“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
Sir Winston Churchill
EDLD 5302 was the perfect introductory course for someone like me who hasn’t been on the student side of a classroom in over twenty years. After an introduction to Carol Dweck, we reflected on our own growth mindset. Upon reflection, I am not really sure that I would have been able to find the success that I did while in this program without this reminder about the importance of mindset. I was met with setbacks and barriers all throughout my attempt to act on my innovation plan, but I was able to activate my growth mindset and keep pushing forward. The ideas from this course are reviewed again later in the program at just the right time. Since the program is structured around the students actually learning and applying information to our own situation, it makes sense that we started by making sure we are all open to that learning.
After activating our growth mindset, it was time to begin building our eportfolios. I have enjoyed the process of building my own website and I am looking forward to going through the reinvention process as I figure out how to make it reflect where I am going, not just where I have been.
This was one of my favorite classes because it was packed with content that I loved. We found our “Why,” and then we worked on becoming effective leaders. I appreciated the opportunity to reflect on this component, but I wished it happened at a different time. It felt disconnected from the change agent study that was also taking place during this course. Of all of the new skills I learned during this program, learning how to use my power of influence was one of the most important. I can identify now where we have fallen short in the past. Sometimes our failure has been right from the start with leadership clarity and other times we have stumbled with the launch.
Figure 1. Graphic representation of the five stage of change.
Finally, in EDLD 5305 it was time to build our innovation plans. This is why I came. This is what I was here to learn, specifically. Before I started this program I was part of a campus leadership team that began working on innovation plans for our campus. I was in deep but didn’t know how to really make it happen or even what steps I was supposed to take. I wanted to change how learning happened on our campus. I didn’t know COVA or CSLE, yet, but that was exactly what I was seeking. While doing research on how to make this plan a reality, I found information about this program and new it was the right step for me. I have always been interested in continuing my education, but I had not found a degree worth the investment until now. Being able to build my innovation plan and have the support and guidance of the instructors and my classmates have made a world of difference. Even though this specific information is what I came in search of, I leave here with so much more.
EDLD 5313 was a wonderful refresher on learning theory and educational theorists, many of whom I haven’t studied since graduating from college. In this course, we explored the academic language learning theory and constructivist epistemology used to create student-centered learning environments. This course tapped into my goal to change the way learning happens on campus by demonstrating that it is possible to create active and engaging learning environments that utilize technology, increase motivation for learning, and engage the learner. We learned how to navigate and apply Fink’s three-column table in order to create significant learning environments. This course was full of wonderfully important bits of information and I recall wishing that I had more time to spend on each one. Understanding by Design, learning philosophies, CSLE, and applying constructivist theory all fell within these five weeks.
Lit Reviews. When I think of EDLD 5314 I recall Lit Reviews. This wasn’t the first time that a lit review appeared in the program, but this one was the most challenging for me. In reality, I had recently discovered that most of my plans were going to need to adapt due to challenges and barriers within the district. I had some work to do to figure out how I was going to keep working and moving forward. Regardless of the challenges, I have maintained my dedication to driving change. This presentation was one of the activities that helped fossilize that desire.
Another lit review. It was mostly when the lit reviews were assigned that I felt like the five-week course put me at a disadvantage. I felt like I was in too much of a rush to read enough and do enough research to adequately cover my information. This course is also one where I encountered instructional associates that did not seem to understand the nature of the work we were doing. Coursework was being evaluated by the instructional associates and the feedback was not as I expected from a graduate course. Regardless, I took this opportunity to begin working on building a plan to implement eportfolios with my high school students.
