Opportunity Culture Voices: Keep on Keeping On

October 16, 2015

“I’m practically a Syracuse City Schools lifetime member—from student, to teacher, to coach, then nearly into administration—but with a happy detour. I got to return to the classroom in a new position of multi-classroom leader. As the MCL, I lead a team of teachers while continuing to teach—the sweet spot for this point in my career.

But at a school new to me, in a new leadership role, with teachers who didn’t necessarily sign up for the total collaboration and openness of this team-teaching model, I faced challenges. I knew we needed to focus on data—we did need data to “drive our instruction”—and that meant sharing our students’ results with the whole team.”

–Syracuse City Schools Multi-Classroom Leader Maggie Vadala, in Keep on Keeping On: Using Data to Move Students Forward

Data-driven instruction + a new model of teacher-led team teaching + being at a new, high-need school + data systems that must continue to improve: That’s what Syracuse’s Maggie Vadala took on last year–and very happily. In Thursday’s RealClearEducation.com, Vadala describes the challenges.

“As I dug into the data, I realized I left one important item out: relationships! I was working with five third-grade teachers and 75 students. Altogether, the five teachers had just 11 years of teaching experience.

So while we were sharing our students’ sometimes dismal data, a far-from-comfortable experience for teachers used to working alone, I had to simultaneously build trust. They were welcoming but suspicious about my role—was I just there to run to the principal whenever they made a mistake? Where was I going with all that data? I had a group of committed people; now, they had to trust that I could guide us to accomplish more together than independently.”

Read how she did it, in her warm but no-nonsense, straightfoward approach to leading her team, and their ups and downs along the way. And hear more of Vadala’s thoughts on the accompanying video drawn from our September interview with her. She’s just one of the many inspiring Opportunity Culture teachers and teacher-leaders who sees the difference Opportunity Culture is making in schools. Read past columns from her Opportunity Culture colleagues in the Opportunity Culture series–and thanks to Real Clear Education as always for hosting it.

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