by Lenore Balliro
The majority of First Literacy Professional Development Workshops focus attention on improving teaching and supporting teachers in ABE programs. We love doing this, and teachers attest to the value of our workshops.
But ABE program directors have needs, too. Like teachers, they can benefit from professional development and support to prevent isolation, renew energy, and improve practice. Directors often rise to their administrative positions from the classroom as a result of their temperament for leadership and their competence in carrying out programmatic responsibilities. Few directors have formal management training in areas that make a strong program—staff supervision, staff and program evaluation, strategic planning, fundraising, branding, creating a social media presence. These skills are mostly learned on the job.
Our fully enrolled workshop last week—Tools for Managing an Effective and Supportive ABE/ESOL Program, facilitated by Christine Tibor,* provided an opportunity for ABE directors and coordinators to come together and learn strategies intended to strengthen their leadership and supervision skills within the specific context of the adult basic education arena.
Christine partially attributes her ability to lead her program well, and to supervise in an effective and supportive manner, because she knows the realities of the adult basic education classroom where she started her career. She noted, “you might have excellent management skills that you bring from another sector into adult education programs, but if you have no ABE or ESOL classroom experience, please find a way to get some. Then you really begin to understand what kinds of support your teachers need from you.”
The workshop allowed directors to take a step back from putting out daily fires and dealing with “to do” tasks that can overwhelm the most skilled administrator. By focusing on two questions: what is your philosophy of leadership, and what policies do you need to ensure a smoothly running program, participants were able to examine areas for both personal and programmatic improvement based on their needs.
I’m looking forward to the follow up workshop on March 19 where participants will take the lead in presenting results of their action plans and continuing to share resources, ideas, and solutions among each other.
* Christine is the Executive Director of Framingham Adult ESOL Plus/Department of Family and Community Engagement, which is part of the Framingham Public Schools.