Core Leadership Competencies

A: Leadership

I used to believe leadership was simply leading by example.  Although this is a key component of leadership, I have learned there is much more to the role of an administrator.  I agree with Schmoker when he said successful schools employ leaders that have an ability to simplify the process of education.  In my classroom, I am constant simplifying the process of education by modifying assignments and ridding my curriculum of excessive reading.  This practice of mine has improved student engagement immensely compared to my first years at my ALC when many of my assignments were too complicated, causing students to struggle.  I also applied Schmoker’s leadership principle when leading our ALC weekly staff meetings.  I made a point to stop unnecessary conversations during the meeting by politely interjecting to get the group back on track.  I also simplified our system of storing important documents by creating a Google Classroom class in which staff enrolled and could access all the documents they needed in one place.  Leading these meetings also reminded me of the importance of creating opportunities that provide teachers agency in the work they do.  An effective administrator does not simply bark orders, in a top down fashion.  Instead they ask for the opinions of staff members.  They identify strengths of individual staff members and utilize them to the fullest extent.  By doing this, an educational leader sets the tone and creates a positive atmosphere, and that allows for the formation of a foundation on which an effective school is built.  My work as a PLC leader really drove this point home for me.  In this role, I worked hard to make my team comfortable with enacting change and even vulnerable to trying new things in the name of doing what was right for our students.  The project based learning activities we created and implemented as a team forced us all out of our comfort zone.  When my colleagues saw me “in the trenches” with them, they knew they were supported.  They knew I had their backs.  By taking this barrier away from the equation, we became a more cohesive unit that was able to better support our students.

A1. Collaboratively accessing and improving culture, and climate;

A2.  Providing purpose and direction for individuals and groups;

A3.  Modeling shared leadership and decision-making strategies;

A4.  Demonstrating an understanding of issues affecting education;

A5.  Through a visioning process, formulating strategic plans and goals with staff and community

A6.  Setting of priorities in the context of stakeholder needs;

A7.  Serving as a spokesperson for the welfare of all learners in a multicultural context; Serving as a spokesperson for the welfare of all learners in a multicultural context;

A8.  Understanding how education is impacted by local, state, national, and international events

A9.  Demonstrating the ability to facilitate and motivate others;

A10.  Demonstrating the ability to implement change or educational reform.

B: OrganizationAl Management

In Neila A. Connors book, If You Don’t Feed The Teachers They Eat The Students included a number of research-backed indicators of a effective administrators.  One of those indicators stated, “effective leaders continuously ask for input from staff members”.  I completely agree with this statement from Connors book.  As the PLC leader in my building, I have been leading efforts to improve literacy skills of a student population that is at extraordinary risk of falling behind or, worse, failure.  Through this leadership role, I have worked alongside my colleagues to identify the needs of our students and establish procedures and that regulate various activities and projects aimed at improving literacy skills of alternative learners.  Under my leadership (and following the advice given in Connors book) every staff member had a voice during this process.  Allowing input from my colleagues proved beneficial because every person sees problems from a different perspective.   

Aside from leading meetings, I was also able to exercise my organizational management skills during the planning process for our project based learning (PBL) activities.  The project based learning projects I led helped me not only understand the importance of delegating tasks to my colleagues (a concept mentioned in many of the MSUM coursework readings), but of the power of choosing the right tasks for each individual team member based on their strengths, when possible.  I experienced the positive effect of empowering teachers through delegation during my practicum, and it was incredible to see what is possible when a team works together toward a common goal.

B1.  Demonstrating an understanding of organizational systems;

B2.  Defining and using processes for gathering, analyzing, managing and using data to plan and make decisions for program evaluation;

B3.  Planning and scheduling personal and organizational work, establishing procedures to regulate activities and projects, and delegating and empowering others at appropriate levels;

B4.  Demonstrating the ability to analyze need and allocate personnel and material resources;

B5.  Developing and managing budgets and maintain accurate fiscal budgets;

B6.  Demonstrating an understanding of facilities development, planning and management;

B7.  Understanding and using technology as a management tool.

