From July 17-21, IEL and East Carolina University hosted the 2016 Summer Leadership Learning Exchange in Greenville, N.C. Leadership learning exchanges are one of the offerings under IEL’s Leaders for Today and Tomorrow (LT2) initiative. LT2 is a growing network of nonprofits, school districts, and schools of education committed to retooling pre- and in-service leadership learning and evaluation. LT2 supports the catalytic role of principals, assistant principals, and district leaders as community stewards serving schools in highly challenged environments across the U.S. About 75 participants were part of this year’s summer learning exchange. They were district administrators, principals and assistant principals, teachers and para-professionals, and students. Joining several individual attendees were teams representing 12 school districts and four schools of education.
The four-day learning exchange experience is designed to focus on a deeper understanding of leadership roles through the lens of three interconnected areas: self, organization, and community. In other words, how do individuals show up for themselves? How do they work within their organizations? And how do they work in their community? Thoughtfully constructed or adapted experiential activities are a hallmark of learning exchanges, which center around signature pedagogies refined by members of the national faculty, all of whom are actively engaged in the broader LT2 network. Based on the philosophy that place matters both in terms of context and local assets, site visits to five community-based organizations were built into the event's examination of ecology of community, providing a mechanism for exploring community mapping of assets.
One well-received addition to this year’s learning exchange was the integration of "dynamic mindfulness" exercises into the beginning of each day’s work. Led by B.K Bose, executive director of the Niroga Institute, one of LT2's new Bay Area partners, each day began with a short presentation applying dynamic mindfulness principles and research to the day's learning objectives, followed by mindful movement, stretching, and breathing techniques to prepare participants for a long day of learning.
The examination of self, organization, and community culminated in team planning and reflection, discussion of next steps and commitments, and engaging in a critical friends consultancy, a powerful experience that added value to participants' experiences and puts them in a better position to apply their learning back home.