More than fifty ART of TEACHING principals, teachers and district office administrators from across southern California gathered at the Grand Long Beach Event Center on Sept. 15th for a working breakfast meeting. The instructional leaders came to explore the wide range of supports available to them as administrators of ART of TEACHING schools.
The group’s time together began with delving into key ideas found in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “The Tipping Point.” After thoughtful reflection and discussion, each administrator applied several of the ideas to their process planning for creating and promoting systemic instructional excellence at their schools. For a program like the ART of TEACHING to have a lasting school-wide impact, it is critical that principals and district administrators understand and support their mentors and fellows’ work towards instructional excellence, even after the two-year fellowship cycles have ended. Equally important however, is the intentional and strategic expansion of this work to non-ART of TEACHING staff. The Tipping Point activity provided administrators with ideas to consider as they work towards having instructional excellence become a school-wide phenomenon at their sites.
The balance of the four-hour meeting was devoted to discussing grant opportunities and professional development offerings for 2016-2017. Highlighting the discussion of the foundation’s competitive grants were presentations made by two past grant recipient districts. Staff from Culver City Unified and Tustin Unified described for the group the impressive work to enhance the teaching and learning that took place in their districts as result of the ART of TEACHING Strategic Opportunity Grant funds they received. Strategic Opportunity Grants provide up to $17,000 for projects involving four or more schools within a district, or $4,000 for individual school projects. The grants fund projects that strengthen and improve teachers’ professional practice, and further develop professional learning communities.
The breakfast meeting was the first of several gatherings and professional development opportunities for administrators that will be offered throughout the school year. ART of TEACHING administrators will have access to professional development sessions on Cognitively Guided Instruction, Coaching Conversations and Instructional Technology Integration. Additionally, they can enhance their skills and knowledge through taking advantage of ART of TEACHING-sponsored visitations, Institutes, School Leadership Network and coaching opportunities.
Principals and district administrators play critical roles in establishing and maintaining the conditions needed for instructional excellence and teacher success. As a result, the foundation views its support of this key group as essential to fulfilling the ART of TEACHING’s mission of developing excellent teachers. Of the work with principals and district administrators, Executive Director Jerry Harris says, “Over the years we have learned that The ART of TEACHING’s impact on schools is greatly influenced by the commitment, knowledge and support of school and district level administrators. We see stunning examples of pervasive instructional excellence in ART of TEACHING schools and districts in which the educational leadership embraces and actively engages in working along with their Cotsen fellows and mentors.”
If enthusiasm and engagement are indicators of the potential for and trajectory towards excellence, then the administrators who attended the Breakfast Meeting are definitely off to a phenomenal start to a productive 2016-2017 school year.