C: Diversity Leadership

Every team is made up of diverse individuals, and the team I led was no exception. Some team members required more attention and assistance than others. Some team members thrived when given autonomy. What’s more, and from my practicum experience, I learned a teacher might require assistance during one project, but yearn for autonomy on the next project. A leader must constantly be aware of the constant change in dynamics amongst the group they lead, in order to maintain a positive working environment for all team members. As an alternative educator in Detroit Lakes, I have been immersed in a multi-cultural setting. Currently, our student population is made of over 40% Native American students. The most important lesson I have learned through my experience working with Native American students is the importance of authentic relationships. This cross-section of the American public has historically been lied to; causing trauma that has been passed on from generation to generation. Through my practicum and my teaching experience, I learned that every positive interaction I have with my Native American students removes a theoretical brick from the wall that acts as a barrier to success for these students. Over the past year, I have promoted multicultural harmony by bringing in more Native American speakers than in the past. I have also worked with my colleagues to provide for our students more multicultural field trips and virtual lessons with other schools via webcam. These actions are planting a seed for the creation of a more understanding school atmosphere and I look forward to reaping the benefits from the efforts in the coming months and years.

C1.  Demonstrating an understanding and recognition of the significance of diversity, and responding to the needs of diverse learners;

C2.  Creating and monitoring a positive learning environment for all students;

C3.  Creating and monitoring a positive working environment for all staff;

C4.  Promoting sensitivity of diversity throughout the school community;

C5.  Demonstrating the ability to adapt educational programming to the needs of diverse constituencies;

D: Policy and Law

Our ALC abides by the same laws and policies as regular schools.  That said, due to the needs of our student population, there are some laws and policies that we tend to work with more often than others.  Through conversations with principal and his administrative assistant, I have gained a better understanding of how the day to day operation of our school abide by local, state and federal laws and policies.  Our ALC offers credit recovery classes for students that are behind in credits.  The legal name for this service is Targeted Services.  Our District is only able to provide these services because Detroit Lakes has an ALC.  Through our ALC, we are subsequently able to offer this service not only to students in our District, but also to students in other districts in Minnesota.  Currently, we offer services at our building for students within driving distance to Detroit Lakes.  We are also able to offer Targeted Services remotely to districts as far away as Morris, which is over 100 miles away.  These services are vital to our District as every student enrolled at our site, and each remote site we service generates revenue for our District.  I was fortunate enough to be tasked with presenting this information and other information about our ALC to our school board.  Many of the board members were not aware of this revenue generating service the ALC offers.  My goal was to convey the importance of the work we do at the ALC, as many community members discount our school as simply a place to house tough students until they graduate.  As a future administrator of a ALC, the importance of these services and the importance of communicating the services we offer to school board members will not be lost on me.  

D1.  Developing, adjusting, and implementing policy to meet local, state, and federal requirements and conditional provisions, standards, and regulatory applications;

D2.  Recognizing and applying standards of care involving civil and criminal liability for negligence, harassment, and intentional torts;

D3.  Demonstrating an understanding of state, federal, and case law governing general education, special education, and community education.

E: POLITICAL INFLUENCE AND GOVERANCE

Prior to my practicum, I had experience with educational policy and law. I was part of a team that worked with Representative Paul Marquart to draft an education bill that was introduced to the Minnesota legislative when I was 16. Additionally, I have lobbied State lawmakers annually with my students on behalf of alternative education. What I learned during my practicum was the importance of these civic actions and how they affect the day-to-day successes of school across the state. This past year, the lobbying efforts of ALC students and teachers from around the state helped secure existing funding for alternative schools that had previously been shifted to general fund spending in many districts across the state. As a result of this this accomplishment, ALCs in Minnesota have been able to retain staff members, and even add vital services to their schools. Our school has since been able to pay for a part time mental health worker within our building. Students can now consistently talk with a licensed professional about their problems without leaving our school. Before my practicum I would not have been able to connect the dots between lobbying efforts and vital school services. Looking back, I could have made the connection but my leadership experience allowed me to look closer at our efforts and our successes.

E1.  Exhibiting an understanding of school districts as a political system, including governance models;

E2.  Demonstrating the ability to involve stakeholders in the development of educational policy;

E3.  Understanding the role and coordination of social agencies and human services;

E4.  Demonstrating the ability to align constituencies in support of priorities and build coalitions for programmatic and financial support.

