Educators advocating for teacher leadership roles face many obstacles including but not limited to “lack of funding or trust, resistance to power-sharing or change and the inability of others to see beyond what currently exists” (Crowley, 2015). Any endeavor to gain authentic leadership requires collaboration and by its nature, inviting behaviors by administrators. However, collaboration usually fails without utilization of effective preparation, open-mindedness, and both verbal and non-verbal communication skills.
A September 2014 post discussed Schmidt’s (2007)meta-analysis that identified sets of structure related to Invitational Education (IE) theory which can be used to holistically evaluate school climate. Five powerful factors–people, places, policies, programs, and processes, were highly significant for their separate and combined influence on Invitational Leadership and school culture (Purkey & Siegel, 2013). In combination, “the Five Psoffer an almost limitless number of opportunities for the Invitational Leader to address and impact “the total culture or ecosystem of almost any organization” (p. 104). Through reflective consideration of the Five P’s, the invitational leadership model becomes a unique and holistic model of leadership for communicating success and empowerment (Stillion & Siegel, 2005).
During her tenure as a Center for Teaching Quality teacherpreneur, Crowley (2015) reflectively identified valuable strategies for preparing to be an advocate for effective collaboration. Certainly, the implicit utilization of these strategies exhibit the teacher’s preparation. These preparation strategies include,
Do your research: What do you know about your school’s mission, vision statement and strategic plan? Reviewing these key documents will help frame your idea within a larger context. If possible, schedule an informal, information-seeking meeting with an administrator you trust. This will help you develop a more on-the-ground perspective on these strategic plans. Knowing these documents demonstrates an understanding of the greater mission and vision of the building and district. In your proposal, be sure to answer how your idea or role supports the work and initiatives already in place.
Spend time planning: Before you approach administration with your idea or plan, consider its feasibility. Ask colleagues for feedback. They may provide perspectives you were not considering. Talk with people in your community to understand what they believe is “possible.” This doesn’t mean that you can’t push past comfort zones or introduce a never-been-done approach, but understanding how your idea is perceived is important to your presentation. Consider the scope of your idea. Although it may seem simple, in the complex systems of schools, even simple ideas can affect many people. Also consider this: Will your proposal have broad appeal and support in your community of colleagues, parents, students and business leaders? Frame your proposal around supporters and benefactors.
Consider the costs: New ideas often have financial consequences. Consider both the cost of resources and faculty compensation. If your idea requires time away from the classroom, know your district’s policies about short and long-term substitutes. Also consider pursuing alternate funding before presenting your idea. Think about the budget cycle and the timing of your proposal. Administrators are restricted by budget approvals and often need to justify new or increased spending. How can the funds for your proposal be justified? Valuing the cost will speak volumes to an administrator about the feasibility of your idea.
Be intentional in your approach: Keep an open mind to the perspective or lens administration brings. View them as collaborators, and be ready to offer shared ownership of your proposal. Having administration as an ally offers you valuable perspectives. Administrators often think about implementation of new ideas within a 3-5 year frame, while teachers often frame change within the school year calendar. An administrative perspective can be invaluable to creating a realistic timeline for implementation of an idea or proposal (Crowley, 2015).
Understandably, good preparation exhibits readiness to collaborate. However, explicit communication skills remain a requisite foundation to successful collaboration. While key communication skills include listening skills, feedback skills, and presentation skills, it is essential to recognize the role of one’s mindset as the greatest influence upon whether communication skills will be optimized. As noted in a February 2014 post, when seeking professional or personal development, better results occur when acting our way into right thinking rather than merely trying to think ourselves into right action. When learning to truly embrace and promote empowered collaborations, it is helpful to reflect upon which mindset will be utilized prior to engagement. With practice, a mindset elevating the tenets of peace, joy, and love become evident in all relationships.
Nonverbal behaviors comprise a large percentage of daily interpersonal communication (Cherry, 2011). Persuasion requires more than conversation alone. Effectively using all eight types of non-verbal communication can dramatically increase a person’s persuasive power. Since human interaction is about action, interaction, and transaction, then a “Helical Model of Communication exhibits how communication never loops back onto itself. It begins at the bottom and expands infinitely as the communication partners contribute their thoughts and experiences to the exchange” (Beebe, Beebe, & Ivy, 2004, p 16).
