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Becoming a TLI fellow is more than just coaching, it also means being part of a community of leaders dedicated to real change

Director of Leader Programs Nina Fitzerman Blue understands how difficult and lonely school leadership can be. As a former school leader herself she knows it can feel alienating when you don’t always have someone to consult and check your decision making. TLI’s School Leadership Cohort is designed to address this need by making space for a cohort of leaders to collaborate, problem solve, and network.

Throughout the year-long fellowship, leaders have multiple opportunities to learn alongside their colleagues. The fellowship begins with a combination virtual and in-person summer session where leaders develop the foundations for high leverage growth, and collaboration continues throughout six off-site professional development days throughout the year.

Leaders quickly develop trusting relationships within their cohort that become just as valuable as one-on-one time with their coach. Superintendent Kiana Smith says that the TLI cohort, “Truly allows me to have a friend in this work and a partner in this work because it is lonely as the superintendent…you contemplate so many things and you don’t want that pressure to be felt with your [colleagues].” Fellows often find themselves calling and texting peers to brainstorm ideas, ask advice or share resources. 
Too often school administrators are not offered sufficient opportunities to learn and grow, which is critical for long-term success. Joining the TLI School Leadership Cohort means becoming part of a community of educators dedicated to improving their practice and growing their schools. Click to hear more about becoming part of TLI’s leadership network.

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Lots of focused practice, leads to widespread school change.

School leaders get the most out of the TLI School Leader Cohort when they are committed to understanding their practice and making changes that will lead to better outcomes for students.  Coaches work with leaders to target a specific action that will have the greatest impact, and they practice these skills to build expertise and confidence. 

TLI building visits often involve side-by-side classroom walkthroughs or teacher coaching where leaders can compare notes during debriefs and incorporate feedback into subsequent practice sessions. Observing students, teachers and leaders in action helps TLI coaches gather an accurate needs assessment and adjust planning as fellows evolve. This approach leads to real growth and lasting change. 

Assistant Principal Staci Brown explains, “Someone being alongside you, and actually [having] feet to the ground, really holding you accountable, really helping you pick the highest leverage moves…” is vital to realizing school leaders’ vision for students and families. 
While practice can be challenging, Principal Carolyn Statum says, “It’s okay because we made a promise to kids and that means the best thing I can do is to continue to improve my practice and be responsive to the feedback I get from my coach.” Learn more about how school leaders partnered with TLI coaches to ignite lasting growth for students, teachers and families.

Want more information about the School Leader Cohort? Drop us an email or find us on social media.

Good coaching is specific, targeted and empowering. That’s the heart of TLI’s approach.

Principal Donterrio Marzett

As a former teacher and school leader, TLI Director of Leader Programs Nina Fitzerman-Blue understands that every minute of the school day is precious and that leaders work relentlessly for their students. School leaders don’t have time to waste. This is why TLI uses a one-on-one coaching model that pinpoints areas of growth to make targeted change. 

Nina pushes school leaders to dig deep, reflect on their practices and identify specific areas for growth. Principal Carolyn Statum explains, “The training we get is targeted to the things we need and we are able to see positive results in our buildings.” 

While TLI coaching narrowly focuses on specific action steps, fellows also learn transferable skills that pay off beyond their time in the leadership cohort. Principal Jackie Dupont said that TLI coaching helped her become more proactive in leadership and address issues she had previously avoided. 

TLI aims to help fellows translate their individual growth into positive, school-wide change. Working side-by-side, TLI is committed to partnering with school leaders to set tangible goals and make schools better for Oklahoma students and communities. 

Listen to leaders reflect on their time in the fellowship.

Think of it like self-care: Make time for your growth and development

School leaders often tell us that they don’t have time for coaching. With unrelenting schedules, taking time for your own growth and development can feel overwhelming or even frivolous in the face of daily to-dos. But research shows that great leadership doesn’t just happen. Leaders who reach their full potential effectively prioritize their time and make space for development. 

For some Tulsa-area leaders, applying for the TLI School Leadership Cohort is the first step in the process. Nicole Whiteside, a school principal and School Leadership Fellow says, “Take the time because it will pay off in the end. We have all these things on our plate as school leaders, but at some point we have to know what to prioritize.” 

TLI believes that coaching shouldn’t add more to an already full plate. Instead, TLI coaching sessions simultaneously teach new skills while tackling to-dos more efficiently.  Sometimes this looks like a “you talk, I’ll type” conversation where coaches help leaders organize their thoughts and draft the outline of a plan or schedule. 