F: COMMUNICATION

Communication is the foundation on which every effective group works together.  Conversely, Poor communication breeds toxicity in any work environment.  I leveraged my knowledge of digital communication to make the meetings I led more efficient.  I created a Google Classroom to organize documents and other data related to the meetings I led, and it worked so well, I was asked by the Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs to present on the issue at their Administrative conference.  Additionally, I was asked by District leaders many times during my practicum to communicate technology best practices to my colleagues during professional development days.  Lastly, and most important to student success at my school, my principal has applauded my communication skills when leading meeting with parents.  I am patient with parents when they are emotional, and I am constantly advertising to parents the many ways we can help them and their children thrive.

F1.  Formulating and carrying out plans for internal and external communications;

F2.  Demonstrating facilitation skills;

F3.  Recognizing and applying an understanding of individual and group behavior in normal and stressful situations;

F4.  Facilitating teamwork;

F5.  Demonstrating an understanding of conflict resolution and problem solving strategies;

F6.  Making presentations that are clear and easy to understand;

F7.  Responding, reviewing and summarizing information for groups;

F8.  Communicating appropriately speaking, listening, and writing for different audiences such as students, teachers, parents, community, and other stakeholders;

F9.  Understanding and utilizing appropriate communication technology.

G: COMMUNITY RELATIONS

Alternative educators are far more involved with the families of their students than their colleagues in a traditional education setting. This is not a judgment on traditional educators; it is simply the nature of alternative education. Our involvement in lives of our students is based on their needs, and alternative students have more needs than traditional students. On a daily basis, my colleagues and I perform tasks typically performed by counselors, social workers and, sadly, parents. Through these roles and my role as a teacher and a leader at my alternative school, I have immersed myself in the community in which I teach. I am in constant contact with service providers in my community to coordinate services and gain a better understanding of how my students can utilize community supports to help them achieve their goals. My MSUM coursework helped me gain a broader understanding of the impact I can make as not only an alternative teacher, but as a future alternative education administrator. I now approach my meetings with parents with a clearer goal of holding them accountable for their child. Interestingly, I have been able to apply leadership skills from Whitaker’s book, Shifting the Monkey, to hold parents and community service providers accountable for tasks that were once shifted to the backs of the staff members at our school.  I saw this problem with accountability and I took action by sitting down with my principal and formulating new strategies that began the process of shifting the monkey back to the rightful owner(s).  Now, during the orientation meeting held with parents and service providers at the beginning of the year, we better promote an understanding that everyone in attendance is “in this together”. We make clear the importance of consistent communication. We make stakeholders aware of the power they possess, and the affect they can have working in concert with our staff. As a result of my practicum, I now have higher expectations for students, parents, and service providers because I better understand what is at stake.

G1.  Articulating organizational purpose and priorities to the community and media;

G2.  Requesting and responding to community feedback;

G3.  Demonstrating the ability to build community consensus;

G4.  Relating political initiatives to stakeholders, including parental involvement programs;

G5.  Indentifying and interacting with internal and external publics;

G6.  Understanding and responding to the news media;

G7.  Promoting a positive image of schools and the school district;

G8.  Monitoring and addressing perceptions about school-community issues;

G9.  Demonstrating the ability to identify and articulate critical community issues that may impact local education.

H: CURRICULUM PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT FOR THE SUCESS OF ALL LEARNERS

Engaging curriculum can be the difference between a successful lesson and an epic failure and opportunity lost. Through the professional development sessions I have led over the past year (and during the previous 7 years), I have had the district privilege to work with teachers across the state of Minnesota to help them develop engaging curriculum utilizing powerful technology tools. Through these opportunities I have been able to help teachers implement evidence based teaching strategies in their classroom with the assistance of modern technology tools. My MSUM course work has expanded my knowledge base and truly transformed me into a more effective curricular and technology leader both in my school district and in the State as a whole. For example, I have applied Heacox’s strategies in, Differentiating Instruction in the Regular Classroom to my Google Classroom presentation. I now dedicate a portion of this presentation to using Google Classroom to differentiate instruction. Teachers now leave my session knowing not only how to differentiate instruction, but how to mask their efforts in a way that is sensitive to all students in the classroom. I am not exaggerating when I say this work of mine has helped changed the trajectory of many students’ educational experience. I take immense pride in knowing my work is helping teachers and students succeed. Apart from professional development, I have also had opportunities to create instruction and implement activities for students of all ages through project based learning initiatives, from creating escape rooms on topics related middle school subject standards, to creating age appropriate learning games for elementary students in my District. This work has been genuinely rewarding, as I get see students of all ages enjoy learning!

