Episode 39 - LEAD on READ: What does it mean to be a leader in education right now?
About Jamie Williamson, EdS
Jamie Williamson serves as the Head of School at The Windward School and as the Executive Director of the Windward Institute.
Mr. Williamson joined the Windward community in July 2019 with 18 years of experience supporting families and children with learning disabilities. He is a passionate educational leader, proven creative problem-solver, and steadfast advocate for children. Throughout his career, he has been a standard-bearer within schools for partnership and collaboration that seeks to empower students, families, faculty, and staff. Mr. Williamson frequently presents at local, regional, and national conferences and events on a variety of topics, including dyslexia, ADHD, parenting, assessment, resilience, vocabulary instruction in math, leadership, and hiring for culture.
Prior to his arrival at Windward, he served as the Head of School at Marburn Academy, which is a 1-12 day school program for students with learning differences in Columbus, Ohio, and as the Principal at the Springer School and Center in Cincinnati, which is 1-8 day school program for students with language-based learning disabilities. Mr. Williamson is a graduate of Western Kentucky University with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology (1994-1998). He also holds a Masters of Science and an Education Specialist degree in School Psychology from Miami University (2000-2004). A licensed School Psychologist, Mr. Williamson spent five years prior to his tenure at Springer working as a School Psychologist in public school.
Mr. Williamson also previously served on the Board of the Southwest Ohio School Psychology Association as the President and on the Board of the Ohio Association of Independent Schools. Mr. Williamson lives in Irvington with his wife, a former art teacher, and his two children.
About Danielle Scorrano
Danielle Scorrano is the Research and Development Director of The Windward Institute and host of the Research Education ADvocacy (READ) Podcast. These roles fuel her passion and mission for social entrepreneurship and social justice in education. Driven by curiosity and thought leadership, Ms. Scorrano bidirectionally translates between research and educational practices, cultivates collaborative relationships to better inform professional development for educators and families, and advocates for increased equity and access to literacy and supportive educational environments for all students.
Prior to her roles at The Windward Institute, Ms. Scorrano worked as The Windward School’s research associate and research coordinator and taught middle school language arts, social studies, and math in fifth and eighth grades. She also taught social studies at a charter school located in the Bronx, NY and served as an Americorps AVID facilitator at high schools in Baltimore County, Maryland. In addition to her teaching roles, Ms. Scorrano coached soccer to children of all ages across New York, Connecticut, and Maryland.
Ms. Scorrano earned her bachelor’s degree in Political Science and International Business from Loyola University of Maryland and completed her Master of Professional Studies degree in Social Studies Education and Special Education at Manhattanville College. She is currently a doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins University in the Entrepreneurial Leadership specialization, where her dissertation focuses on building skills and agency for new reading teachers through an integrated coaching and learning community.
Danielle Scorrano: [00:00:00] Welcome to READ, the Research Education and ADvocacy podcast. READ connects you with researchers, thought leaders, and educators who share their work, insights, and expertise about current research and best practices in education and child development. I'm Danielle Scorrano, the host of the READ Podcast, and I am excited because I'm inviting you into a window of a new project of curiosity driven by this question:
What does it mean to be a leader in education right now? And you're about to hear, or maybe you're going to see if we decide to put this on YouTube. I'm beyond fortunate to explore this question with the one and only, The Windward School's Head of School, Jamie Williamson, who's also the Executive Director of The Windward Institute.
Jamie, welcome to the READ Podcast.
Jamie Williamson: Thank you so much. It's always a pleasure to have a conversation, Danielle. So thanks for having me on.
Danielle Scorrano: I'm just beyond excited and I [00:01:00] wanted to introduce you first because I know that this conversation is going to go in, I don't know, a hundred million directions. Maybe if we had a map, maybe there would be a lot of directions of where we went, but this project is actually going to be called LEAD on READ. I think it's kind of fitting right, for leadership. So for all of you that are just tuning in, LEAD on READ is a special four part series on the READ Podcast focused on leadership and education. So Jamie and I will be inviting and highlighting leaders in the education space who are making an impact in their schools, their organizations, and communities. And our first episode is going to be in January 2023 with a special guest and a friend of mine and a friend of Windward. And I think what we'll do, Jamie, for this episode is the listeners will have to continue listening to find out who that really is.
Jamie Williamson: Leave on a cliff hanger.. I like that.
