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Personal Leadership Platform

Jennifer Swansburg
ED 501
Dr. Capel
November 5, 2016

Personal Leadership Platform



Organizational Profile
The school I work at has a population of over 400 students. These students range from
grades Kindergarten through Third. The student population is incredibly diverse with many ELL
students from Guatemala. Most students speak English or a dialect of English. Some ELL
students speak dialects of Spanish unique to the country or region they are from. We recently
hired an ELL teacher to help service these students.
Our staff is incredibly heterogeneous. We have an African American guidance counselor
and an African American lunch monitor. A volunteer comes in everyday to help with
communication between the school and our ELL parents. We have 5 Kindergarten classes, 4
First Grades, 4 Second Grades and 5 Third Grade homerooms. Student to teacher ratios are high
in some grade levels. My school is servicing a majority of low socioeconomic households and
poverty stricken families and is considered a Low SES School. All students receive free
breakfast and lunch. Many parents who work have factory jobs, working shifts that are
sometimes not conducive to young families. The Boys and Girls Club is active in our school,
busing students to the club after school as well as hosting a site at the school afterhours.
Franklin is first and foremost a family. We band together to help support and encourage
each other. We do the same for the students and families we serve and work with each and every
day. Our school has established leadership committees such as a Building Leadership Team
(BLT). We also have Teacher Based Teams (TBT) with leadership positions changing each
quarter to help invite and encourage the sharing of responsibility and collaboration. Our
principal is certainly our leader and while quite a bit of professional courtesy is given, respect
and communication is required. The principals opinion is that if you see a problem, do not
complain, but attack it with solutions or communicate with others to find a solution. We are

Personal Leadership Platform



often asked by the principal if anyone would like to volunteer to take on leadership roles. For
example, recently, he asked if any of us would be willing to help present at a district-wide
Professional Development Day. Even with having little knowledge of the district and only a few
months of experience with this district, my principal believed I have the professional knowledge
to be of help and allowed me to present.
In referencing Rooke and Torberts 2005 article, Seven Transformations of Leadership,
Franklin takes on the cultures of achiever and individualist. Our staff works exceptionally well
together. We are certainly action and goal oriented as characterized by the authors as being
achievers (Rooke & Torbert, 2005). As a staff, we also balance our personal beliefs with what is
necessary to be successful as a school. While some staff members identify as strategists or even
alchemists, our staff is not that open. What I mean by that is there are some teachers who have
been in the district for their entire lives and while they are able to identify with the community
and connect to the community, they are not necessarily open to the change and transitions that
are becoming more and more necessary as our students, the educational landscape and even the
community we serve changes.
Each and every student in the building is Our student. This means that no student is
one teachers responsibility. We share the successes and failures together and work to
continuously improve and make changes. Because our students do come from rather challenging
backgrounds, our discipline of students is carefully managed. There is a school-wide behavior
plan implemented in each and every classroom to maintain consistency from class to class and
year to year. As a reward, students are able to attend a monthly school-wide party where they
get to enjoy some nonacademic free time. Behavior is monitored and documented through
weekly or monthly behavior charts. Parents are aware of this behavior system and they are able

Personal Leadership Platform



to stay informed with student progress through this outlet. There is a set of established behaviors
for which administration has asked teachers communicate and handle in the classroom and
behaviors which an administrator is required. Again, there is quite a bit of professional courtesy
given to the teachers to help maintain positive learning environments.
As I said previously, my principal is very open to ideas and opinions. He wants us to
bring fresh ideas to the table, but communicate those ideas and make sure they have been
somewhat vetted through colleagues to ensure they are going to help with the overall success of
our students. He encourages us to step out of the box and think about what we can do to move
forward and always be improving. He is not afraid to let us know when we have done a good job
on something and when he sees that one of us is doing something outstanding, he encourages us
to share and be a leader for others. For example, when recently writing Student Learning
Objectives (SLOs), a few of us turned in what he considered exemplars and encouraged other
staff members to come to us for help. When we recently ran report cards, some concerns were
raised about the formatting. He listened and was open to thoughts and ideas and allowed me to
make a decision and supported my choices.
So, how does all of this information inform my leadership platform? I see many
strengths in my building and the culture of my building. There is a great working relationship
between staff members. Teachers are devoted to what they are doing in the classroom and are
committed to being constant professionals and role models to our students. I want my staff
members to trust in themselves as professionals and be willing to take risks and maybe do things
that will be uncomfortable. I want my staff to also be understanding of differences while
challenging each other in thoughts and ideas. Collaboration will be expected of everyone,

