I have to admit that I love to travel. I do not particularly love the process it takes to get to my destination such as planes, trains, and taxis, but I do love arriving at the destination. I am eager to learn about the history of the town or city. I want to explore the schools, museums, and restaurants so I get a better sense of the place. Most of my travel is work-related so the time for exploring is limited. I have found that if I plan well, I can arrive early, before dark and explore the town. I have found this very helpful when I am working with groups of educators because I can incorporate my observations as part of the discussion the next day. I learn a lot about the people I am working with when I demonstrate a genuine interest in the culture and community that they call home.
In the Spring I was invited to work with the Tennessee Transformational Leadership Alliance in Nashville. The TTLA is a consortium of universities who are working collaboratively with the Tennessee Department of Education to improve principal preparation programs. This work is led by two colleagues I love working with, Paul Fleming and Hank Staggs from the TNDOE. They are doing extraordinary work in Tennessee to support school leaders. I learned that faculty traveled several hours to attend the meeting and many arrived the day before in order to participate in the meeting. I forget how easily DE educators can gather for a meeting. It was fun getting to meet faculty from so many different principal preparation programs. Some serve rural districts and others work primarily with aspiring leaders in districts such as Nashville and Knoxville, TN which are urban school districts.The interesting things is that whether urban or rural the preparation programs need to include similar content and experiences.
My contribution during the meeting was to talk about the Professional Standards for Educational Leadership (PSEL) and the National Educational Leadership Preparation Standards (NELP) as the Executive Director of the National Policy Board for Educational Administration. I believe it is important that preparation programs align their curriculum and clinical program to national standards since the standards are based on empirical research on school leader effectiveness and included input from over 1000 practitioners. I also shared DASL’s Principal Preparation Program (UDELPPP) which is non-traditional principal preparation program aligned to both PSEL and NELP.
My visit to Nashville took less than 48 hours but I did have the opportunity to reconnect with my mentor, Joe Murphy, Professor from Peabody College, Vanderbilt University, who picked me up from the airport. Joe and I had the opportunity to talk about our work and reconnect as professional colleagues who have supported one another for over 15 years. I also met 50 passionate and committed faculty from 11 universities that serve educators in Tennessee. I learned how they were redesigning principal preparation programs and providing support to students as they participate in district internships. I also explored Belmont University where the meeting was held. I had never been to Belmont but knew it was where many aspiring musicians go to school. I was not disappointed as I walked around this beautiful campus exploring buildings and student areas. I talked with several students who provided me with directions. Several students asked me if I needed directions and my response was, “I’m not lost, I am exploring!”
I also traveled to Macon, GA in the Spring. This was my first trip to Macon and I found it fascinating. DASL was asked to provide professional development to faculty from 15 universities serving hundreds of aspiring principals. Dr. Dave Santore and Gary Bloom, author of the book Blended Coaching, collaborated with me to provide the two day workshop., which took place at Mercer University. We learned from our workshop participants that Macon, GA has a rich history. For a Southerner I appreciated learning that Macon was the home of “southern rock” and the Allman Brothers Band. It is also the home of country superstar Jason Aldean. Downtown Macon is charming with walk-around streets and great “soul food” restaurants. My shrimp and grits was exactly what I needed to comfort me after a day of role playing in our coaching scenarios.
Working should always be an adventure. It should include opportunities to engage with educators who are passionate about improving schools and the skills and knowledge of those who lead schools. Work should also be about making connections with new colleagues who share information and resources This blog series is titled The Road Less Taken. This post is about the joy of learning and exploring new places, new people, new ideas. I hope you will take the time to explore this summer and share your adventures with others. Learning should always include sharing with colleagues. Happy exploring!