As Polk County’s Jared Bigham makes the transition from principal to instructional leader, follow his posts on the SCORE Sheet to find out what that change really means.

When I announced to my teachers the shift I wanted to undertake to become a true instructional leader, there was not one encouraging word or sentiment. It’s not to say they acted negatively; but, they gave NO reaction. The meeting did not adjourn with the revival atmosphere I had anticipated. I actually left the meeting feeling a little discouraged. The only response I got, which came two days later, was “This place needs to be shaken up.” Is that really what I’m wanting—to shake things up? However, I don’t remember anybody telling me it would be easy to implement this shift.

I had my teachers answer an anonymous survey on my role as an instructional leader. I thought it would help guide me as I undertook this new role. One surprising find, among some of the other more humbling remarks, was that many teachers wanted a definition of what an instructional leader actually is.

Others might have their own opinion, but here is my definition of instructional leader: a person with the knowledge and/or resources to support teachers in quality pedagogy for student growth and achievement. But as my dad says “Don’t say deceased when you can just say dead, Son,” so a simplified definition would be: a person who supports best practices.

It was not apparent to me how much I had actually been lacking as an instructional leader in my building until I had the additional time to focus on instruction. My newly-deemed operations administrator, David Turner, has done a marvelous job of keeping my plate clear of most managerial tasks, so I have really been able to spend more time in classes and in discussions with teachers. Here are some things I have learned so far:

  • I went into this with the mentality that I would be “fixing” instructional problems, but I soon came to realize there were many good practices going on that I needed to support and replicate.
  • Most teachers really do want feedback to improve their instruction, especially when all the conversations don’t take place within an evaluation framework.
  • Getting in classrooms consistently puts faces with data like never before. Data takes on a whole new meaning when you are in a class watching students put pencil to paper, and the #achievementgap becomes more than a Twitter hash tag.

Only starting my journey, I have already realized it’s not about me “fixing” anything or coming to the rescue of my teachers. It’s about me building relationships with them and the students to promote success together.