"Ready, Set, Grow!": Reflections on Digital Leadership

Tuesday, February 27, 2018
This year our district theme was "Ready, Set, Grow!" Many of us have spent the year sharing and highlighting the amazing work of our students, teachers, and entire district on social media with the hashtag #Lex3grows. While I have been very caught up in my new position this year as a digital learning coach, I did sit down this weekend to reflect on how I've grown as a teacher and technology leader over the past few years . . .

Last weekend I presented with my district's digital learning team (our chief academic officer, the other digital learning coach, and me) about our 1:1 technology integration journey at the South Carolina School Boards Association Annual Conference. Most of what we shared, including the logistics, organization, and original intent of the initiative, was part of planning and preparation that happened before I stepped into my position. However, the meat of our presentation focused on what has made our 1:1 initiative a success at each school level: building teacher capacity and supporting the Profile of the South Carolina Graduate, which I have been an integral part of since joining the digital learning team.

Presenting that day was a little daunting for me because it was the first presentation that I've made that wasn't to teachers (or children), but to other school leaders that work behind the scenes to advocate for our schools, teachers, and most of all students. The presentation went very well, though, and our attending school board members and district administration were very pleased and complimentary of how we shared our collective efforts in taking our district 1:1. However, the whole experience made me really reflect on how much I've grown as a school leader (and little on how far I've come as a speaker - in college, public speaking was my toughest class!). It made me think back to a post I wrote in 2015 in response to a leadership class for my graduate degree, Technology Leaders and Gaining Support. I wrote:
Currently, I am only in my fourth year of teaching. I do not feel like much of a leader in anything . . . However, I know that my Master's program is training me not only to successfully integrate technology into my instruction, but also to be confident enough to help my peers do the same. One day I do wish to hold the position of an instructional technology specialist, so I know that exhibiting leadership in this area now will go a long way to preparing me for the position and demonstrating to my administration that I desire to take on more responsibility.
WOW! What a difference a few years make! Not only did I reach my goal of obtaining a position as an instructional technology specialist, but I also was a teacher leader along the way. In the years following that post, I was a leader in my school and district: applying for and receiving grants, participating in teacher leadership teams for technology and STEAM, and being named South Carolina's 2017 PBS Digital Innovator. As well I assisted in professional development in digital learning tools, shared and modeled digital learning strategies, and was available to teachers that needed help or had questions about digital learning. I've also had an amazing mentor along the way: my fellow digital learning coach, @AndreaDerrick19. Not only has she "shown me the ropes" of the job, she has also let me step out of my comfort zone, make a few mistakes, and learn some things the hard way on my own.

The rest of that 2015 post explains how technology leaders can help gain teacher support for technology integration. My discussion revolved around Eric Sheninger's book Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times. I was delighted with how so much of what I'm doing now as a school and technology leader truly lines up with what the book recommend. Further, I'm pleased that in my position as a digital learning coach I'm still operating with the same belief of my 2015 self that educational leaders can truly gain support from teachers by providing training, modeling, and coaching teachers to increase their capacity. This was the bulk of our presentation last weekend! But after further reflection on my growth as a leader, what I'm truly thankful for is a school board and district administration that values and recognizes teacher leaders. Without ALL of their support I know I would not be where I am today, and I do not believe that my position would be as successful as it is. I feel very fortunate to be a leader in a district that encourages teacher growth and exhibits confidence in its leaders.


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