Personal Leadership Platform



however, collaboration cannot happen without the ability to understand that we do not have to
agree to everything, but we do have to have an understanding of opinions.
Personal Philosophy of Leadership
One of the biggest take away thoughts I have so far from other coursework is the
importance of reflection of self. Periodically throughout my career, I have sought the opinions
of both parents and students to help identify areas of strength and areas of weakness as an
educator. In the beginning of my career, it was a lot more overwhelming than it is today. The
reason is because I am able to separate constructive criticism from personal attacks. However,
even in those rather unsavory responses, there is a reason to pause and give it merit. There was
something I did that may have resulted in those strong feelings and since I am responsible for my
own change, it is valuable to take this in and either make a change, or not. A leader has to have
the emotional capacity to tolerate uncertainty, frustration, and pain (Heifetz & Laurie, 1997). A
leader must communicate confidence but understand, or empathize with difficulties of
change (Heifetz & Laurie, 1997). It is important that as I continue along my journey in
leadership that I am able to accept uncomfortable moments and be strong, but understanding
towards those I am impacting or working with.
As an educator, we consider it best practice to also reflect on our instruction. This is
critical to the progression of learning and instructing. As a leader, it is only reasonable that one
would stop and think about what are things that go well and where are there areas that could be
improved or changed. As a leader, it is my responsibility to also set this as a standard and
normalize this process so teachers feel safe doing this as well.
My initial drive and purpose for enrolling in the Masters of Educational Leadership
program at the University of Mount Union was because I had an itch to work with new teachers.

Personal Leadership Platform



I spent time as a Mentor Teacher, working with new teachers going through the Resident
Educator Program with the Ohio Department of Education. I felt a pull towards being a Lead
Teacher or a New Teacher Advisor with a district.
Each day in my own classroom, I am the role model. I set the example. I have always
held high expectations for each and every student. My students learn from the moment they
walk into the room that they are expected to put forth 100% effort, at all times, because I am
giving the same. In doing so, my students not only rise to my expectations, they surpass those
expectations. Other staff members see my students and notice a difference in the way my
students carry themselves, but in the way they respect others.
Professionalism is part of the current Ohio Teacher Evaluation. As a leader, evaluating
staff members on their professionalism, it is my responsibility to set the standard, just as I do
with my own students now. As an evaluator, working to support and help empower staff
members, it is my responsibility to establish what is acceptable and normalize the expected and
intended behaviors of not just the adults, but also the students in my building. (pg. 169).
Student success is the leading force in education. Without it, schools and districts across
the country are deemed underperforming and taken over by the state. Student success is
important to districts because it has such a huge impact on the financial contributions not only
from state and federal funding, but also from taxpayers in the district or locality of the school.
Student success is presented to the public through test scores and graduation rates. What is
difficult to understand as an educator is how that information is distributed to the community
without a clear explanation or understanding of the data. Also, the information is based on a
snapshot of how the student performed, not how much the student grew from the beginning of
the year until the end of the year. It also does not show how much the student grew as a citizen

Personal Leadership Platform



of the community, learning how to empathize with others and encourage support and
understanding of differences between others.
As a leader, student success will continue to be a vital part of my job. Through the
mentoring and supporting of teachers as an instructional leader, it will be my responsibility to
monitor and encourage best practices. Student success will not only be a reflection of my
teachers overall performance and impact, it will be a direct reflection of mine. In talking about
student success, I believe it is important to look beyond just the academic progress of the student
and also consider the social and behavioral aspect. Part of the academic process is behavior and
attitude. As a leader, it is my responsibility to recognize differences in cultures and backgrounds
and use those as a catalyst for change and success instead of an excuse for failure. Implementing
a process such as Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) would be a good start.
Beginning with the culture of the staff and building and then moving to the students and
developing our own culture for our building that promotes success of students through smart
choices, but also choices that recognize differences and accept diversity. Letting people take
the initiative in defining and solving problems means that management needs to learn to support
rather than control (Heifetz & Laurie, 1997). While this quote from Heifetz and Laurie is
referring to leadership, student success should be considered in the same way. A student should
be supported in making positive choices that will not only make him a successful student, but a
successful citizen of the world.
Mission
The following is Policy po2105, the mission statement for Massillon City Public Schools,
adopted by the Board of Education on August 17, 1998.