Danielle Scorrano: Yeah. You'll have to search for it. Yeah. We'll give it away. We hope that these episodes will provide context for the nature of leadership and the different [00:02:00] aspects of education, and it is vast, how leadership has changed and what insights that we can give to current and future leaders. So the purpose of this episode is provide some context, some curiosity for, hopefully this journey that will unfold will inspire change. And so Jamie, now welcome. You are the cohost of the LEAD on READ Podcast series, and my first question for you is, How are you coming to this work on LEAD on READ?
Jamie Williamson: Well, first off, I just want to say, I want to echo your excitement, every time you and I get to have a chance to have a conversation about leadership, about reading, about research, I always walk away learning a little bit. I appreciate your infectious enthusiasm and your willingness to lean into some great conversational points with some researchers out in the field, and also elevate the voices of others. I think that, you know, the last three years have been anything but easy. We've been navigating not only sort of the challenge of our lifetimes and within the context of our personal life, but also our career. And I think for me, when I think about the state of education, the state of leadership [00:03:00] development, I just think it's really important to kinda lift up some voices along the way.
I think it's really important to acknowledge some of the challenges on there. And I think it's also really important to create space for others to have leadership. You know, as a leader, one of the things that I've tried so hard in my career to do is not feel like I'm the only leader in the room. Right? I don't want to be in a room where it's just everybody kind of pulling behind me, right? I want to be in a room with other leaders. I want to be sharing that space. I want to be empowering people on my team. I want to come at it from this point of expanding the impact and kind of multiplying that impact over time, while also recognizing that I have as a human being, I have a whole lot, I'm trying to kind of learn and grow.in as a leader. I'm trying to reflect on my work and my practice and I'm trying to help others do the same. So this is really important work for me and I love kind of diving into these conversations. So, when I'm trying to also recognize that as we've navigated the last few [00:04:00] years, I think it's actually called upon a few different kind of leadership skills that maybe we don't put front and center all the time, like the concept of navigating ambiguity.
We have been listed, we've been put in a place where there has been no right answer. We've had a lot of points of confusion and gray that we've had to work through and navigate through, while also managing high emotions in the process and a lot of challenge. So I think there's just some spaces that, as I'm trying to think about my practice, how do I continually grow and get better, and how do I help others and lift up others around me in the process of doing just that?
Danielle Scorrano: I can't wait to learn more about these skills and tease them apart. And you talked about navigating ambiguity, that's one I think that resonates with me. That resonates with a lot of people that are listening to this podcast right now. So I do want to return to that because there is a term that I've been really diving into when it comes to leadership in terms of how we look at [00:05:00] paradoxical thinking.
Jamie Williamson: Mm-hmm.
Danielle Scorrano: Hopefully, you and I can tease apart how ambiguity and paradoxical thinking may be similar in what those differences also might be. And as you were talking about elevating leaders, I do want to highlight the work that you've been doing in our community. Because I think for me, when I started READ, I came at this from a teacher's perspective at first, and of course I am, and I'm the first to say that teachers are leaders, and that was my first opportunity to say, okay, how am I as a leader of my classroom bringing in what we know is research based practice, best practices to ultimately better serve my students.
And so when I first started READ, the READ Podcast, it was for this goal to inform teachers as leaders on how we better serve our communities and our classrooms. And I've been in such a fortunate position to experience a transformation in my career, to now sit in a role where I can take on leadership [00:06:00] responsibilities. And as I've been learning more from these experts, my realization was, yes, I want to bring the research of reading into my classroom, but it's not just about reading. Right? There's that paradox maybe of the"yes, and." What are those tensions that I need to bring in as a leader to better serve my students or better serve our communities?
And so I think that's really where I'm coming to this. And I was actually sitting on Zoom in February of this year with Dr. Nicole Patton Terry, the Director of the Florida Center for Reading Research.
Jamie Williamson: She's amazing.
Danielle Scorrano: She's amazing. Yeah. But it's almost like what's about to happen in this conversation, is we were at the point of like exclamation. I could have been like standing on my desk chair as I was talking to her because we wanted to build, not even tables, but conferences of tables bringing in stakeholders from not only in reading, but other disciplines like leadership, organizational psychology, sociology, policy. You name it, they belonged at the [00:07:00] table. And I love the way that she frames this equity of stakeholders as well. So I think that's also important. I think where I seem to be going with this is a lot of how we integrate multiple perspectives. Do you see that similarity when you talk about navigating ambiguity?
