The article below was posted last August, when WMWP's Building New Pathways to Leadership team was in the midst of planning a variety of programs. Here's an update: After making a "pitch" for additional funding at the National Writing Project Annual Meeting in November, WMWP has received a new Gates Foundation-funded grant to develop an alternative pathway called Disciplinary Literacy Leadership. A central focus of the new grant will be to develop a civic engagement institute to be offered in summer 2017. Watch for news about this program. To see the complete WMWP pitch presentation, click here.
August 15, 2016
WMWP places a high value on building teacher leadership, embodied in the role of Teacher-Consultant. WMWP’s current pathway to leadership, which almost always passes through the Summer Leadership Institute and frequently includes stops at a variety of other advanced and special topic institutes as well as school-based professional development courses, has produced a strong cadre of teacher leaders at our site. They serve as role models in their schools and districts; they organize WMWP programs and/or serve on our Executive Board; they facilitate high-quality in-service programs in schools through our service area. They are smart, idealistic, and committed to students, colleagues, and the teaching profession.
But we know that there are many other talented teachers in our region who could and should be leaders within our network, but who haven’t participated in our Summer Leadership Institute and perhaps cannot due to a variety of life and workplace circumstances. Through a planning grant from the National Writing Project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, WMWP is participating in the NWP initiative Building New Pathways to Leadership. The project offers structure and support for reflection and data gathering, design of new professional development opportunities, and piloting of new programs.
The WMWP Building New Pathways team is facilitated by Leslie Skantz-Hodgson and also includes Jane Baer-Leighton, Maria José Botelho, Bruce Penniman, Momodou Sarr, and Chris Tolpa. So far the group has met with groups of educational leaders in the region, administered an online survey that over 300 teachers completed, conducted focus groups with small groups of teachers, hosted a breakfast for administrators, and analyzed data from all of these sources with the help of other WMWP leaders.
Currently the team is working on three new avenues for developing teacher leadership:
- Content-related institutes and workshops. Many teachers who participated the survey and/or focus groups said that because the time they can devote to professional development is limited, they prefer to focus on learning in their own content areas rather than participate in broader-based programs such as the Summer Leadership Institute. To answer this need, WMWP is offering a free workshop, Demystifying Disciplinary Literacy Standards: Where We Are Now & Where We Can Go Together, on September 22, and a Science Literacy / Literacy in Science Institute beginning October 20. This institute is an outgrowth of the NWP Science Writing initiative in which WMWP participated over the last two years. In addition, the Building New Pathways team is planning for a civics/social studies literacy institute.
- Professional development for mentors and other teacher leaders. Many respondents indicated that they had leadership responsibilities in their schools - as mentors, curriculum coaches, team leaders, etc. - but that they received very little training or support for these roles. So the Building New Pathways team is developing a workshop series entitled "Collaborative Coaching" that will provide both research-based strategies and a professional learning community. This program may be offered first in the Pittsfield area, where teachers expressed a strong need for this kind of programming.
- Micro-credentialing of leadership skills. Building on a growing national trend, this approach to leadership development seeks to identify and define the capacities that teachers build in the traditional Summer Leadership Institute and then create other opportunities for educators to develop and document their achievements in these areas one or two at a time, at their own pace. In this way, teachers who are unable to participate in the Summer Leadership Institute could still work toward Teacher-Consultant status within WMWP. Currently, the Building New Pathways team is focusing on the three main strands of the Summer Leadership Institute - teacher as writer, teacher as presenter, teacher as researcher - as potential micro-credentials, but there are also possibilities for others that might lead to an "Advanced Teacher-Consultant" credential.
The building New Pathways work is very much in progress at this time. Watch for updates on the website in e-mail messages throughout the fall.