H1.  Demonstrating the ability to enhance teaching and learning through curriculum assessment and strategic planning for all learners, including early childhood, elementary, middle and junior high school, high school, special education, and adult levels;

H2.  Demonstrating the ability to provide planning and methods to anticipate trends and educational implications.

H3.  Demonstrating the ability to develop, implement, and monitor procedures to align sequence, and articulate curriculum and validate curricular procedures;

H4.  Demonstrating the ability to identify instructional objectives and use valid and reliable performance indicators and evaluative procedures to measure performance outcomes;

H5.  Appropriately using learning technologies;       

H6.  Demonstrating an understanding of alternative instructional designs, curriculum, behavior management, and assessment accommodations and modifications;

H7.  Demonstrating an understanding of urgency of global competitiveness.

I: INSTRUCTIONAL MANAGEMENT FOR THE SUCESS OF ALL LEARNERS

The most effective administrators have a firm understanding of learning and instructional standards.  Without this knowledge, the school they lead is operating with an instructional leader.  How can a principal observe and critique their teachers' instruction without this skill?  They cannot.  My Master's degree in Instructional Design and Technology will assure my future school district that I am well versed in managing the instruction that goes on under my leadership.  I demonstrated this skill of mine throughout my practicum.  First, I led professional development sessions on classroom management, assessment strategies and using technology to support existing curriculum.  Additionally, and in my role as PLC leader, my colleagues and I regularly used reading comprehension data to inform curricular decisions.  Finally, I regularly author blog articles on this topic for my educational blog, The Classroom Technology Blog.

I1.  Demonstrate an understanding of research of learning and instructional strategies;

I2.  Describing and applying research and best practices on integrating curriculum and resources to help all learners achieve at high levels;

I3.  Demonstrating the ability to utilize data for instructional decision making;

I4.  Demonstrating the ability to design appropriate assessment strategies for measuring learner outcomes;

I5.  Demonstrating the ability to implement alternative instructional designs, curriculum, behavior management, and assessment accommodations and modifications.

I6.  Demonstrating the ability to appropriately use technology to support instruction.

J: HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

If you lead people, you must understand them and know how to effectively communicate with them.  If you hire people, you must understand what to look for in a potential employee.  I was able to observe two different teachers in my district through the course of my practicum.  The first observation acclimated me to the process of observations.  I personally looked for strategies that I could use in my classroom during this observation, and I able to use some of the strategies I observed.  This approach will be useful to me when I am in a leadership role as observations are not simply an assessment of what was seen in the classroom, they are also an exercise in finding strategies to help strengthen a teacher in areas where they lack knowledge or experience.  The second observation I of which I was involved put me in a leadership role to a greater extent.  I was tasked with helping a teacher support their existing curriculum with technology tools.  It was very satisfying to be able to use my held knowledge to help a teacher improve on the hard work they are already doing.

J1.  Demonstrating knowledge of effective personnel recruitment, selection, and retention;

J2.  Demonstrating an understanding of staff development to improve the performance of all staff members;

J3.  Demonstrating the ability to select and apply appropriate models for supervision and evaluation;

J4.  Describing and demonstrating the ability to apply the legal requirements for personnel selection, development, retention, and dismissal;

J5.  Demonstrating an understanding of management responsibilities to act in accordance with federal and state constitutional provisions, statutory and case law, regulatory applications toward education, local rules, procedures, and directives governing human resource management;

J6.  Demonstrating understanding of labor relations and collective bargaining; and

J7.   Demonstrating understanding of the administration of employee contracts, benefits, and financial account;