Jamie Williamson: Yeah, I do. There's many points in our lives where we've had a really clear path to do X, you have to go from A to B, right? You kind of move through this process. This sometimes a linear process. Sometimes it's not a linear process, but I think right now we have so many spaces where there really is no absolute right answer. Right? We're living in a space where we're navigating opinions of various degrees. We're trying to do the best for our students while also doing the best for our teachers, while also doing the best for our families. And sometimes there's some tension, and while I think that this idea of navigating or balancing these paradoxes is really important, and I love those, that sort of, that tension that creates, when I think [00:08:00] about the idea of navigating the ambiguity, it's really not having a playbook for what you're trying to accomplish here and having to go through the process of figuring out what's actually important. When we were sitting down to think about coming back after the pandemic, for instance, this is a space where there was no blueprint for this. There was no model. We had no sort of ability to think through. We had some rules from the state that we had to think through, but how do you bring a team of people together, start to problem solve, create some clarity where there really is very little clarity about what our common goals expectations are? What is the outcome and what are the markers for success on this? And for us, I'm a really big fan of reading leadership guideposts. At the end of something, here's the things that I want it to be able to identify the boxes I want to be able to check. It needs to focus on X and Y and Z and how we solve that problem in there. You and I may have different perspectives and recognizing that actually your solution [00:09:00] to this problem may be very different, but also just as effective than mine. And so, it's really about creating those great guideposts as leaders and helping people sort through the unknown or gain comfort in a space where there actually is very little comfort.
I think in leadership sometimes we assume that it comes with all this power, right? I get the ability to make a decision, which there's parts where that's, yes, sometimes I have to make decisions, however, so much of it actually is not this kind of notion traditionally of power. It's more responsibility, right? It's my responsibility to make the best decision I can for the organization based on the things that I know and the information I have at the time, and I'm allowed to get new information and adjust my decision, right? Because there's times when we have what we think is the whole of an information or data set. And then, 10 minutes later, two days later, two weeks later, we find out [00:10:00] actually there was a big blind spot we had or that we didn't realize we had. Now we have to come back to the table to revisit this. And I think for folks who come to the leadership table to think about it in terms of absolutes of I'm right and this is wrong, or this is better and this is, this is not good in many ways. I think that kind of really undermines that. It's really about figuring out like what's going to be best for your community in this space. How do you look at multiple stakeholder perspectives? How do you think about, even from an equity standpoint, what it means to what does fairness mean? What does equity mean and how do you use those, and I would argue your core values to make the best decisions for an organization and how people break that process down.
There's a little bit of, as I try in my work, as I've always tried to, especially with my leadership team to break down that black box of how I'm thinking about something. Sometimes I may externalize more than people care to know, but I try to do my best in being open and transparent and here's where we are and here's where we need to be and here's why. I think this is the path. And if you have [00:11:00] a different sort of path to get there, and I'm always open to that conversation. And at the end of the day, we may go in your direction, we may go in my direction, or we may come up with a new third alternative where we get to go down a whole different path that neither of us had thought about at the beginning of the whole process.
Danielle Scorrano: I love the way that you map that out for us and the, I think the testament of a good podcast interview is that somehow you leave one of the hosts a little struck for words like, I'm like, which way should I go? I remember when I was interviewing with Tiffany Hogan last month,I had to tell her. I was like, I had questions and I'm just going to throw them out the window. And for you, there are so many directions.
Again, we are creating a new map and what I like what you said is you said there's no blueprint and there's no playbook. And yet you had these guideposts, some the guideposts of values, and you also brought in a lot of the frameworks that we see for current research on leadership. So what I heard you [00:12:00] saying one was transparency, this current framework, it's a key pillar for authentic leadership. The idea of a distributed leadership model. Yes, you have the power and the responsibility to ultimately make a decision, and you're clear in bringing in a multitude of stakeholders that might not., It might be ultimately your decision, but it was not necessarily your idea. It could have been another person in your group.
So I love what you brought that in because you talked about bringing in, let's say, programs or making changes, programmatic changes in the community. And so much of that, I think in the past couple of years, has been uncertain. There has been ambiguity. So how do you reconcile the tension of bringing a fidelity of a program and ensuring that it's right for your context? When we think of research, we think of fidelity of programming, and I know that's something you and I talk about a lot, but when [00:13:00] you think about how you then bring that into a local program, where is that tension? How do you make sure that you're doing it so it is something that has this fidelity, but also works for the context that you're leading?
