Friday, October 13, 2017

Tri-Level Professional Growth for Learning Leaders

Using a Tri-Level Approach for the Professional
Growth of Learning Leaders
Sandy Cameli, EdD, Educational Specialist • Hawaii Dept. of Education

So what does Tri-Level Professional Growth of leadership look like? Consider professional learning not as a one-size-fits-all model, but rather a fluid series of steps that any individual travels through to explore resources, set and reach goals, and move from independence to interdependence in order to impact effective change on a greater scale. Based on a colleague's story of her childhood years - the analogy parallels professional growth and embodies the stages of independence, interchange and interdependence in a comparable format:

Growing up in a boisterous household, it never occurred to me that the tri-level dwelling was built intentionally for our individual and collective growth, as well as accommodating space needed for the large tribe. Now looking back, I realized the first floor was where much of our exploration occurred (and most of the noise lived!) Between siblings, cousins & friends, we were experimenting with science projects, make-up tutorials, unsupervised wrestling matches and spin-the-bottle with the cute boy next door (oops - TMI?) Due to the excessive TV-watching, ping-pong tournaments and slumber parties, insulation of the walls was not a nicety but a necessity! This ground level was less structured and offered a wide-variety of opportunities for us as individuals to develop our likes, dislikes and personalities.

The middle level was where the kitchen and living room were located - and although the rooms invited conversation - we (as kids) certainly learned the difference between indoor and outdoor voices when utilizing these spaces. It was where cooking with Grandma became a lesson in love, as well as the fine art of meal preparation; It was where presents were wrapped and unwrapped as family celebrated birthdays, babies, book clubs and bad hair days! And, it was the level of the house we exchanged ideas, experiences and opportunities as a group.

Finally, the upstairs is where the bedrooms were located. Whether we were telling secrets in the dark with our cousins, having a heated disagreement behind closed doors, or being comforted by a parent after a bad dream or break-up, the top level of our home was the safe zone with a calming tone associated with its location. The uppermost tier wasn’t just where noise decreased, but where trust was magnified. We were allowed to be scared and vulnerable. It’s where we knew others showed empathy, consistency and support when we most needed it - whether it be one-to-one confidential conversation, or a cluster of us on the bed mourning the loss of a pet. It was the part of the house we felt most connected to one another - it felt like home.

Not unlike the scenario described above, the Tri-Level Approach to Professional Growth is based on three levels of learning experiences - independence, interchange and interdependence - and, provides support and resources as a leader moves through roles, situations and opportunities. And, although the professional connections may not be as intimate as family ties, similarities do align.

Independence if often associated with “going solo” or being self-sufficient. As an independent leader, learning often occurs in isolation and with self-selected resources. An individual may be more comfortable with risk-taking when parameters have been predetermined, and moving outside of one’s comfort zone is relatively minimal. Self-directed learning is based on interests, needs and goals; while interaction and collaboration with peers is typically absent at this stage. Based on a book, a favorite TED talk, a subscription to a preferred podcast or attendance at a favored breakout sessions are all various ways independent leaders grow professionally.

The term Interchange can be defined as “ give and receive things reciprocally…”. Many professional learning networks (PLNs) use the model of interchange in order to share resources, best practices and ideas in collaboration with team members. Often loosely structured to build collegiality, interchange-type arrangements favor harmony over truth and can be short-lived or long-term based on the needs of the group. Leaders who engage in and model interchange strategies set the tone for a learning culture throughout their schools/organizations. Group norms help establish parameters in order for learners to explore opportunities and risks within range of their own comfort zones.

The practice of Interdependence tends to be the least utilized level, yet the most beneficial when employed by learning leaders. Not only do colleagues learn to depend upon one another, accountability comes into play for leaders moving effective practices forward. Structures like “problems of practice” or “collegial inquiry” allow peers to delve into common challenges and from there unpack systemic assets and obstacles, which promote or prevent initiatives from moving forward. Since the “truth over harmony” mantra often applies to interdependent opportunities, it is crucial for Working Agreements - such as confidentiality, risk-taking and trust - to be honored as essential pillars of interdependent leadership. Interdependent exchanges are not quick-fixes, nor do outcomes satisfy all needs. Breakout conversations and tangent partnerships may arise from an initial group, and should not be considered in discord with an original plan or discussion, but rather another avenue to problem solving or action-oriented tasks.

Learning leaders are constantly seeking ways to strengthen their knowledge base while also expanding perspectives. The opportunity to facilitate strategies through the independence, interchange and interdependence stages invites participation from colleagues and stakeholders alike. Additionally, learning leaders effectively illustrate for student learners systems and structures for building collaboration and critical thinking skills necessary in current and future endeavors!  

