Q&A with CATDC Alum Erin Murphy

Erin Murphy has participated in CATDC workshops since 2009, and presently contributes to the CATDC community as a facilitator. We share her experience to show our gratitude for her continued engagement, and growing passion for professional development.

When did you first get involved with the CATDC?

Erin Murphy has participated in CATDC workshops since 2009 and in the more recent years has become a CATDC facilitator. My first experience with the CATDC (then the BATDC) was in 2009 as a new division head. My goal was to just survive in a job I had no previous experience with. My former school didn’t even have division heads, so I really had no idea what I was doing. I had heard great things about the collaborative before I moved to the area for the job from people familiar with the Bay Area and the Independent School culture. I joined the “New Administrator” group facilitated by Luzanne Engh, which was comprised of mostly new division heads. It was a great experience spending time with people who were going through the same things I was and to share thoughts, advice, and even just vent when things were challenging. After that first year, it was recommended by Luzanne that I join the “Experienced Administrators” group even though I was only in my second year because she felt the professional development would be more useful for me if I were learning from administrators that had been “in the trenches” for longer. I was completely amazed by the knowledge and support I found in that group and was a part of it for several years. I still consider some of those participants to be mentors and really value those relationships.

How would you describe the CATDC to a friend or colleague?

I’d describe it as a community of professionals with a desire to learn, collaborate, and explore all of the questions out there in this changing landscape of education. It’s a support system, a lot of fun, and really collegial. I don’t know what I would do without the experiences I’ve had. Thank goodness someone pointed me in this direction when I was moving to the Bay Area. I’d have been really lost for a lot longer than I was that first year!

What are your views on collaboration? How does it help schools and communities?

I think collaboration is most effective for schools because more people in the room working on something is better than working on an island. We ask our students to work together for a common goal so it makes sense we should walk the walk. We learn from one another and I can’t even count how many times I have walked away from a collaborative experience with a new perspective or new ideas. Collaboration requires us to bring our commonalities and differences to the table. We need to expose ourselves as communities to different perspectives.

If you could dream up a professional development workshop, to attend or facilitate, what would it be?

I would love to have the CATDC help to facilitate a “school visit” group where teachers and administrators could visit other schools on set dates, etc., making it more streamlined. We’re trying to do this as a lower school heads group but are finding it really difficult to pin down dates and structure. A group of 3-4 teachers with similar jobs and 3-4 admin with similar jobs are put into groups and take turns rotating to each school during the year, combined with meetings as a whole group to facilitate conversation and follow-up. After attending Understanding the Changing Needs of Faculty workshop, I think this could be beneficial. We have so much to learn from one another. We are the best resources for one another. Imagine what we could accomplish if we had ongoing development that put us into one another’s schools on a regular basis!

What professional development books do you recommend and why?

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World is fabulous. It explores what it takes to be creative and champion new ideas. But it’s about people who didn’t go the “traditional route” to have some of the most well-known innovations become reality. It is so relevant for the world right now. We had our whole school read it this past summer and I found so many gems of wisdom in it.

Resonant Leadership because it has so many good reminders about how leaders are viewed by those they lead. Sometimes you don’t even know something you are doing is having an impact.

The Invisible Classroom because it is about relationships in schools and how that is the driving force in education. It’s a great read.

Strengthsfinders is a great read for a team to do together. You take a test and it tells you about your strengths, etc., but I found it to be helpful in thinking about my leadership team colleagues and how I can best work with them.

There are so many great books out there. . . Quiet about introverts, anything about the changing face of technology, especially teen fiction around cyber-bullying because that is very real right now. I could go on and on!


Erin Murphy: Erin Murphy is the Primary School Director at Marin Primary and Middle School. She has worked for a number of years in the area of literary research, specifically in “Teacher Talk”, how teachers facilitate comprehension through conversation.