Jamie Williamson: Yeah. I think it's always important to ask the question at the beginning, is there some research to inform whatever decision we're trying to make here? Like when schools were opening back up in the fall of 2020, there was no, we didn't, there was no research to tell us here's what good practice was here or what's not going to work. There was just no kind of clarity there. So then we had to come back and say, okay, from our perspective, focusing on the kids that we have in our community, the kids who we believe are the most fragile learners in our system right now, some of the most fragile learners in our system, one: how important is it for them to be in person if they want to be here? That, for us, was such an important part of that. So we kind of really walked through and defined the things that were going [00:14:00] to be really important, that we were going hold up a bunch above some of the other things that kind of prioritize some of the outcomes we're hoping for.
Now, if we're looking at our reading program, or math program or science program, how we operate after school activities, there actually is some research to inform that work and some clear direction on what kids needs. How do you create a good study skills program that focuses on executive function skills and embeds those things? So I think that, where you can find some research support, I think it's really important to acknowledge that research base and also the limitations of whatever research base you bring to the table. I think in leadership sometimes, you know, we often will assume somebody else has done the research. I know, and a lot of, I'm not going to pick on any specific school systems right now, but in the curriculum world, they make some assumptions that whatever program was purchased was research based by the people who had done it or had, you know, been picked by with some kind of research orientation or matrix. [00:15:00] But that doesn't always happen.
So when we come to the table and really try to think through the process, I think sometimes we have to develop that research base, but also think about the human side of this. And in one of the things I talk about with my leadership team a lot is this notion of power and what kind of power are we exercising here? And as a leader, the last kind of power I ever want to exercise unless it's absolutely required, is this positional power, right, meaning I am the Head of School, I'm the leader, I'm going to make this decision. That is a I think it's a very, it's a much older sort of style of leadership in the sense that I think it comes from a place of command control.
It's about making a declaration and having everybody march in that way, which there's times when if we're in a fire drill, I need to say you have to go out of the building. There are times when we have to make that declaration. But as a psychologist working in schools, for me, one of the most important sort of pieces of power that I ever [00:16:00] got to wield was this idea of relational power, my ability to leverage our relationship to move something forward. When I was at the college and the public schools, I had no team. I had no positional authority, and I couldn't tell anybody what to do. It was just not part of my job description. However, I still had things that I was trying to move forward in the context of program implementation or enhancements in the work here. So I had work like even on an individual level, a plan for a student in a classroom with Mrs. Smith. So I I had to lead both the class side of this and the Ms. Smith side of this to help implement this intervention for a child. So I learned how to navigate those conversations in a way that sort of allowed it to be our idea versus my idea. And whatever sort of the genesis of this was, trying to find ways to eliminate barriers, people have their voices feel heard making it about the child, not about me. Making it [00:17:00] about the kid that we're serving in this process, not about my needs.
And so those things allowed me, I think to build great relationships, but also to, to move things in a way that always felt like we were moving it together. Not that I had marched you down the hallway to do something that you didn't quite want to do. And it also helped me move through resistance or learn to move through resistance with a much more kind of hearty resilience sort of mind space. But I do think all those things play together when we talk about how do we develop our leadership as humans and as educators and navigate through change in that way.
Danielle Scorrano: I like that part where you brought in the relational power. I I have this small notebook next to me right now and I wish that, I think I'm going to rename my office, the LEAD Lab, the LEAD on READ Lab, because I truly think this is research by podcast and know for folks listening, this is not a formal IRB type of research, but we are collecting data and [00:18:00] through some of the stories that you were sharing and the stories of our guests when we do have our guests coming to, to talk to us over the course of the year. And so I say that because you are bringing in your lived experience. This would not be a READ Podcast episode without talking about Dr. Brene Brown. I know that you and I share the same enthusiasm for her and she's a researcher, but she's also someone who integrates story in this lived experience and how it is a valuable set of data to understand our human experience. So with that being said, without me going down, I don't know what trail I'm on right now, of where you sit right now in your story as a leader. What are those lessons that you're taking with it? You talked about relationship, you talked about transparency, you talked about teamwork, the value of teamwork and bringing in this paradox of tensions and ambiguity. What else do you bring to the table in [00:19:00] terms of how the past few years and truly your whole career? What has informed your leadership and what could you share with our listeners?
Jamie Williamson: You know, I try to engage a lot of my colleagues, other heads, folks who are leading programs in this conversation a bit. And I'm not sure I've always gotten the most kind of resounding support for this side of it is, really the conversation around ego versus humility.