Digital Citizenship. Well, at least there wasn’t a lit review. This course went against every bit of philosophy that we had been taught throughout the program. The course felt like it had been created in the time where course developers feared the students wouldn’t learn unless they were drowning in assignments. I had to come up with a plan for surviving this course, so I made sure to stick to the rubrics and just follow the assignment guidelines as closely as I could. Unfortunately, there were numerous grammatical and mechanical errors throughout the assignment instructions, some were placed so that the instructions weren’t clear. There were many issues with this course and it felt very out of sync with the rest of the program. There are many aspects particular to 21st Century schools that this course doesn’t touch, but if teachers are going to begin accessing technology with students, they absolutely need to be trained on privacy laws and how to keep students safe online. The videos and readings were out of date, making it hard to take the course and its creator seriously. I managed to make the mantra assignment one that will work for me and I am already posting it in my virtual classroom.
One of the best parts of this course was the excitement that Dr. Thibodeaux had for the work the students were doing. There have been several times throughout the course of this program that I felt like I had made the best decision about grad school and choosing this program simply because of the support of the instructors and this class was a prime example. Dr. T was able to support each student, no matter what topic was being presented. This was an important course for me. I began considering what my work would be beyond my classroom- how I could take the work of my innovation plan and spread the message. For me, that meant Focusing on the Future in ELA and making a pitch that will spur the message on.
This course, EDLD 5388, was another one of my favorites. This was the course where we learned about creating and delivering professional learning. We learned how to make professional learning valuable and effective. Back on my campus, I had already begun working on a professional learning alternative after surveys on campus indicated that teachers were not satisfied with the professional learning opportunities that had been offered in recent years.
We created a choice board that allowed teachers to set goals related to the campus goals, then complete a variety of acceptable activities related to those goals. The best part of the new process was the inclusion of reflection and application evidence. The entire process is digital, but we also created a non-digital option for those teachers who need a hard copy. This PD Choice option was popular with teachers last year, and we are continuing to utilize the choice board this year. This is another example of how this program was the perfect program for my needs and the needs of my campus.
It is hard to believe, but we are already here at the final course. Upon reflection, this program has taught me more about myself than I ever expected. There were specific moments where I learned about how to be a leader, but through the process, I also learned from the example of my instructors.
In the very first course, my classmates suggested that we create a group on Facebook in order to support each other. We did, and I would guess it is no coincidence that we are the ones who remain here at the end. There were times throughout the last year and a half when we faced discouragement, fatigue, and stress but we could pop over to our little group and find support and encouragement. When I felt like I might not make it, my classmates were there to help me out. We shared ideas and collaborated continually throughout the program, making us an unstoppable support group.
The last five weeks have given me the opportunity to reflect on my journey through this program. I am amazed at all I have accomplished because of the support of this program. None of these accomplishments were done on my own, but with the support of the DLL program and the cooperation of my campus family. I have launched a new professional learning plan for my entire campus, I have begun to change the way learning happens by introducing the COVA approach and I have begun working on transforming the spaces so that students and teachers have more opportunities for CSLE. I have also become a leader, not just in name, but in actions. This transformation was the most unexpected of all… An unexpected promotion on my campus meant that I needed this program more than anticipated. I am forever grateful that I had the program teaching me about the power of influence, and how to leverage my influence to execute my plans.
I conclude this program ready….ready to lead, ready to transform, ready to lead teachers and students with my skills, tools, and knowledge into their future. Thank you to Dr. Harapnuik and Dr. Thibodeaux for your outstanding leadership and your dedication to my success and the success of this program. I look forward to continuing the work we began here in the DLL program. This is the beginning of something great.
Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House., 2016. Print.
Fink, L. D. (2003). A Self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning. Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Grenny, J., & Pound, R. (2010, 03). How to 10×your influence: Use four or more sources to exponentially increase your influence. Strategic Direction, 26(4), 3-6. doi:10.1108/02580541011031388
Grenny, J. (2015). Influencer: The new science of leading change. McGraw-Hill.
McChesney, C., Covey, S., & Huling, J. (2016). The 4 disciplines of execution: Achieving your wildly important goals. New York, NY. Free Press.
Ranjan, A. (2014, April 14). The 4 Disciplines of Execution –Retrieved from https://touchonweb.wordpress.com/2014/02/19/the-4-discipline-of-execution/