Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Harvard's Art of Leadership Institute: The Professional Development Experience of a Lifetime

"To be transforming, YOU need to be transformed." --Samuel Betances to AOL Participants

Raise Your Hand Texas chose me in May to be in a group of principal that would travel to study at Harvard for a week.  I had spoken to a few other lucky principals who have attended the institutes in the past, and I was promised a life-changing experience.  That's high praise, but we are speaking about Harvard.  I felt lucky and excited to be traveling to Cambridge.

There are several institutes that Harvard offers in the summer for principals, which RYHT sponsors after a rigorous application process.  I attended the institute entitled:  Art of Leadership.  This institute was designed to offer technical and adaptive knowledge that will enhance the principal's leadership skills in supporting teacher effectiveness and student achievement.  I knew from that goal, great things were headed my way for the week.

As I left for the trip, I was finishing the school year, exhausted, and wondering what learning would help me continue to make a positive impact upon my school year.  I really had no idea what I was in for, nor did I know another soul attending the institute.  As I did my pre-reading, and reviewed the materials that Harvard provided ( I have a Harvard University login--this is LEGIT!), I knew I was going to have to do a lot of stretching of myself to get all that I needed to take away from the week.  It is my natural inclination, as an introvert of sorts, to stay in the quiet safety of my own inner world and absorb what is happening around me.  I made a vow that I would leave that Stacy in Plano, and work hard to be a great member of my small group.  I was excited to try so many new things, and network with my Texas participants.

The learning that was laid out for us was an approach to leadership that I had never experienced before in my university classes, vast journal reading, nor excellent professional development that my district provides.  Harvard approached the week with us intensely investigating our leadership behaviors.  We dug deep and really reflected on our practices and how our styles can sometimes stymie our best intentions.  We celebrated the work we do every day with positive, uplifting stories, we laughed at mistakes we all have made, and learned a lot from our journey over the week.

I had many moments of clarity and affirmations as the gifted presenters lead us through exercises which helped us analyze ourselves and the programs that we implement our campuses.  I have some tools from Harvard to share with my teachers so that they can analyze their behaviors and identify some obstacles that may be unintentionally getting in the way of student learning.  By the end of the week, I felt my passion re-ignited, and a belief that I DO have the skills to help our teachers and our students meet success.  The biggest skill I have in my toolbelt is my passion, which will lead me to NOT STOPPING to seek excellence. In the words of Bruno Mars, "don't believe me, just watch."  I am energized and ready to tackle the world.

I will highlight a few of the big takeaways from the week in a future blog post (or two), as there is so much to digest and reflect upon, but I just wanted to write my initial reaction to the week.  I would like to sincerely thank Raise Your Hand Texas for this incredible experience.  I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity.  I look forward to continuing my work with the RYHT team.  I also would like to especially thank Lindsay Harris for starting the week with me as a learning partner, but ending the week as a friend.  To the boys who helped me tour downtown Boston twice in one night (Lance, Todd, and Lee) which led to an evening of so much fun, thank you for taking such good care of this girl.  Brandon, you have the voice of an angel, and I will never forget the moment you gifted those of us in your small group a song to hold onto for a lifetime.  The Super 8 group, well, these folks are just the creme de la creme and will be a sounding board for me for a long time to come--thank you for your listening ears and open hearts.  For all the rest of the awesome Texas cohort, I cannot wait to continue our learning together and for our relationships to deepen even more as our work continues.