Danielle Scorrano: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
Jamie Williamson: And I think in leadership, it's easy to get into a space to think where we think, oh, my ideas are so amazing. Everybody responds so well to my ideas. I must be the smartest person ever. And I think that because sometimes in spaces, people are afraid to challenge an idea or a thought, you know? And I work so hard not to make this work about me. Like, it's not like it doesn't matter if it's easy or harder for me, if it's what's right for the kids and this is what's right for the community. I feel like we should take the responsibilities leaders to do what's [00:20:00] right for our kids and our community. And sometimes I put myself way on the back burner when it comes to that. I think I did that during the pandemic and you know, I'm still recovering I think from the last three years. And I think the stress of that, I probably could be a little better at times of putting on my own oxygen mask, so to speak. But I do think that making this not about me from an egocentric perspective, but making it about the kids and about our core values, I think those conversations can be a little bit easier. It's a little bit easier to get alignment on when you focus from that perspective. Sometimes I think people, I've not always kind of heard what I'm hoping to attend with that conversation when I'm engaging that out in the community, but I do think the last few years have called that right to the center of the conversation.
Like during all of this, I couldn't make any of this work about me. It had to be about what are we trying to accomplish for our children and how do we do that together because anything else less than that for me just felt a little bit [00:21:00] disingenuous and a little bit not the kind of leadership space that I was trying to engage in. And I also, I think that one of the big lessons I've learned over the last couple years, is really the importance of being able to shift within executive functions, right? So the idea of kind of plan, prioritize, organize, those are all really important things from leadership perspective. But the idea of developing the ability to cognitively shift at times when you look at a situation and what you're doing is not netting you an outcome, right? So often we are in a space as leaders where we don't want to save a little face, we're afraid to say we were wrong, or maybe this wasn't the best decision we ever made. And we sometimes can halt in that process of changing our minds. And I think during the pandemic I was trying to make the best decisions that I possibly could with the data that I had. It didn't mean I thought those decisions were amazing. It didn't mean I thought those decisions were a hundred percent, but I felt like I had at the time they were the best we could [00:22:00] do in some spaces.
And I remember someone stopped me because w one of the biggest hurdles we had as a organization, we didn't have an LMS, we didn't have a learning management system to be able to communicate with our parents and with our teachers on a remote basis online. So we had to not only kind of reinvent school for the Zoom world in March of 2020 as everybody else did. We also had to jump the, the hurdle of getting an LMS in place. And, and I remember we were trying to figure out how to navigate this, and I thought to myself like, okay, everybody's saying Google Classroom.
Google Classroom. Let's go Google Classroom. And so we started the process of it. Maybe we'll go in that direction. That was a platform change. That was a big, big change. And someone had a teacher email and say, Hey, did you know we have this thing on our computers called Microsoft Teams? I had never used teams.
I didn't know. This was one of our seventh grade teachers who emailed me and said, just an FYI. So as a leader, I could do two things. I could say, well, I'm going to use my positional authority to push this forward [00:23:00] here blindly, right? Uh, and maybe go into a space that was going to cause us some pain.
Or I could take a moment, I could listen to this teacher's voice. I invited her into the senior leadership team, had her do a little presentation on how she was using this, and I was like, oh my gosh, why am I just now hearing about this? Right? This was a great sort of thing for us to do.
I sent an email out that afternoon. Hey, my bad, I didn't have as much information as I thought I had. Now I have a new piece and here's where we are now. And you know, and I've tried to embody that idea of, I'm not afraid to say, I'm sorry. I'm not afraid to say, oh wow, this wasn't the best thing I've ever done. Let's shift this a little bit. So when you were talking about growth and our core values earlier, and I appreciate Brene Brown's focus on trying to name your top two. Right. And I do think if I had a third one in there, it probably would be curiosity. We'd have that in common from a curiosity standpoint.
But for me, this idea of growth is really front and center for me. Like the only reason I'm sitting here today is because I see myself as a learner and I've tried really hard to be a little [00:24:00] bit better today than I was yesterday and I don't get it right a hundred percent of the time. And so I try to learn and reflect and grow from those experiences.
And I love talking with leaders about that vulnerable space of like, wow, like this is a time when this didn't go well. Because so many of us are afraid to really have that conversation and admit that, and I'm like, oh no, I messed that up last week, like, here's what I learned. I rarely make the same mistake twice. It doesn't mean I don't make mistakes, but I try to, every time I do have that, I try to reflect and have that be something that kind of informs my future practice as best.
Danielle Scorrano: Mm, there's so many key pieces that you pulled out and it reminds me to circle back to why LEAD on READ is something that you and I are coming to as a shared project. And first is that you are already informing those that are listening with so many different types of characteristics and actions that leaders can take and tying it to examples. I really liked how you talked about [00:25:00] the ability to pivot, and to understand that mistake making is something that's just part of the everyday human experience.
