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Book Review of "Leading Change Together" by Eleanor Drago-Severson and Jessica Blum-DeStefano

Tuesday, September 18, 2018  
Posted by: Christina Mimms
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Reviewed by Dr. Mary McPherson, Elementary School Principal, St. Martin’s Episcopal School, Atlanta, GA

 

Schools are for children. This is a simple statement and one that is (or should be) inherently true. What we, as administrators tend to neglect as we focus on developing children to be the best within the time we have them is fostering growth among the adults who have the greatest influence over that development – classroom educators. This is not the fault of those who have chosen a profession that focuses on children and often who were given the benefit of taking only one adult pedagogy course in graduate school. In Leading Change Together: Developing Educator Capacity Within Schools and Systems, Drago-Severson and Blum-DeStefano describe several ways that administrators can support the development of classroom educators to create the best schooling environment for students. They also provide a practical guide to overcome the obstacles or uncertainties that tend to get in the way of this development.

 

The authors focus on three key areas for improving adult development in schools: building a culture for capacity, building collaboration among colleagues, and providing relevant and effective feedback. These three areas revolve around an understanding of the educators within the school and how adult development is impacted by their individual styles. When reading through the various descriptions of educator styles and how they may be represented in certain situations and interactions with a school, I couldn’t help equating the descriptions to results that are given on reports when a personality type assessment is taken. Drago-Severson and Blum-DeStefano distill their types down to four: Instrumental Knowers, Socializing Knowers, Self-Authoring Knowers, and Self-Transforming Knowers. Several descriptors are provided so that the reader can begin to understand where colleagues may fall in these categories and better understand how to support them in their development and building capacity within the school or district.

 

While the personality styles were intriguing, I found the chapters on teaming and collaboration beneficial. I often feel, at times, I am expecting the elementary school faculty that I lead to work collaboratively only to find some struggle to meet my expectations of what this means. This book helped me gain clarity around what collaboration means to me and how to be more supportive in developing this capacity in the educators I work with. It is ironic that a skill that is heralded as one of the 21st century skills that students must possess to be successful in the workforce causes angst among those who are teaching them how to do it effectively and comfortably. 

 

While schools have focused on teaching students how to work collaboratively, they have not been as intentional about teaching educators how to work effectively in collaboration with each other. I was intrigued by the authors’ approach to understanding collaboration between adults (especially educators) and how they recommend school administrators approach building a true culture of collaboration among adults with varying personalities and styles. How do administrators ensure that educators understand what collaboration means and looks like within the culture of their school or system? How do school administrators help educators, many of whom have been comfortable closing their classroom doors to the outside, learn to be open to the thoughts and ideas of colleagues?  

 

I was pleasantly surprised by the roadmap that Drago-Severson and Blum-DeStefano detail in their book. I would have liked a better understanding of how to identify and classify colleagues according to the four types of educators. I do appreciate that the authors tackled the problem of lack of understanding of adult development and pedagogy among those who lead faculty members in schools and districts. This book allowed me to define what collaboration means in the culture of the school where I work and my role in fostering that culture and building the capacity of the adults to support this culture which will, in turn, positively affect the students we are teaching. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Mary McPherson is the elementary school principal at St. Martin's Episcopal School in Atlanta. 


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