knew the words. The lesson’s complexity wasn’t enough to challenge those students. After I initiated some reflection, the teacher researched and decided that next time he would follow up with a leveled partner reading activity. The students who were ready to move on could select a book from the classroom library to read to each other. The increased student-to-student interaction facilitated learning consolidation. Students could thus practice additional skills: student choice and collaboration. I observed a remarkable transformation during the next lesson. The students who knew their sight words moved forward to consolidate their learning through reading books that contained the words and the teacher wasted no valuable instructional time.

 

4 Leading Learning Assessment

ePub

If you don’t know where you are headed, you’ll probably end up someplace else.

—Douglas J. Eder

It was time to assess my school’s assessment. I reflected on Unstoppable Learning’s formal leader driving questions, and I reflected on the required link between teaching and learning. Systems thinking leaders recognize that assessing is the foundational connection between teaching and learning (Fisher & Frey, 2015). I knew our school’s system wasn’t working due to the following.

•There was a disconnect between the standards and what teachers recorded in their gradebooks.

•Few teachers responded to an email about student opportunities to relearn and recover.

•According to the metric that measured students every five weeks, the percentage of students passing reading and mathematics was low.

•Gradebooks had too many zeros.

Leaders must help teachers see why learning assessment is important and determine what evidence of student learning should appear in gradebooks.

 

5 Leading Learning Adaptation

ePub

The price of doing the same old thing is far higher than the price of change.

—President Bill Clinton

At Claremont Academy, we established a climate and culture committee to improve our students’ overall social emotional skills, creating a better climate and improving student achievement. During a meeting with the Climate and Culture Committee, one of the security officers announced, “The teachers are always late picking up their students from lunch.”

Others began to chime in: “Yeah, that’s right,” and “I agree.”

I looked at the teacher who leads the committee and said, “Okay, give me the data.”

She said, “I believe the teachers are always on time because no one has called on the radio to report a late pick-up nor has anyone given me a piece of paper with the name of the late teacher, the date, and the time students were picked up.”

What was my takeaway? Analyze the data and look for trends, just like Fisher and Frey (2015) recommend in Unstoppable Learning.

 

6 Leading Learning Management

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Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge.

—Plato

I was in the hall speaking with a student when I heard the sounds of a serious commotion coming from a classroom. The students became silent when I opened the classroom door. I gave the students my “principal look,” and the teacher said, “We are having a hard time settling down this morning.”

Research shows that a teacher’s actions in the class have twice the impact on student achievement as do school policies regarding curriculum, assessment, staff collegiality, and community involvement (Marzano & Marzano, 2003). This first-year teacher wanted to embrace the faculty pledge (of taking responsibility for providing every student skills that turn them into lifelong learners and creating a school culture geared toward integrity and excellence), but something wasn’t going well.

The teacher came to my office during his break and explained that he had succeeded at everything in his life thus far: attending an Ivy League college, earning perfect mathematics SAT scores, and competing well in athletics. He didn’t understand why he struggled with classroom management. If only teaching were so easy. Luckily, the teacher was looking at himself instead of at his students.

 

Epilogue: A Final Word on Systems Thinking and Leading Learning

ePub

This book’s fundamental message centers on the idea that a leader recognizes the imperative of creating channels for growth and opportunity to lead learning. A true leader understands how all these elements connect. Look at data trends and make decisions because the real core of systems thinking and leading is the relentless pursuit of greatness; provide the best situations to link the systems together.

I remember reading A Seed Is a Promise by Claire Merrill (1990). What I remember most about this book was that the seed went on quite an adventure when the wind blew it from its flower. It was nourished despite bumps, and it became a beautiful flower. Teachers took up their profession because they are passionate about teaching. If leaders nourish them properly, they bloom into great teachers. Leaders know the job of educating students is quite an arduous task. Systems thinking leaders are up to this task. Figure E.1 can help leaders reflect on their own strengths and weaknesses as systems thinking leaders.

 

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