Whether a leader was raised in single room apartment or multi-level house, the opportunity to reflect on one’s own family structures and interpersonal dynamics can set the tone for how lifelong learning is modeled by effective leaders. Volume levels will fluctuate, tears may be shed and conflicts are likely to arise, but when autonomy is encouraged and relationships are established, then growth is inevitable for those involved.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Leader's Identity

A Leader’s Identity
Sandy Cameli, EdD • Educational Specialist • Hawaii Dept. of Education

At a recent professional development inservice for teacher leaders, a highly respected and exemplar educator quipped, “Everyone keeps telling me I’m a leader, but I just don’t get it - what exactly do they see, and why don’t I?”  This comment was less about humility and more about understanding one’s own perception of identity. What we exude may be a behavior - even a facade depending upon circumstances - but do these actions truly represent who I am, or who I believe I am as a leader?

Robert Dilts’ research, on “The New Leadership Paradigm (1996)”, provides an overview of how an individual’s beliefs and values are developed or influenced by environmental and experiential factors. Dilts’ model can be compared to nested bowls which illustrate various levels of learning. The smallest bowl represents behaviors or the “what” that is observable. These behaviors can be actions or reactions associated with a certain time, space or incident. The next bowl is considered capabilities or the “how” level. This second container aligns to skills or strategies used to accomplish a goal or task. The third bowl is where our values/beliefs are housed. Here a leader examines the “why” behind decision making, or consults his or her own moral compass for guidance on actionable items. The last bowl holds all the other levels intact and is considered an individual’s identity. This analogy asks the “who” question and focuses on the mission of a person’s purpose for family, career and life goals. Finally, environment asks the “where” and “when” questions and influences the opportunities or obstacles a leader encounters.

So how can educators apply this model to their own professional growth in order to identify as a teacher leader? Ongoing reflection and self-assessment practices help to hone these skills, which in turn help to mold an identity. For example, a professional growth plan developed around Dilts’ framework may look something like the sample below:

Teacher Leader Professional Growth Plan - SAMPLE
Goal: Use facilitation strategies that engage participants during team meetings
Behavior(s): What will I commit to doing differently?
  • use facilitation strategies (7 norms of collaboration) in my articulation meetings
  • follow the PDCA/ SMART model for problem solving when monitoring progress of RTI
Capabilities: What will I need to learn or skills to develop?
  • practice the 7 norms of collaboration - especially pausing and paraphrasing
  • practice using SMART goals & PDCA cycle outside of grade level Data Teams.
Beliefs & Values: What are my beliefs about this area of improvement?
  • Using these new skills will help validate perspectives & create a positive atmosphere to keep everyone focused on goals/outcomes.
Identity: How will this make me an effective Teacher Leader?
  • I will be a better facilitator by ensuring all participants have equal opportunity to contribute and feel ownership in the outcomes/decisions made collectively.
Reflection/Continuous Improvement: How will I monitor my progress? How will I know I am successful?
  • I plan to be more reflective. I like the idea of writing down reflections at least 3 times a week. Based on these insights, I can see if I’m being successful at what I am trying to improve upon.
Environment: What external factors do I need to be aware of in order to achieve my goal(s)?
  • It’s important to review the mission & vision of our school, as well as observe the norms of behavior currently in place before proceeding w/my goals.

The teacher leader’s growth plan (above) focuses on the skill of facilitation. Currently this educator does not believe facilitation is translating into an effective behavior, which may be construed as weak leadership. However, the educator values multiple perspectives by validating participants, which is tied to a strong belief system. The goal then becomes honing the skill of facilitation by practicing paraphrasing and pausing to elicit multiple viewpoints.

An individual’s identity cannot be solely based on observable behaviors, but instead by one’s beliefs and values and how they are intertwined with capabilities and influences. The teacher at the start of this post could not “see” what others saw, and likely had not stopped to analyze various components - or “Levels of learning” - before jumping to the conclusion of not being a leader.

For aspiring and veteran teacher leaders, it’s never too late to assess our identities via professional growth goals. Take a moment to analyze your own “bowls” by asking, “Are they all accounted for and do they fit together appropriately?”  If the answer is “no”, then it’s probably time to find some new bowls, or at the very least - reconfigure existing containers so they align with your belief system!

Dilts, R. (1996) The New Leadership Paradigm, NLP University, retrieved from

Friday, June 2, 2017

Mahalo Superintendent Matayoshi!

On behalf of Na Kumu Alaka'i teacher leaders, we send a heartfelt Mahalo to our departing Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi! 

Monday, April 24, 2017

2016-2017 TLA Cohort Celebration 2017

Na Kumu Alaka’i Celebrates
the 2016-2017 Cohort of Teacher Leaders
April 20, 2017 • Oahu Veterans Center

On April 20, 2017, forty-four exceptional teacher leaders from across the State of Hawaii showcased their action research projects and professional learning goals through a culminating event ~ Na Kumu Alaka’i Learning Fair - 2017. Over 100 guests representing schools, complex areas, state level offices, universities and non-profit organizations celebrated the outstanding work accomplished by these master educators.

