I’m going to start this off with a not-so-humblebrag: I’m proud and pleased to announce that my school district was recently recognized as a Best Community for Music Education by the NAMM Foundation. I’m proud not only because I work in the district, but also because I happen to supervise the music program across K-12 in my district (along with about a half-dozen other disciplines). But believe it or not, this post isn’t about all that.
As you might recall, I’ve only been on the job since September, so I can’t take credit for the building and maintenance of this program (which has been previously recognized as a NAMM BCME); that groundwork was laid well before I stepped in. If you’ll allow me a brief moment of indulgence, I’d like to think that my main contribution to the process this time was coordinating a more collaborative application process than had been in place in years past, one that actively solicited input from our teachers across the K-12 spectrum. In the end, the teachers on our application committee represented grades K-8, a sizeable chunk of the program.
With just a few weeks left to go in my first year as an administrator, I look back on 2014-2015, and I think that the collaborative approach to this project is a microcosm of what I have tried to do in all facets of my job, in all the disciplines and buildings I supervise: encourage collaboration among and between staff. I know ‘collaboration’ is a big edu-buzz word and is a great idea in theory, but it’s not always so easy to put into practice. I’ve learned that putting the systems and structures in place to enable that takes a lot of planning and doing, both on my part and the part of my teachers. This is made even more difficult by the fact that we are spread across seven different buildings, each with its own start and end time, and even within buildings I rarely have two teachers with common prep. To be honest, it would have been less time-consuming and less difficult for me to do the application myself, or to ask one of my teachers to do it on her own. Yet our philosophical commitment to – and belief in the value of – professional collaboration is what drives us to find ways around logistical challenges. And I believe that this year, our department has been made the stronger for it.
Being part of the overall district-level planning process for the upcoming school year, unlike last year, has allowed me to start putting measures in place already to better structure and facilitate cross-building articulation and collaboration for next year, not just for the BCME application, but for more global purposes as well. I’ve been dying to implement more of what I learned about distributed leadership and shared decision making during my dissertation research, and while much of that occurred strictly at the building level, I think the concept is transferable to, say, a K-12 fine & performing arts program.
I’m not going to lie: right now I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by the end-of-year rush that faces all administrators. This is my first time through it, and that’s natural. But I’ve already got one eye on the weeks ahead – not so much for the upcoming vacation, but more for the opportunity to quietly sit, reflect, and flesh out the framework that I hope will allow us – not me – to plan and do great things for our department, our programs, and our students.