An Evening Conversation on Leadership
Posted: Thursday, December 1st, 2011
by Jeff Bradbury and Dean Gilbert
As we all know the baby boomer generation is on the cusp of retiring enormous numbers of people from the American workforce, and this includes teachers. One important fact that has not been lost on CSTA is that as many people leave the teaching profession, there will be huge voids in leadership positions at all levels as well. The CSTA Board of Directors has been quite concerned about this and has been asking: “Who will replace this retiring generation on the board of CSTA?” Who is going to replace leaders in schools, districts, county offices of education, education departments and statewide positions? Who will step up and be mentors to the incoming younger generation of teachers?
As a result of many hours of discussion, CSTA leaders and some friends of CSTA decided to host “An Evening Conversation on Leadership” as a 5-hour pre-conference event the night before the 2011 Science Education Conference in Pasadena.
Although every person in CSTA leadership from the executive director to the president to past board members firmly agreed that we need to go forward with the conference, there was one glaring problem: We had no budget! More on that later…that was not going to stop us.
The “Evening Conversation” planning team, consisting of a former CSTA board president, a retired Rockwell/NASA engineer (hey, he helped put men on the Moon, he could probably help us with our problem!), and a former CSTA board member, decided it is of first importance to listen to the younger generation, to hear their concerns, listen to their needs, and understand their values. This significantly helped the team shape the evening’s proceedings. Since this had never really been done before, the planning team wondered if there would be any interest. We decided to have a “pizza night round table discussion” with younger teachers to help us plan. We sent out an invitation to nine people we had never met before, wondering if they would even read an email from complete strangers, let alone join us for dinner. Nevertheless six of the nine young teachers showed up with great hunger, and it was not an appetite just for pizza. They were as concerned and interested in leadership as we, the planning team. Some of the focus group participants drove over 25 miles in rush hour traffic. I guess we can conclude that people want to know more about the issue of leadership!
The “Conversation” started with “participants” and “mentors” in table groups working through an activity discussing and coming to consensus on the most important characteristics of a leader. This activity was followed by a talk by Nikki DiRanna, a young leader in education talking about issues she faces everyday as an administrator. She wisely mixed the theory of leadership with its practice.
We continued our conversation over dinner. Now, the reader might wonder how we paid for dinner for 55 people when convention center meals can cost $40 a plate. Well we begged Chipotle and they came through by donating burritos, chips, and guacamole. Dessert was homemade cookies. It can be done on no budget!
After dinner, we experienced team and leadership building activities (it got a little loud at times), followed by a panel of educational leaders sharing their “Personal Story of Leadership”.
George Howell, a teacher-participant from Cathedral City High School reflects on how “the pre-conference allowed for a great discussion about teaching our current and future students. I felt like after the conference I walked away a better educator. My belief is that everything falls back on leadership and this discussion made my belief even more concrete and valid in my mind.” Marian Murphy Shaw, one of the planners and facilitators for the evening states, “it impressed me to see educators attend an event that was not necessarily a familiar topic, on a Thursday night. It became apparent that the relationship each guest had with the “mentor” who invited them is what made the difference. Multiple times the guest teachers commented that they did not see themselves as leaders, but by the end of the evening they were reassuring each other that someone saw it in you, that’s why you are here.”
So many great experiences shared, we are already talking about holding a Conversation next year in San Jose.
After a fulfilling time of discussion, interaction, personal growth, and making new friends, we came away with some conclusions.
1) There is a tremendous hunger for knowledge and skill development regarding leadership. A few people drove all the way from San Diego at the end of their school day in L.A. traffic to come to the “Conversation” and then hopped in their cars and drove all the way back home. People are willing to make sacrifices to learn and grow.
2) The younger generation is not apathetic about taking the lead. They want to be part of something meaningful and they want to make a contribution. What they need is the confidence, tools and mentoring to get into the game.
3) After the focus group, listening to many discussions at the “Conversation” on values of leadership, listening to energetic Nikki DiRanna, talking over dinner, and the activities of the evening, one truth came through loud and clear: Leadership is all about Relationship.
Leadership is not primarily about issues, tasks, projects, or programs. Leadership is primarily about people. As eloquently stated by Nikki DiRanna, “the best leadership advice I ever got was to figure out what my leadership style would be. As a young leader I am learning that leadership is all about building, developing, and nurturing relationships.”
This next generation has ideas and an optimism and energy that is just waiting to be tapped! Many potential leaders simply need encouragement to set them on their way. Maybe, just maybe, the next decade or two will see a renaissance of leadership and education.
Jeff Bradbury is a professor of chemistry at Cerritos College and Dean Gilbert is science consultant with the Los Angeles County Office of Education and is CSTA’s region 3 director.
Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.
For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.
The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Marian Murphy-Shaw
If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Joseph Calmer
Probably like you, NGSS has been at the forefront of many department meetings, lunch conversations, and solitary lesson planning sessions. Despite reading the original NRC Framework, the Ca Draft Frameworks, and many CSTA writings, I am still left with the question: “what does it actually mean for my classroom?”
I had an eye-opening experience that helped me with that question. It came out of a conversation that I had with a student teacher. It turns out that I’ve found the secret to learning how to teach with NGSS: I need to engage in dialogue about teaching with novice teachers. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching science in some capacity for 12 years. During that time pedagogy and student learning become sort of a “hidden curriculum.” It is difficult to plan a lesson for the hidden curriculum; the best way is to just have two or more professionals talk and see what emerges. I was surprised it took me so long to realize this epiphany. Learn More…