Other times TLI coaching entails making an up-front investment to learn a new concept or skill in order to save time in the long run. One fellow learned how to cut her planning time in half, freeing up her schedule to invest in other parts of the school. In this way TLI coaching is an investment in your professional growth as a leader, but also in school-wide change and improvement.

Reflecting on her experience as a fellow, Principal Carolyn Statum said, “I don’t know what I did before TLI. How did I make it as a school leader without this feedback and pushing?” 

Most school leaders would never consider denying professional growth and feedback to their staff, but too often leaders overlook their own development. Joining the School Leader Cohort means making a commitment to your professional goals and pushing your leadership to its full potential. 

Listen to former fellows reflect on their time in the School Leader Cohort and how they made time for professional growth. 

It’s not one-size-fits all: TLI coaching is listening, relationship building and adapting to real needs.

Assistant Principal Staci Brown is a 2020 School Leader Cohort member.

Like good teaching, effective coaching is built on trusting relationships between coach and school leader. 

This concept guides TLI’s work with fellows from the onset. Nina Fitzerman-Blue, Director of Leader Programs, explains “I am here to make sure you are not failing as a leader. My entire job is to make you better.” 

TLI’s School Leader Cohort Fellows feel this deeply. Assistant Principal Staci Brown says that unlike other professional development approaches that offer ready-made programs, TLI coaches listen to your needs and cultivate collaborative relationships. Weekly building visits and in-depth conversations help foster open and honest conversations that lead to real growth and change. 

While at first some find it intimidating to meet with coaches weekly, most fellows report that because TLI’s sole focus is growth and development (not evaluation) they can be uniquely open about their professional needs. Through this relationship-centered approach TLI empowers fellows to interrogate their own practices, so they have the tools for growth beyond the fellowship. 

 Listen to why 2019 School Leader Fellows were ready to be coached.

Do you have questions about TLI’s intensive leader coaching? We’d love to hear from you.

Making Time: The Case for School Leader Coaching

It’s no secret that school administrators have jam-packed schedules and daunting to-do lists. With so much to do, it’s easy to shy away from leadership development due to time constraints. 

TLI’s Director of Leader Programs Nina Fitzerman-Blue urges leaders to make a different choice. 

“This is how we make time. Leadership coaching is how we learn to efficiently and effectively use the very small amount of time you have.”

Nina, who coaches School Leader Cohort Fellows each week, points out that leader coaching shouldn’t feel like just another task to check off the to-do list. After all, with each coaching session, leaders work on doing their jobs more effectively.

Leader coaching happens in your school building, focusing on what you want and need most.  Often, leaders collaborate with their coach to get those tough-to-finish tasks off their plate. Stuck on how to introduce the latest data to staff? Leaders work with their coach to analyze data and design a plan for a data dive with teachers. Spinning your wheels about how to coach new teachers? Walk through the process with your coach, getting face-to-face support and feedback. 

Listen in as a few of the 2019 School Leader Cohort Fellows why they’re glad they invested leadership coaching.

“Take the time for leader development. It will pay off in the end.” -Nicole

School Leader Cohort: What Is Leader Coaching Like?

School leadership can be isolating work. TLI’s Director of Leadership Programs Nina Fitzerman-Blue is working to change that. Each week, she offers focused, personalized coaching for school leaders in TLI’s School Leader Cohort. Under Nina’s direction, our fellows receive year-long support to develop instructional leadership skills, ranging from teacher coaching to adult culture to managing performance. 

While each leader coaching session is customized, coaching often includes instructional walkthroughs, observation and feedback practice, data analysis and planning, personal organization, professional development, and crucial conversations. 

Here’s a peek into what some of this year’s cohort members think about their coaching:

Even the sharpest leader benefits from a thought partner, pointed feedback, and another pair of eyes. Here’s how one leader describes our weekly coaching meetings: “Having weekly meetings with Nina has allowed me to take a more proactive approach to leadership. As part of the School Leader Cohort, I’ve sharpened my instructional eye, learned to give effective feedback, and ultimately raised the instructional rigor in my school.”

Are you ready to push your leadership to the next level? Applications for the 2020-2021 School Leader Cohort are open now! Grab a quick information sheet here and start your application here.  

“Leadership coaching is like partnering with my biggest cheerleader for one hour a week. I always have an action plan and the support I need to make change.”

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