Personal Leadership Platform



The mission of the Massillon City School District Board of Education is to empower
teachers so that students can learn what they need to know.
Empowered teachers require a stimulating learning environment, proper training, effective
administrative assistance, skilled support staff, and adequate funding.
Students need to know how to become involved, useful, and satisfied citizens in a global
community capable of lifelong learning and productive employment.
Personal Leadership Goals
Taking into consideration the culture of my building, my personal philosophy of
leadership, as well as the mission of my district, I have created the following goals for myself as
a future educational leader. The first of my goals is: I will be an agent of change, supporting
and empowering teachers to take on challenges to provide the best education for students. My
second goal: I will stimulate the learning environment and set an example for others to help
support students on the path to becoming lifelong learners. Finally, my last goal: I will set an
example for others and seek out training and support, when necessary, to continually improve
and help other staff members to become more effective educators.
Implementation
I selected my second goal to present to the members of my Teacher Based Team (TBT).
I selected this goal because I feel it is the most impactful for both students and staff alike. In
stimulating the learning environment, I am changing my classroom into a place of learning and
discovering. I am allowing my students to take risks and challenge themselves to do more. Just
like in setting expectations, I am setting standards for what learning should be and what it should
look like for students. Through this process, I am then able to better help other teachers to
change how they implement instruction and standards to help them better reach all learners, not

Personal Leadership Platform



just some. This is important to my school and district as we face challenges of rising benchmark
scores and falling student achievement. This is also important because teachers should be
encouraged to also take risks to help students learn and become learners. Students should enjoy
coming to school and many of our students do not because they face challenges outside of the
classroom that can often cloud their minds and hinder their ability to focus and absorb
information being presented to them.
Stakeholders impacted by this goal are teachers and students within my building.
However, the greater impact is on the building with intended higher achievement scores and the
district with higher student achievement as well. Some opportunities provided by implementing
this goal is the ability to collaborate more with other teachers. We have the ability to go beyond
just a meeting, and into the classroom where teachers can observe others and incrementally
implement ideas and strategies presented through my goal. The opportunity to directly impact
student achievement is also present in implementing this goal. Some challenges, as with some
communities is changing how things are done. Some teachers may be averse to implementing
my ideas and strategies in their classrooms because they do not feel they are effective for the
students they teach. Some teachers feel what they do and what they have always done is the
most effective way of teaching the students in the classroom today.
The group I will be presenting to is my TBT group. This team consists of 5 third grade
general education teachers, one special education teacher and the current administrator in our
building. At times, Title Teachers, ELL instructor, or tutors attend as well. These teachers have
been with the district for a minimum of 10 years, some much longer. This group will potentially
be under my leadership as an administrator. They are current stakeholders and since my goal is

Personal Leadership Platform



to work with teachers directly, these are the teachers I would potentially work with and guide in
working towards my goals and the mission of the district.
In presenting my goal to this group, the insights and perspectives that I gained were
important. Because of the diverse backgrounds in education that we each bring to the table, I
knew there would be some ideas and thoughts that maybe I had not considered before. For
example, one of the teachers has a strong background in gifted education so she was able to ask
me some critical questions about my goal that allowed me to think differently or at least gave
me some questions to ponder before implementing this goal in my classroom. For example, she
asked about how I was going to differentiate and in what way I would be able to show how my
differentiation had an impact on my students. Overall, the group members were quite positive
about this goal because while it is the direction we need to be going as a grade level, it is quite an
overwhelming process to do all at once. Also, because I do not have any distinct populations of
students such as students with disabilities or students with language barriers, my goal will be
presented to a general population. This will provide a baseline for other teachers to modify and
alter as necessary for the population of students to which they serve such as the English
Language Learners.
Planning and organizing, or time are always an area of concern for teachers. This task
will be no different. It will require a lot of front-loading on my part to prepare for these changes,
however, once they are in place, only a few tweaks will be necessary for each lesson. Also,
because this will be a new way for students to learn this format will be a new format, having
students make that adjustment to more of a self-driven learning will be a challenge with these
students. They are somewhat young, being third graders, however, the bigger challenge is for
these students to initiate their own learning and take responsibility for their learning.

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Personal Leadership Platform



References

HBR's 10 must reads on leadership. (2011). Boston, Mass: Harvard Business Review Press.
Heifetz, R.A., & Laurie, D. L. (1997). The work of leadership. Harvard Business Review, 57-78.
Rooke, D. & Torbert, W.R. (2005). Seven transformations of leadership. Harvard Business
Review, 137-161.

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