And again, humanizing that. Leaders are humans too. And that's okay to say that's not going to work out because we have information that something else is better. I also like how you talked about this learning mindset, which reminds me of Aiko Bethea who is a renowned leader talking about how for leaders, especially, that learning mindset is something that is forefront.
Jamie Williamson: Yeah.
Danielle Scorrano: And then the third piece, I think with values was really important for me and that's something that I always dig into as well. And so when we look at LEAD on READ, the goal truly is to continue to inform, to continue to pull out those themes that those leaders are also seeing in their space. Like I wonder if the leaders we talk to will talk about values as something that's continuing to inform them. I hope that they do, and I would imagine that they will. But. I'm wondering, what are those are the pieces that, what will we hear and what will we learn from them? So as you look into [00:26:00] this next year, what is it that you're hoping to learn or to talk about with the leaders on our LEAD on READ series?
Jamie Williamson: Well, first off, I just love talking about that professional growth and development side of leadership and learning. I love hearing people's stories. I love hearing that because we're all trying to solve some similar problems. Not always it's the same problem, but very similar problems.
We're trying to activate people. We're trying to kind of rally around a common goal. We're trying to achieve something together from a team perspective. And I really love, and I benefit from, I'm a good, I'm a very, very good vicarious learner. I always have been. And so I love when I get a chance to hear those stories from other folks.
I also in, as we think about the work ahead, I think we have had so much energy focused on what the research says about reading. Rightfully so, right? There is so much good information that's actually not getting in the hands of teachers. I think systems don't feel empowered sometimes. I think teachers don't feel empowered, especially in public schools to make change.
And I think the idea of making [00:27:00] change on a big scale is really, it's complex. It's hard, it's hard to digest and break that down. So the hope here is that we can spend a little time talking about not only from your perspective on the READ Podcast, like what does the research say and how do we do the most informed practice to make sure that we're stacking the deck for our kids in a really positive sort of students centered way, giving them the tools they need, the skills they need, and providing a safe educational environment to do all that great work. That is like core. But then how do we think through the process of leading through that change? And I don't know that, I don't know that I've seen a lot of places.
You've got some folks who've written books on leading through change, and there's a few that I said on my bookshelf frequently. I'm thinking of the work that Geoffrey Canada's done and some of the charter school systems to really elevate the these educational systems' incredible work. But I don't think like leaders are talking about this enough in education and the educators are talking about leadership enough. I think we assume that folks are doing, like leaders have the right skills for this work. But I don't know that we've actually come to the table [00:28:00] to talk about what are the things you need to put in on the table to help make something more successful?
And I'm thinking about our first guest that we're going to bring in here and the system with which she was working to kind of change was a big system that was in deep, deep need. And I really want to help folks to understand like what are the components that went into that successful sort of work from a programmatic side of this.
But I want to really elevate the story of how she generated and drove that change internally in in the system. Because I am a systems level thinker. And I'm a big believer that when I was doing work as a psychologist, I would work with a child in a classroom and I would do an intervention, and I would be so happy with myself.
At the end of the day, I'm like, wow. I had a great impact on Zach's life today, right? We made a plan and it worked out really well. Then I thought, how many other Zachs are in this classroom? Right, you know? And so then I started working with teachers to get some like classroom level supports like the tier one supports.
What are things that every child should have access to? Then I started thinking about what are [00:29:00] the systems that in the building that we could be talking about or at the district level could we be talking about? And so that idea of stepping up around on the systems thought process allows you to multiply that impact pretty exponentially over time. So I just, there was a lot about that, that really resonated with me and I love when I get a chance to see how other people solve those problems.
Danielle Scorrano: I'm happy that you revisited the Science of Reading and you circled back because I want to clarify something I said earlier when I said it's not just about reading. I agree with you and I think that anyone can agree in the field of reading and research, reading research and education, research, how deep and broad it is across time. The science of reading is amazing to see and it reminds me of the Beacon article I wrote, What it Takes to Win in the Arena of Reading Education. Mm-hmm. , I actually have it right here with me. That to me was an attempt from my perspective to say there are decades worth of research [00:30:00] and people that are doing this work, and yet there's something in between that work and the hands of the teacher and the student that seems to be missing.
