This #coachbetter conversation goes to the heart of school culture. Our conversation explores ways to bring your school mission to life, make teachers and students feel like it is ok to laugh and take risks. Chris Lehmann is the CEO of the Science Leadership Academy Schools. Learn more about his journey as an educator.
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Classroom teacher for 9 years. Great opportunity to think about start up & dream big. Late 2005 started SLA. Never ended a meeting without knowing what my next meeting was. One school has turned into 3 schools. Still day-to-day school principal, but lead of the 3 schools.
How did you have the confidence to take this risk:
Worked around start-ups, school founders were my mentors. Had strong connections. The beautiful thing about helping someone achieve their dream is that it gives you license to dream yourself.
Had I known what I was in for, I don’t know that I might have tried. Sometimes it’s better not to know. You don’t go into it thinking that all of the follow-ups are going to happen. I just want to do right by 500 kids, that would be an amazing job.
The power of mentors / coaches:
Current challenges with physical space on campus. The model of education we believe in, inquiry based, project based, caring education. We believe you can change the world. Turns out you don’t get to wait until after high school to do that.
Everybody needs someone to help themselves figure out how to unlock their own agency.
When teachers come to SLA they have permission to dream, to be creative, to be innovative, to laugh.
The best coaches are the ones who help teachers become the teachers they want to be. Helping them craft that vision. Putting the things in front of them to help them see their best teacher self.
Even before the “nuts and bolts”, figuring out who you want your teacher self to be. How do I help you become that?
What are the critical elements that make this safe environment?
Grounded in the book The Ethic of Care. We believe you will never bully a teacher into caring for children.
What you value, you have to take time in the schedule. One of the ways we systemize care, is our Advisory program. Every teacher has 20 kids that they are the school parent for. They stay together until graduation. Advisors get called up on stage at graduation.
Do professional learning around how to do this right. Invest in schedule and pD work in the notion that we all take care of each other. You have to be one school in one way. How do you make that valuable and true for every member of the community.
How do you pick that one thing?
Pick core foundational beliefs that can impact everything you do. SO many schools when they start up, they think they have to be content focused. That’s a “hook” it’s not an ethos.
We should ask powerful questions. We should seek out the answers. We should make stuff. And we should care about each other. Specific enough to seek out a profound vision of education, while broad enough to touch everything that you do. Schools without this end up in a state of mission drift.
We will be true to who we are. Everybody believes that.
SLA is not a place, it’s an idea.
How do you help schools that are perhaps drifting find their focus?
This is what Diana Laufenberg is doing with Inquiry Schools. How do you help people build a vision, build consensus around the vision? Need transparency around why, how or if it’s even good. Top down mandate.
Many international schools are creating prisons of their own design. What do you want? What do you want to be? Never push beyond the platitudes. Tell me what that looks like from a procedural from a structural from a systemic perspective. What are you doing to create the conditions in every aspect of what you do? Where does that live in your schedule, hiring, curriculum design, parent interactions. What does that mean about parent relations? Let’s have parents model that for kids (let’s have parent book clubs). We need 20 teachers to pair up and run a book club, meet once a week and buy pizza and talk about a book, that way kids see parents in school modeling lifelong learning. You have to hold that in every single thing you do.
Come to EduCon, every year at SLA, since 2008. Weekend between conference playoffs and superbowl. 24-26 Jan. Best fundraiser for an underfunded school. Conference held at school, co-run by students, teachers, parents, leaders. All sessions are built around the same pedagogy, inquiry driving, discursive, about generating ideas.
Level Up Your Coaching with The Coach!
If you are ready to dive deep into your coaching practice, to help you #coachbetter and build a thriving coaching culture in your school, please join us for our next cohort of The Coach!
Wherever you are in building a coaching culture in your school, The Coach will give you the strategies, skills and tools you need to make coaching a success and will empower you to confidently apply instructional coaching strategies in any situation – from building a coaching program, to having coaching conversations, to being a leader in your school community. We facilitate only one cohort each academic year so we can offer individualized support for each participant.
Coaches of all levels are welcome: you’ll start the program with a self-assessment to determine exactly what the next steps are for you!
Registration for our next global cohort opens once a year – check the website for details!