Yesterday, I had the pleasure of hosting our Powerful Learning Practice (PLP) Culminating Event at the Seacoast School of Technology in Exeter, NH. Nearly 50 teachers and administrators from SAU16 participated in PLP during the 2009-2010 school year, and yesterday we convened to have a day long celebration of our efforts. Both Will and Sheryl flew in for the event, which they do at the beginning and end of each PLP Cohort.
To say that the event was moving would not do it justice. I knew going into the process that teaching and learning would look differently to us at the end of our year. Robin Ellis assured me constantly that the transformation would occur somewhere about the midway point and, although I saw it begin to develop then, yesterday’s event was simply stunning – not because we were using web 2.0 tools, but because the transformation was in the conversations we were having. They weren’t around tools. They weren’t around technologies. They weren’t around the lessons we were going to teach tomorrow. Instead they were around terms such as “empowerment”, “leadership”, and “culture”. We were having conversations about being agents of change and distributing our new found capacity to lead. In effect, we saw past the glitz and glam of the tools (although they are cool as heck) and pushed our thinking toward how these connective technologies are changing the very landscape of education… and this is a good thing because, as Will said in his closing remarks, educators should not be “getting comfortable”, in fact we need to keep asking “what’s changed” relative to our ability to teach skills necessary for our students to be active participants in today’s world. We can’t afford to think that our conversation, our learning and our need for discomfort is done. In fact, this culminating event was more like a kickoff with Will, Sheryl and the extensive PLP network simply giving us the direction and capacity to do so.
But, this has been a very personal journey for me as well. Last August I asked nearly 60 teachers to join me in PLP. I asked them to get uncomfortable, to be willing to be stretched, to unlearn that which they thought they knew, to show their vulnerabilities in order to develop new strengths, and ultimately to lead their colleagues, students and learning communities in the use of connective technologies moving forward. Nearly 50 agreed to join and the work that they shared yesterday was very moving, so much so that I felt compelled to share that with them in the following email:Good morning.
From the very bottom of my heart, I want to thank each of you not only for your participation in PLP, but your willingness to learn, unlearn, stretch, grow, produce and ultimately lead this SAU in the use of connective technologies. You were willing to take a risk with me, to be transparent as a learner, to share your insecurities and to come to revelations you thought not possible before. Your decision to do so was very meaningful to me and I want to thank you for being willing to take that leap.
As I said yesterday, I believe that leadership is not something we are born with, it is something we achieve, and each of us now have the capacity (and the responsibility) to not only lead, but to distribute that capacity to lead to our colleagues, our students and our learning communities. PLP is not about technology, it is about practices, cultures, communities and the belief that leadership is not meant to be monopolized, it is to be shared, celebrated, challenged, and redistributed.
As all of you know, the use of connective technologies to direct learning is something that I am very passionate about, so to be a part of a movement towards thier implementation within the very schools that my children are attending, and in a more broad sense, change what it means to teach and learn, is very exciting. Yesterday’s culminating event was very moving for me. Your efforts touched me deeply – and it is very important to me that each of you know that.
I offer you my deepest thanks, my highest congratulations, and my very best for your continued growth as a learning leader.
I have not been shy about what PLP has done for me and my personal transformation. (Full Disclosure: I have recently been hired to be a Community Leader for PLP) The capacity to share that with the professionals in whom I work with most closely and in whom I trust the education of my children as well as the children of the community in which I live is only strengthening that transformation and further igniting my own passion to explore how I can continue to build leadership capacity in this area. While I will be leaving my job as Assistant Superintendent, I can’t help but think that the work we did as a learning community, with the facilitation of Will, Sheryl, John Pederson and the rest of the PLP Network is only the start of that capacity building process here in Exeter, NH.