Saturday, November 12, 2016

Review: Transforming School Culture: How to Overcome Staff Division by Dr. Anthony Muhammad

Rosa Isiah, Ed. D.

Dr. Muhammad's book, Transforming School Culture, completely changed my perspectives on school culture, leadership, and student achievement.  I picked up the book 7 years ago as a new Assistant Principal and had an opportunity to listen to Dr. Muhammad speak shortly after. As a new administrator, the book and his message were exactly what I needed to help me better understand my teacher teams and the journey from a toxic to a healthy school culture. This is my sixth year as a principal and Transforming School Culture continues to be my go-to culture framework.

Dr. Muhammad’s book is organized in a way that allows the reader to navigate the book easily.  The reader can choose and target specific topics or choose to read it from cover to cover. Dr. Muhammad’s introduction in chapter one explains the need for an overhaul of our current educational system. The research presented helps the reader understand the need to shift from the current system to a system that supports all students, including historically underserved students.

The next few chapters focus on four distinctive groups of educators identified in Dr. Muhammad’s research: the Believers, the Tweeners, the Survivors, and the Fundamentalists. Dr. Muhammad goes into the characteristics of the four groups and their “divisive impact on school culture.” It is clear throughout the chapters that understanding and influencing change within those groups is the key to the transformation of a toxic school culture.

Dr. Muhammad ends the book with implications for practice. He makes practical recommendations including three major areas of action that will support the shift from a toxic to a healthy school culture. Dr. Muhammad also highlights the importance of recognition, celebration, and mentoring in a healthy school culture.

Transforming School Culture is a must read for educators, coaches, and educational leaders. Dr. Muhammad’s research is comprehensible and compelling. He presents a powerful case for the development of a strong collaborative culture in all schools and the WHY of our work. All students deserve a healthy learning environment and it should be every educator’s moral imperative to achieve that goal. Transforming School Culture is the tool you need to begin your learning community’s transformational journey to a healthy school culture.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Courageous Leadership

Courageous Leadership
By Rosa Isiah

“We have to be engaged at the heart level in order to be courageous champions.”
-Margaret Wheatley

When I decided to enter the world of educational leadership, I underestimated the value of courage. I was enthusiastic and somewhat na├»ve about my role as a school leader. Within weeks of my new leadership journey, I immediately learned that I needed to deal with difficult situations that I didn’t feel prepared for. We explored challenging leadership scenarios in my administrative credential coursework, but nothing compared to the daily decisions that required deep reflection, courage, and soul searching.
My first year was full of opportunities to practice reflection and courageous leadership.  Those opportunities included having difficult conversations and supporting team members who needed a boost.
The educator who couldn’t find the courage to raise expectations for students, and not raise her voice.
The parent who had good intentions, but intimidated staff and children.
The staff member who needed to find the motivation to be the best team member she could be.
All were situations that required relationship building, compassion, and sincere dialogue about solutions. My passion for education and love for my school community were simply not enough.
I’ve never worked as hard as I did my first year as principal. I worked through the challenges and found my leader voice. It was a voice that compelled me to question my role and required me to find the courage to support others, sometimes unwilling participants, in making changes for students. I could not have found my voice without establishing trust and complete transparency with my team. The establishment of strong relationships helped us move forward with a solid focus and collective commitment to our school community.
Four years into my principal journey, I have learned more than I imagined about courage and leadership. This great work is rewarding, challenging, and ever-changing. It calls for courageous individuals with moral purpose who do much more than identify needs and gaps. Courageous leaders follow-through with actions that challenge and change the needs and gaps.
I have come a long way from my first year as an educational leader and my learning journey continues. I look forward to many many more courageous leadership opportunities. I am honored and truly fortunate to do this work. My intention is to lead with courage, love, and purpose…every day for every child.