My project made clear to me the importance of perceptions and how they can impede or progress learning. I stepped into an environment with which I was unfamiliar and lost focus a bit, ironically, because I was so focused on conducting my research that I didn’t account for the actual participants. Nearly half-way through, I had to reevaluate my approach, especially with my mentor/staff developer, to see if I was actually going to be able to implement anything or make a difference. There was a small, but very telling signal in her tone and facial expression. Despite her professionalism, this reaction made me realize that I was being perceived by her and the staff as an evaluator rather than someone on their side. This was a unique situation for me—technically, I was an outsider. What could I have done differently? What could I do now?
I feel like I was forced to undergo a shift in my communication after this by engaging in different kinds of conversation while monitoring my tone. In my efficiency/impatience, what was missing was my respect for the human element. Eventually, I feel like I formed some semblance of a relationship to clarify that I am on her team and that it can actually be beneficial that I have a different perspective. For instance, in talking to staff, I was taken aback by the amount of involvement they have in their special-needs students’ lives. One person gave me the impression that this was something that many of staff participants have just accepted as part of the position. This made me wonder. Even if the school didn’t want to overhaul their present professional development format, are they at least aware of the options that exist that could make their current format a little easier? Certainly, a revision may help address overwhelming amount of paperwork that teachers deal in addition to the teacher-training notes and handouts.
It wasn’t until a week 9 of my co-op that it donned on me how vital it is to get leaders on board with projects. Whereas the staff-developer and I had a lengthy conversation about how a few ideas would or wouldn’t work in her environment, I am curious about how the portal would actually pan out. Since I do not work within this environment, I would not be able to help roll-out any of these ideas should they move forward with a PD modification, but still, I’m invested in seeing about how influential these meetings were to her present conduct.
Personally, I think my mentor does a fantastic job and works with a dedicated, passionate group of teachers, so I definitely foresee success regardless of what happens so long awareness continues to be fostered and openly addressed.
My appreciation for transparency in leadership has increased because of this experience, and I hope to continue to grow as a technology leader by using 21st century tools to promote such openness. Stay tuned for future posts!