It is with bittersweet emotion I bid farewell to the 2016-2017 Cohort, and wish them well on their journeys as assets to the field of education in Hawaii’s public schools!

Sandy Cameli, EdD
Educational Specialist/Program Coordinator

Na Kumu Alaka'i Cohort 2016-2017

Kevin Argueta, Kahakai Elementary
Collaborative Environment for Literacy Success

Hidi Boteilho, Keonepoko Elementary
Enhancing Professional Practice by being a Reflective Practitioner

Shannon Burkman, Waimea Canyon Middle
Data Team Storming to Norming (and hopefully Performing!)

Noelani Castro, Wailuku Elementary
Getting to the Core: Comprehensive Core Meeting Process

Julia Chen, Kailua Elementary
Small Group Differentiated Instruction

Samantha Cook, Holualoa Elementary
Data Mining for Math Mastery

Yolanda Dana, Keonepoko Elementary
Building Effective Learning Communities in Grades 1, 4 & 6

Becky Diego, Kalihi Waena Elementary
Improving Parental Communication through REMIND

Jill Fletcher, Kapolei Middle
A Sense of Place

Marites Galamgam, Campbell High
Making Sense of Schoolwide Initiatives:
Differentiating Continuous Professional Development

Randall Galeon, Pearl Harbor Elementary
A’o Honua - Learning Walks

Dana Goya, Waikoloa Elementary & Middle
Professional Development for RTI (Really Tired Instructors)

Daralyn Hadden, Aliamanu Middle
Creating a New Culture - WASC Preparation

Shelby Hamamoto, Nimitz Elementary
Developing through Data:
How Analyzing Assessment Results Can Improve Student Success

Keith Hamana, Hickam Elementary
A Triple-Dose: An RTI Story

Shawna Helems, Kahaluu Elementary
Improving 21st Century After School Tutoring to Close Achievement Gap

Robyn Herbig, Waimea High
Moving from Minihunes to Menehunes

Jaime Hernandez, Honowai Elementary
Implementing an Individualized Coaching Process

Gary Kanamori, Pearl City Highlands Elementary
i-Ready Tutoring

Crystal Kawai, Kealakehe Elementary
English Language Development Pilot Program
for Non-English Proficient Kindergarteners

Sarah Kim, Jefferson Elementary

Melvin Lau, Aliamanu Elementary
Science Garden: Growing Inquiry and Understanding

Carli Masik, Kapolei Middle
A Sense of Place

Cherie Mineshima, Aliamanu Middle
Creating a New Culture - WASC Preparation

Darlene Muraoka, Waimea High
Waimea High RTI

Melanie Nakashima, King Kekaulike High
Strengthening Tier 1: Improving Co-Teaching at Kekaulike

Monica Nonaka, Konawaena Elementary
Using Thinking Maps to Support Critical Thinking and Writing

Mary Peters, Kahuku High & Intermediate
Identifying trends and patterns, or behaviors
that contribute to 9th grade failures

Angelica Pikula, Windward District Office
Understanding Barriers to Data Use

Bryan Rankie, Mauka Lani Elementary
Improving Fifth Grade Achievement in Mathematics

Randy Shinn, Ewa Makai Middle
Enjoy the Journey of Using Data

Jason Smith, Nu’uanu Elementary
Providing PD Through Math Committee
Based on SMART Goals Identified by the School

Dayne Snell-Quirit, Ho’okena Elementary
Lenses of Literacy

Rachelle Sparkman, Pu’u Kukui Elementary
Students and Teachers GROWING through RTI

Mariann Tabuchi, Kauai District Office
G Suite for Collaboration

Kimberly Tanaka, Pu’u Kukui Elementary
Students and Teachers GROWING through RTI

Dani Tokuda, Waialua Elementary
Launching Kindergarten iPad 1:1 - Go or No Go?

Malia Toyama, Honowai Elementary
Implementing an Individualized Coaching Process

Geraldine Valencia, Campbell High
Creating SBA/ACT and Math Awareness

Eric White, Highlands Intermediate
Highlands Leadership Conference 2017

Pua White, Ewa Beach Elementary
Empowering Passionate Community Members

Je Ann Williams, Hickam Elementary
A Triple-Dose: An RTI Story

Sara Wong, Ka’elepulu Elementary
Choose Love - Social Emotional Learning

Cherisse Yamada, Kaewai Elementary
Empowering Students and Teachers with Small Group Instruction
in English Language Arts

Paparazzi Photos (April 20, 2017)

Aiea-Moanalua-Radford Team Campbell-Kapolei Team

Castle-Kahuku Team Farrington-Kalani-Kaiser Team

Kailua-Kalaheo Team Kaimuki-McKinley-Roosevelt Team

     Kauai Team Kau-Keaau-Pahoa Team

 Baldwin-Kekaulike-Maui Team           Pearl City-Waipahu Team


Leilehua-Mililani-Waialua Team West Hawaii (HKKK) Team