Colleagues & Friends,
If you have been on our Monday Message list for very long – you have seen this greeting each week for over 15 years. The term colleague is a direct reference to one of the folks that helped design SLC, Roland Barth. His classic description of the difference between congenial and collegial staffs is still a touchstone for me. The term friend is derived from the fact that many of our Fellows and principals who employ Discovery Walks etc. – over time – become friends.
Today’s message is calculated to do two things. First – to remind you of how your relationship with SLC has created opportunities for growth for you AND the cohort you are surrounded with because of the SLC association. Secondly – to present some facts about working in cohorts to encourage you to replicate that in your school setting and to look around and to determine who at your sight might benefit from learning in a cohort as a 2015 Fellow.
Why learn in a cohort? When Ken Leithwood (SLC’s evaluator for ten years) and others studied when school principals learned as a cohort, not only did the graduates of the program value the cohort experience and tend to want to work in a group, but teachers working for principals who were trained in cohorts rated them highly on effective leadership qualities. Leithwood and his colleagues reported that cohort learning fosters real life problem-solving skills of participants and helped to develop more effective school leaders. Proponents of cohorts argue that this adult learning model can be characterized by a strong sense of purpose in the leader, which contributes to their articulating a vision for the school and causes teachers to ‘buy-in’ to the direction of the school. Learning in cohorts also tends to develop a learning community back at school characterized by trust, openness, improved group dynamic skills and a feeling of empowerment by teachers. There is also evidence that the cohort structure contributes to increased collaborative problem solving and shared leadership approach back at school building. The characteristics discovered above, in conjunction with teamwork skills acquired, are increasingly necessary among successful school leaders. In addition, when aspiring leader preparation programs were studied, the findings on the leadership skills learning was very similar but those trained in cohorts in preparation for leadership, tended to move into leadership positions more rapidly.
In 1997, when we were designing SLC and the Fellows Program, we had the above research to guide us. Take a moment and think back to your Summer Institute experience. You were thrust into a family group with folks you did not know, given a roommate you probably did not know, but made some lasting friendships and created collegial relationships that can make you a better leader. It’s schmoozing, interacting, networking…call it what you will, but it afforded you the potential to talk to others in the same situation as you and maybe even learn from their experience. Who is that person you met as a Fellow that you know you would not have met otherwise? We even have Fellows Networking Events so you can renew, and perhaps create, those relationships.
My conclusion is simply to ask you, which co-worker in you school or in another school might profit by being a Fellow? Send us an email, talk to the person, and connect us by email…whatever it takes. Many of our Fellows tell us that no single learning experience had a more positive effect on their leadership than the Fellows Program.
Who is that colleague or friend you’d recommend? Don’t wait; take the three minutes it takes now. They’ll thank you for being a friend and colleague indeed.
Be Well, Do Good Work, & Keep In Touch,