Gratitude is infectious-–when people give thanks and share gratitude with others, they're much more likely to follow suit.
Our One Schoolhouse team is a grateful bunch so let’s hear from the team:
“I am ever thankful for the love and support of my (growing) family and friends - it is never lost on me how truly special these relationships are. I am also thankful for a job that pushes me to grow, but also gives space to enjoy life outside of work.” Curt Brossman, Controller
“I am grateful for the communities I am a part of and the new possibilities we are creating together!” Tracie Yorke, Director of Inclusive Innovation and Design
“I am grateful for audiobooks--whether fiction or nonfiction. Having a story in my pocket at all times makes so many of life's moments better!” Sarah Hanawald, Senior Director, Association for Academic Leaders
“I am grateful for the precious gift of life. Living a truly fulfilling and abundant life is a gift that I am thankful to experience each and every day.” George Greene, Senior Director, Academic Program & Principal
“While Mom was in the hospital, her family had the time and ability to visit her. I appreciate having what I need to do what needs to be done.” Lynnae Boudreau, Director of Instructional Coaching
“I am grateful for the gift of grace. For each time it's been extended to me, and for the times I could extend it in return. I am eternally grateful for the gentle people of our world who soften the sharp edges of life with their empathy, compassion and loving nature.” Amy Nyland, Director of Operations
“2022 has been a stamina-building year for many white educators. As the shininess of the DEIB/J moment faded from the national headlines, educators learned to pay consistent attention to equity, inclusion, and justice, to elevate it even as others were getting on with day-to-day business. I'm grateful to be learning how to stay in this work for the rest of my life.” Corinne Dedini, Senior Director, Teaching & Learning
“I’m grateful for a year in which I was able to experience life with friends and family more fully.” Brad Rathgeber, CEO & Head of School
“I am grateful for the grace I’ve given myself, and the grace that has been given to me, as I’ve strived to find balance this year. I am grateful for changing leaves and family bonds (blood or otherwise) and opportunities for reflection. I am grateful for reading on the metro and Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups.” Sienna Brancato, Program Manager, Association for Academic Leaders
“I'm prepared for the remainder of my undergraduate journey and I feel incredibly passionate about my future career/life paths.” Alieu Kamara, Intern
“I am grateful for the little things in life that bring me joy.” Jasper McElrath, Assistant Director, Communications & Marketing
What I didn’t know then was that there was a good reason why there was small uptake of the new idea or concept: sustained professional learning, with clear guidance, and on-going coaching was necessary to impact the change.
Let’s consider the research.
In 2018, researchers from Harvard and Brown published, The Effect of Teacher Coaching on Instruction and Achievement: A Meta-Analysis of the Causal Evidence. They found that traditional inservice models produced little uptake of new pedagogical or curricular initiatives, but by combining traditional inservice with follow-up coaching, uptake improved by more than eight times (see chart). Researchers noted that, “The quality of the feedback may be more important than actual quantity.” Coaching everything a teacher does at once was not as effective as using coaching to reinforce a new curriculum or a specific teaching technique. Summer workshops with follow-up coaching appears to be “particularly potent.”
A 2020 report from Digital Promise, Prevalence of Coaching and Approaches: Approaches to Supporting to Supporting Coaching in Education, goes further. “Teacher quality is one of the most important factors that contributes to student success. There is a growing body of research that points to coaching as an effective way to support teacher growth. As such, coaching is becoming more prevalent in schools and districts in the U.S..” The report goes on to note that most US school districts have learning coaches in their school systems now, but that the ratio of coaches to faculty and the amount of time that a coach is devoted to coaching are barriers to effectiveness. The Table included here from the report breaks down the effectiveness of professional development practices and tracks how they lead to transfer to practice. The impact of coaching is immense.
So, if coaching is effective (and incredibly so), how might you identify and train coaches for your campus, and what might they do?
Here’s how it works.
Get a group of colleagues together who work on a shared problem. But, instead of asking for a “brainstorming” of potential great solutions, ask the group to spend 15-20 minutes collecting the worst possible ideas for solving the problem. No bad idea is off the table. There is no bridge too far. The worse idea the better.
Then, have the group select the worst of the worst possible solutions, and take 15-20 minutes to unpack the horrible idea, and see whether there is a nugget of truth that’s embedded in the bad idea. Can that nugget be turned into a good idea? Chances are it can.