K: VALUES AND LEAdERSHIP

As a social studies teacher, it is my job to instill democratic values in my students.  As an administrator, this task is even more important, as values have a way trickling down from the top to the rest of an organization.  The phrase, "lead by example" comes to mind.  I was fortunate to have an opportunity to develop and implement digital citizenship lessons (of which included a cultural component) to my students, and students from other schools during my practicum.  My hard work now serves as a model for the leader of the Cultural Collaborative cohort of which I am involved.  They have been in regular contact with me this year as they develop curriculum similar to that which I created over the past year.  Unrelated, I have led groups of student volunteers to help non-profits and at-risk citizens in our community.  We hung clothes at the local Boys and Girls club thrift stores, we raked lawns, and we helped clean the Rape and Abuse crisis center facility in town.  As a educational leader, I will try to include similar service activities in the programming of my school.

K1.  Demonstrating an understanding of the role of education in a democratic society;

K2.  Demonstrating an understanding of and model democratic value systems, ethics, and moral leadership;

K3.  Demonstrating the ability to balance complex community demands in the best interest of learners;

K4.  Helping learners grow and develop as caring, informed citizens;

K5.  Demonstrating an understanding and application of  the Code of Ethics for Administrators under Part 3512.5200.

L: JUDGEMENT AND PROBLEM ANALYSIS

My experience leading staff meetings at an ALC during my practicum as been invaluable.  The same can be said about my role as PLC leader.  In both of these positions, I have grown in my ability to analyze problems with a team and work toward finding a solution.  Using reading comprehension data collected by our language arts teacher, my PLC has developed strategies to assists the most at risk students at my school.  Importantly, I've learned to value the opinions of the professionals I lead.  I have learned as much from my colleagues as they have learned from me in this role.  During staff meetings that I led, we worked as a group every week to identify problematic behaviors exhibited by students the week prior, and search for data based strategies that may be able to address said behaviors.  We have become very good as a team in appropriately addressing serious problems quickly.  Our process is informed by a student behavior form that I created years ago.  Teachers make entries into a Google Form each time a student exhibits  problematic behaviors in their classroom.  The data from each entry is entered into an associated Google Sheet that we then use to identify and plan behavioral intervention strategies.

L1.  Identifying the elements of a problem situation by analyzing relevant information, framing issues, identifying possible causes, and reframing possible solutions;

L2.  Demonstrating adaptability and conceptual flexibility;

L3.  Assisting others in forming opinions about problems and issues;

L4.  Reaching logical conclusions by making quality, timely decisions based on available information;

L5.  Identifying and giving priority to significant issues.

L6.  Demonstrating understanding of and utilize appropriate technology in problem analysis;

L7.  Demonstrating understanding of different leadership and decision-making strategies, including but not limited to collaborative models and model appropriately their implementation.

M: SAFETY AND SECURITY

The safety and security of students and staff is probably the most important task for administrators.  If students don't feel safe, they are not able to learn.  In an ALC, safety and security goes beyond preparing for natural disasters and school shootings.  As an ALC teacher I am also concerned with each individual student's safety outside of school.  When leading meetings, I constantly discussed safety issues with my colleagues such as finding a safe home for a homeless student, abiding by restraining orders involving students in our after school program, and finding a bed at an inpatient addiction center in order for a student to safely address their addiction to drugs and/or alcohol.  As for more traditional safety topics, I led discussions with my colleagues regarding updates to the evacuation procedures at our building.  I also led reflection activities with staff, following district wide professional development training regarding emergency situations in our schools such as school shootings.  

M1.  Demonstrating the ability to develop and implement policies and procedures for safe and secure educational environments;

M2.  Demonstrating the ability to formulate safety and security plans to implement security procedures including an articulated emergency chain of command, safety procedures required by law, law enforcement assistance, communication with the public, and evacuation procedures;

M3.  Demonstrating the ability to identify areas of vulnerability associated with school buses, buildings and groups and formulate a plan to take corrective action;

M4.  Demonstrating understanding of procedural predictabilities and plan variations where possible;

M5.  Demonstrating the ability to develop plans that connect every student with a school adult, eliminate bullying and profiling and implement recommended threat assessment procedures.