2006 PKAL LI Leadership Institute

Reactions and quotes from past participants

Quotes, stories, and testimonials from past participants in the PKAL Leadership Institutes.
I found the resources of PKAL, F21, and the experience of the Leadership Institute to be incredibly valuable. As I did this work in my own class, as I read about and talked with others about things they were doing in their own classes, and as I read reports from the national level, I developed a powerful and passionate vision that science education could be and ought to be accessible to a much broader constituency and that it ought to be conducted much more in the same fashion that the essential learning of science happened, in the discourse among practicing scientists struggling with authentic questions.
I have taken the dream house visioning activity that we did at Baca and turned it into one of the tools we have used with each of our districts as we began to develop strategic plans for their science and math reform efforts. By starting with vision and using the idea of creative tension, we have begun to be able to move teachers toward understating that changing their teaching and their curriculum can help them do what they really value.
Another lesson reinforced was that leading by example is one of the most effective ways to lead faculty. Tenured faculty, at times, seem to have an innate and fundamental need to explore whether or not tenure is still a viable concept. This means seemingly irrational resistance to suggestions for improvement of teaching, curriculum, operation of the department, etc. A chair has little real control-we can create incentives and disincentives usually only at the margin. Being a consistent good example, even in the face of recalcitrance for its own sake, helps considerably in the long run.
Here is what had the most impact on me: 1) the Myers Briggs analysis. We need to make sure that people not working well with others analyze it from a Myers Briggs perspective. When my colleague and I got into a huge shouting match in Day 3, we discovered it was because different ways we deal with problems.
...I did experience a little bit of the "imposter" feeling: What am I doing here? However, on the first day of our planning, I was the person who "jumped in" and organized and facilitated the discussion. The group "clicked"; the dynamics were astounding. Some of my ability to participate as I did this weekend comes from my own educational background, particularly my experiences as an undergraduate. But, a lot of it-having the courage to lead a group of leaders-is a direct result of my experiences with the LI in Baca, CO. At Baca there was a great deal of support for each of us to use our talents and skills to make a difference, to seize opportunities and to overcome those "imposter" feelings that we all sometimes experience.
...at Baca I learned that leadership is not about doing, it is about helping others do. They may not know what they want to do, or how to do it. That is what I now think leadership is about. Helping people find goals and move towards them. Getting a group to function together to be more than the sum of individuals.
I do not like conflict and I usually work hard to avoid it. I learned that it is something teams have to go through. There are signs of it in my department. But I don't think we are through it yet. I would not be surprised if it takes several years.
I learned that my university is no more or less dysfunctional than most. When I came I was very concerned about the direction we were heading. I am still concerned, but I don't feel alone and I know that I can make a difference.
I learned it is advantageous to have in mind more than one way to get somewhere, i.e., have a plan B. I learned the value of communicating early, often, and in multiple ways to successfully get a message out and heard. I learned that data, when available can be a powerful persuasive element and that the lack of data perceived to be easily obtained, can quickly derail an argument. I became aware of the role of the timing of introducing new initiatives. I learned to be patient and I took to heart that old adage: "lasting change takes time." I learned to be flexible and saw first hand that one rarely achieves anything acting alone; one needs partners in order to affect change. I also learned that often others are in a better position to push a shared agenda and I can and should support their efforts. Most importantly perhaps, I learned that for long-term development of an institution, how change is achieved can be as important as the change itself.
We played a version of the prisoner's dilemma where we were divided into two groups. While I don't remember the details of the game, I do remember that the time available to confer with one's teammates was limited and the time to communicate with the opposing team was severely limited. It was clear to me that for the two groups to get the most points we would need to cooperate, and I tried to explain this to my teammates and the other group. I was not successful, and took a few valuable lessons from the experience. They were: a) I need to get better at verbal communication. b) People should be taken through the logic of an argument, with no skipped steps. c) What I think should be the goal is not necessarily what others will view as the goal.
We spent a fair amount of the last evening thinking about long range goals and talking with a mentor. This was worthwhile. I posted my list by my desk and reviewed it every so often. Not surprisingly, some items lost their significance and I decided not to pursue them. However, I believe that having a written list of long term goals (as opposed to the typical, daily "to do" lists) helped me to focus and to attain more of my goals than I would have otherwise.