This blog post was written by Carol Tonsing. Carol is the English Department Chairperson at Nordonia High School, located in Macedonia, Ohio.
"Here we go again", I think as I embark on the newest training and enter a room consisting of central office personnel, building administrators, teacher leaders, and identifiable out-of-district trainers or experts. But this time is different. It very quickly dawned on me that this content was realistic and applicable. What FIP was ultimately doing was defining what good teaching really was. It intrigued me and for the first time in a really long time, I was hooked on a presentation. I had something I could really invest myself in as I returned to my building and department.
So, what makes FIP so special?
It’s real. Good teaching is real.
As a teacher leader, I have tried to articulate and relay what that really means. I modeled ‘good teaching’ behaviors; I assisted in lesson and curriculum development; I emphasized routines and procedures, and I promoted data-driven instruction. All of which are appropriate and valid, but something was missing. What was it that helped teachers to understand how essential questions, Backward Design, or differentiated instruction were so significant? How do all of these research-based strategies come together?
FIP helped me to connect the dots for my teams and new teachers, but it left me with this one question: where does my principal fit into this equation?
Having a partnership between a building principal and a teacher leader is imperative and quite frankly a bit unusual. Instructional leadership at the secondary level might seem unobtainable to some educators, as many building administrators are often tied up with the day-to-day grind of their plethora of roles and responsibilities.
As I talked about the implementation of FIP with my building principal it became very apparent that he, too, bought into the components and structure of FIP. It became more for him as well, and he clearly saw its significance and connection to the ever so popular initiative of OTES and teacher evaluations. Our partnership in focusing on the notion of learning targets, one of the core components of FIP, spread throughout the building. He gave us time to deconstruct the daunting Common Core State Standards and we worked as a team in my department to develop and coordinate our clear learning targets. We spent time discussing what types of targets were appropriate, and when/where they should be taught. We placed them on our curriculum maps, but the key was the sense of accountability we had, with our principal's support, to create a school culture where students and teachers alike became centered on learning targets.
Where will this partnership between instructional leaders take us? In the words of a very wise high school senior, Justin Keeney, “Learning targets provide me with an objective that helps me to move on; to look at the big picture. I can see it. I can even move beyond my target.”
I, too, am ready to move beyond my target and continue my partnership with all of my key players.