Perhaps you are worried about grade inflation at your school, and the worst idea that you come up with is to let parents grade their kids work. Awful idea, I think we can all agree, Academic Leaders. But, this awful idea may unlock new ideas relating to more transparency in the grading process so that anyone grading student work would come to the same grade (perhaps even if the parent was grading the work!).
There are many benefits to this approach. The first of which is that you’ll find quickly that humor has entered the space. When I recently did this exercise there were howls of laughter coming from every table in the room. The approach also unlocks creativity, and alleviates pressure from having “the right idea.”
Give it a try the next time your team is solving a problem.
We all know, the COVID pandemic has been incredibly difficult for anyone in education, and particularly teachers. This has led to fewer new teachers entering the job market, fewer college students pursuing education degrees, and more teachers quitting their jobs. Eventually, this will drive up teacher salaries nationwide, if it hasn’t already in your area. This is great. Historically, teachers have been undercompensated.
Hiring teachers will get harder and harder
This will cause additional strain on the independent school business model
The teacher salary model will change in many schools
As Academic Leaders, we know that hiring is getting harder and harder each year – many of you tell me that hiring is now a year-long, neverending project. Almost everyone reports smaller candidate pools with less strong applicants, particularly in subject areas where teachers have more choices outside of the profession (computer science, sciences, languages, etc.). If teaching salaries go up, the independent school business model will be challenged even more. Already (according to NAIS and NBOA), salaries and benefits account for 64% of expenses at the average independent school. This may move schools away from a traditional pay-step model to something new, especially for the hardest-to-fill teaching positions.
Many schools are going to have to make difficult choices
Resources are not unlimited. If teaching salaries rise, choices will have to be made that impact the school outside and inside the classroom. Student to teacher ratios may need to increase; schools may not be able to offer as deep a curriculum on campus; programs may need to be cut.
I’m not, by nature, a pessimistic person. But, I do worry about the challenges ahead for Academic Leaders. And, I know that by working together in our incredible community, we’ll find creative, thoughtful solutions that center our values and center the learning experience of our students.
Even after 17 years in education and now toggling the past few years between both administrative responsibilities and classroom responsibilities, I still have trouble finding time to pause and reflect on my growth and progress, but it is this very space that offers the reflective judgment needed in order to grow. As campus leaders, I would assert that we have the obligation when faculty seek us out to provide an atmosphere which, in turn, opens the space for change - for our teachers and for us.
Understanding that we have the power to create the space for change and to facilitate not only sustained but also desired change requires a foundational level of knowledge about how change works. Richard Boyatzis (2006), one of the leading experts in the field of leadership development and emotional intelligence and co-author of Helping People Change: Coaching with Compassion for Lifelong Learning and Growth (2019), has been working in the field of compassionate coaching for several decades. Drawing on longitudinal research, his work rests on five major discoveries for personal and professional growth:
At first glance, it may seem as if Boyatzis’ principles above have little to do with making one’s institution greater, bigger, more innovative, more [insert your own institutional characteristic here]. That is not the case at all. What Boyatzis is suggesting is this: When we allow space for people to find clarity around who they are, this knowledge, then, informs who they want to be. Their passions, combined with their purpose, values, and life experience, inform the image they create for themselves. In other words, as teacher-leaders and instructional coaches we have the opportunity to gift people the freedom to become who they want to become, not who we want them to become. And institutionally, this opens the pathway for innovation and design. We offer them a piece of our institution so that they may call it their own. So that they may belong.
Figure 1. Components of the Ideal Self. Boyatzis and Akrivou, 2006, p. 627.
While I don’t have all the answers to how we might effectively do this on our campuses, we might turn to those who are already offering routes into creating and establishing relationships for growth and change. In his book, The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More, and Change the Way You Lead Forever, Michael Bungay Stanier offers one practical application route for faculty belonging through “the seven essential questions” of coaching conversations. Each question builds on the information from the previous one by offering the receiver a pathway to talk about what matters most to them – the actual thing before the thing.
Questions for reflection:
Boyatzis, R., & Akivrou, K. (2006). The ideal self as the driver of intentional change. Journal of Management Development, 25(7), 624-642. https://doi.org/10.1108/02621710610678454
Boyatzis, R. E., Smith, M., & Van Oosten, E. (2019). Helping people change: Coaching with compassion for lifelong learning and growth. Harvard Business Review Press.
Stanier, Michael Bungay. (2016). The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More, and Change the Way You Lead Forever. Box of Crayons Press.
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Brad Rathgeber (he/him/his)