What is that? Maybe we'll call it a piece of a bridge, but you said it in the sense of that it's complex and the process and the system is complex. Dr. Nicole Patton Terry, one of the leading researchers in Science of Reading, has said in her, article, Delivering on the Promise of the Science of Reading for All Children, her 2021 article, " complex problems deserve comprehensive solutions."
Jamie Williamson: Yep.
Danielle Scorrano: And so I echo what you said and that what I'm looking for is those insights into what those comprehensive solutions are. And even in the article I wrote, I want to know more about those steps that were taken and how those leaders were able to do that across time, because it truly does take a lot of time, resources, energy, strategy, stakeholders, and what is it that they were able to do to develop that cohesive strategy so it was sustainable [00:31:00] and scalable.
Yeah, so I'm happy that you returned to that because I think that's something that's so important and why we are scheduling the LEAD on READ series in addition to the READ Podcast. For our listeners, the LEAD on READ will have four episodes, so the January episode, and then you'll have a two months of READ episodes followed by another LEAD on READ episodes, and we'll be letting you know when those guests are.
So before we get to the end of our recording, Jamie, is there anything else that you want to offer to our listeners on maybe what you're sitting in curiosity, what you're looking forward to? Any final thoughts before our listeners hear about our January guest?
Jamie Williamson: No, I just want to echo Nicole Patton Terry's sort of comment on complex problems really require comprehensive solutions. So you could take air airdrop in, the best reading research and the best program on the planet. But without really good implementation science, without really good sort of change [00:32:00] management process without dealing with resistance in a really healthy and productive way, without engaging stakeholders, without recognizing that schools are really complex entities here, you're not going to be successful.
And I think that the hope here is that we get to lift up some of those stories that may be in some spaces, an n of one, right. Like where it's a story in a place with a sort of like set of conditions. However, I think that there's also some things that end up even in the story where the n is one, a lot of things we can draw upon to generalize, to think through.
That's not my problem specifically, but like there's a shadow of the issue that I'm dealing with here. So the hope here is we can give some folks some concrete examples of some ways people have actually moved through this process and provide a little bit of inspiration along the way, right? I'm inspired by people doing big work. And I love when I find out about someone who, in my space here, in my field, in my colleague network, who's done some big stuff like. That actually gets me really excited to learn more, to understand, to think through the process. How did they arrive there? Sometimes I'm [00:33:00] a little hard on myself, I'm like, why didn't I think of that? Right? But I do it from a sense of awe and purpose. And I love that about the world when people surprise you in these beautiful ways. But we also want to try to kind of build some tools along the way to help people think through, if I'm trying to accomplish this, you know, here's some ways I might be able to start to tackle this bigger problem, which sometimes can seem like such an abstract, large thing to think through and then, but I always come back to, how do I set my framework? What does success look like? And like much like the dreaming up of this, I like to play my favorite game, which is the "what if" game and what if can be a lot of different things and how do we really dream a little bit.
Some of those dreams get cast aside pretty quickly because they're ridiculous ideas but I think you have to have a lot of those in the process of moving some things forward. And I really appreciate you, Danielle, to getting on board with this ridiculous idea that we had laid on the table here to maybe add a little bit different voice to the table on the READ Podcast. So thanks for your flexibility and your openness on that.
Danielle Scorrano: Thank you for your shared curiosity and [00:34:00] how we're thinking about this and framing this conversation and returning back to Dr. Patton Terry's article, and that will be on the READ Podcast webpage when she talked about complex systems and comprehensive solutions. She's framing it from the stakeholder perspective of the communities that she's working with at Florida Center for Reading Research and those that are around the country, and those are the vulnerable populations, the students that identify students of color, black children in the United States, children who are on free and reduced lunch. And when I think about where we've been in the last two years, and I want to make sure that people understand where we're leaving this and where we're going is echoing what Dr. Tiffany Hogan said that these problems were just fractures and now they've become gaps. And what these problems are doing is they're affecting populations of children in such a disparate way.
I mean, grave inequities continue to exist and the data shows it. And so, To make sure that we understand where we're going is [00:35:00] not only is to bring the scalable, innovative ideas, but then how is it impacting the students that need it the most? And so that's something that I wanted to think about too, and I know you have some follow up thoughts on that before we do close and announce our, our January guest.
Jamie Williamson: Yeah. You know, I think that there's lots of voices in this space we could lift. And I think it's both of our hopes that we lift up some voices that may sometimes don't get the echo that they deserve, or the reverberation that they deserve. And I think there are some really incredibly talented professionals out there doing some absolutely amazing work. And I think that, we want to do our best to make sure we're helping someone who may be seeing a space that's under-resourced, helping, or someone who's thinking about a system that is some of the most vulnerable folks in the system. Because I do think that's where we need the best and brightest thinkers doing this work and that commitment to see that through. And so I'm just really excited to engage this conversation and see where this all goes. But I think you're absolutely right. It is really bringing that equity lens to the [00:36:00] conversation is gonna be really important as we move through this.
