After finishing my doctoral work in 2010, I went back to the normal day-to-day activities of being an elementary school principal (if there is such a thing). In my spare time, I was writing articles three times a year for the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS) and was introduced to the editors of Education Week through Anthony Cody and Diane Ravitch.
That was a moment that changed my life.
When I began writing Finding Common Ground I chose the tile because I felt like there was too much noise on each side of the education debate, and there needed to be a blog that represented the middle. Over the years since the blog began, I have been outspoken about increased accountability measures, mandates and testing, but have been supportive of some of the changes that have come our way like looking at evidence, engaging in more authentic classroom observations, and other influences that put out focus on learning.
At first, I focused on classroom instruction, LGBT students, family engagement, school climate, and state and national accountability. As time went on I began focusing on leadership. A little over 3 years ago I began working with John Hattie as a Visible Learning trainer, and Jim Knight as an instructional coaching trainer, and Russ Quaglia as a student voice advocate. All three of those researchers helped my opinions evolve and I learned a lot from all three of them. Through their work, I began to find pathways into new ventures, like collaborative leadership and leadership coaching, and they became a focal point for my writing.
Community of Learners
A few years ago, I began asking people to write guest blogs because I felt that their voices were stronger than mine in the topics they chose to write about. If you read this blog enough you know that I am a big believer in collective efficacy, and the guest blogs have been an example of that.
Tschannen-Moran & Barr refer to collective efficacy as “the collective self-perception that teachers in a given school make an educational difference to their students over and above the educational impact of their homes and communities.” I say guest blogs have been an example of that, because through working with others, I have had the opportunity to learn about things I did not know enough about, and I believe it helped this blog grow. Together we have created a community of learners.
Carol Ann Tomlinson, Andy Hargreaves, John Hattie and other great researchers wrote guest blogs. There were practioners like Lisa Westman and Starr Sackstein who wrote frequent guest blogs, as well as everyone from parents to teachers to students who wrote some. Their ideas made this blog stronger and more inclusive.
Over the last year, I have begun working with schools, regional networks and state organizations on the topic of collaborative leadership, school climate and leadership coaching. The work has taken off in North America, and will be used in universities graduate and doctoral programs in the coming year. It has been adopted at the state level for leadership certification (Heartland AEA), and that seems to be growing into other states as well. Excitedly, it is moving over to the U.K and Australia as well, which is why I am stepping down from writing the blog.
I am not totally going away though. I will be writing a monthly column for Education Week. There will be more information to follow, but the columns will begin in September. With the changes from 3 times a week to a monthly column, we needed you to know why the format will look a bit different and will be less frequent. Stay tuned.
In the End
The blogs I have written will stay archived, so they will remain. Please feel free to always click on the ones that have resonated for you. Additionally, I would love for all of you to click over on the Leadership 360 blog that my good friends Jill Berkowicz and Ann Myers co-author.
I would like to thank all of you for reading Finding Common Ground. When I began writing Finding Common Ground I had about 100 readers per month, and in the last few years the readership has grown well into the 6-figures per month. I appreciate that you have supported me as I put my voice out there, but also provided me with the feedback I needed to grow as an educator and writer.
Some of you clicked on the blog because a particular post was of interest, while others clicked every time I posted a new one. I have appreciated your Tweets, Facebook posts, e-mails, comments and support. It is always nice to be on the road (which I am every week) and meet those of you who say you read the blog...and continue talking with me anyway!
I look forward to continuing our connection through the column. See you in the Fall.
Peter DeWitt, Ed.D. is the author of several books including Collaborative Leadership: 6 Influences That Matter Most (2016. Corwin Press/Learning Forward), and the forthcoming School Climate: Leading With Collective Efficacy (Corwin Press/Ontario Principals Council. August 2017). Connect with Peter on Twitter.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.