Collaboration between educational stakeholders improve whenever questions are planned to lead to answers that require more questions. Theoretically, a perfect convergent, or closed-ended, question would have only one answer. By contrast, a perfect divergent, or open-ended, question would have infinite answers. The partner seeking effective collaboration understands the better question usually is the one that provides the most answersand his or her non-verbal behaviors should convey open-mindedness, willingness, and active listening.
Given respect for and adherence to preparation and communication skills, a ten-step process for collaborative consultation should prove helpful in future advocacy for teacher leadership. The process may appear to be a loop process but as is common with most action research approaches, the process embraces the Helical Model of Communication, thereby encouraging the good to become better. Following are the ten-steps within the collaborative consultation process (Walther-Thomas et al., 2000). Each step includes an implementation example:
1. Prepare for the consultation:
a. Focus upon the targeted area of concern, organize materials, prepare several possible strategies, and arrange for a comfortable meeting place
2. Initiate the consultation:
a. Establish rapport, focusing upon the concern, creating a collaborative climate
3. Collect information:
a. Seek data and make notes, identifying additional data needs, summarizing information
4. Identify the problem:
a. Focus on needs, state what the problem is or is not, identifying desirable circumstances
5. Articulate the goal statement:
a. Identify issues, avoiding jargon, encourage expressions of concerns, develop a concise goal statement, check for agreement
6. Generate solutions:
a. Problem-solve collaboratively, generate alternative interventions, suggest examples, review options and likely consequences, select the most reasonable alternative
7. Formulate a plan:
a. Specify tasks for intervention, establish responsibilities, create evaluation criteria and methods, agree on the timeline for the review progress
8. Evaluate progress and process:
a. Conduct the scheduled review session, review data and analyze results, keep artifacts to document progress, assess the collaboration process, make positive and supportive comments
9. Follow up on the situation:
a. Reassess progress periodically, support effort and reinforce results, continue the plan for further improvement, make adjustments as necessary, bring closure when goals are met
10. Repeat consultation as appropriate:
a. Include other stakeholders as apropos, embracing diversity and inclusion
Ideally, any educator seeking to advocate for teacher leadership should feel empowered. However, exhibiting one’s effective communication skills, diligent preparation, and open-mindedness, will undoubtedly yield a more bountiful harvest. Given this approach, advocating for teacher leadership success becomes related to acting our way into right thinking rather than solely trying to think ourselves into right action.
Anderson, C.J. (February 7, 2014) Effective communication requires a fertile mindset [Web log post]
Retrieved from http://www.ucan-cja.blogspot.com/
Anderson, C.J. (June 4, 2014) Successful collaboration requires utilization of effective communication
strategies [Web log post]Retrieved from http://www.ucan-cja.blogspot.com/
Anderson, C.J. (October 17, 2014) Invitational education theory and a framework for effective collaboration.
[Web log post] Retrieved from http://www.ucan-cja.blogspot.com/
Beebe,S.A.; Beebe,S.J.; & Ivy,D.K. (2004). Communication: principles for a lifetime, 2/E. Allyn & Bacon
Crowley, B. (August 26, 2015) Administration as allies: Fostering collaboration for teacher leadership.
[Web log post] Retrieved from http://smartblogs.com/tag/Brianna-Crowley
Purkey, W. W., & Siegel, B. L. (2013). Becoming an invitational leader: A new approach to
professional and personal success. Atlanta, GA: Humanics. Retrieved from:
Schmidt, J. J. (2007). Elements of diversity in invitational practice and research. Journal of
Invitational Theory & Practice, 13, 16-23. Retrieved from: http://www.invitationaleducation.net/pdfs/journalarchives/jitpv13.pdf
Walther-Thomas, C., Korinek, L., et al., (2000). Collaboration for inclusive education.
Boston: Pearson, ISBN: 9780205273683
Anderson, C.J. (August 31, 2015) How educators can effectively advocate for teacher leadership.
[Web log post] Retrieved from http://www.ucan-cja.blogspot.com/