Danielle Scorrano: Absolutely. So without further ado, I know that our listeners have listened for the last 45 minutes, and I thank you for engaging with us. Would you like to tell our listeners who our first guest is?
Jamie Williamson: Go ahead.
Danielle Scorrano: Okay. So our first guest for January, 2023 is a friend of Windward. She was the 2021 Fall Community Lecturer. She was a guest on the READ Podcast talking about coaching and professional development and reading in the state of Mississippi. So we are just so fortunate to have Kristen Wynn, the Mississippi State Literacy Director, joining us. We'll be interviewing her in just a few weeks, and she will be the first guest of January, 2023.
You'll be hearing all about, as Jamie was talking, some of the programs that they were investing in Mississippi, how they were sparking change, how they were integrating community buy-in and stakeholders. And now we've been recording, it's almost the end of the day and I already feel this renewed [00:37:00] energy for this upcoming podcast.
Jamie Williamson: I cannot wait. She's a such a dynamic human being and she's been doing some incredible work and I really look forward to that conversation. So I loved our conversation, the fall lecture, so I can't wait to kind of build on that a little bit.
Danielle Scorrano: Me too. Well, Jamie, as always, this was such an enlightening conversation. Thank you so much for your time as the cohost of LEAD on READ, and we'll see where this goes.
Jamie Williamson: I look forward to it. Thank you so much.
Danielle Scorrano: Thank you.
This episode of the READ Podcast is a preview to a special, four-part series called LEAD on READ, co-hosted by READ host Danielle Scorrano and The Windward School’s Head of School and Executive Director of The Windward Institute, Jamie Williamson.
LEAD on READ explores the central question: What does it mean to be a leader in education right now? In this introduction episode, Jamie and Danielle outline the “why” behind this series and discuss key questions on every leader’s mind. A new episode will be released quarterly in 2023. Tune in with Jamie and Danielle as they interview leaders navigating change and sparking innovation in education.
About LEAD on READ:
LEAD on READ, a special four-part series on the READ Podcast focused on leadership in education, is co-hosted by READ host and The Windward Institute’s Research and Development Director, Danielle Scorrano, and Windward’s Head of School and Executive Director of The WI, Jamie Williamson.
Episodes focus on topics relevant to school change that are on every leader’s mind:
- Results-driven leadership
- Implementation Science
- Community Building among Stakeholders
- Change Initiative Buy In
- Social and Emotional Wellness in a Changing Landscape
A new episode will be released quarterly in 2023, beginning in January. The first episode will feature Kristen Wynn, Mississippi’s State Literacy Director.
Have an idea for a leader who should be featured on LEAD on READ? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Top READ Bookmarks
Each episode, host Danielle Scorrano identifies key takeaways or “READ bookmarks.”
Join co-hosts Danielle Scorrano and Jamie Williamson as they explore the question: "What does it mean to be a leader right now?"
“The idea of making change on a big scale is complex, and I don’t think systems feel empowered sometimes.”
- Jamie Williamson
In this episode, Danielle and Jamie explore questions and issues related to leadership:
- Navigating ambiguity
- Addressing and integrating the tensions brought by paradoxes and polarities
- Emphasizing responsibility over power in leadership roles
- Approaching change through systems level thinking
- Framing stakeholder and community buy-in through an equity lens
"Grave inequities continue to exist, and the data shows it. It is one thing to bring scalable, innovative ideas to the forefront, but more importantly, we need consider how these changes are impacting the students that need it the most."
- Danielle Scorrano
We are currently learning from the following resources:
Delivering on the Science of Reading For All Children
Nicole Patton Terry (2021)
The Reading Teacher, 75(1), p. 83-90
What it Takes to Win in the Arena of Reading Education
Danielle Scorrano (2022)
The Windward Institute’s The Beacon, Fall 2022
Learn more about leadership from past READ guests:
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About READ: READ, the Research Education ADvocacy Podcast connects you with prominent researchers, thought leaders, and educators who share their work, insights, and expertise about current research and best practices in fields of education and child development.
Note: All information and insights shared demonstrate the expertise and views of our guests and does not constitute an endorsement by The Windward Institute or The Windward School.