Category Archives: Administration

“We are it. For these kids, we are it.”

Brook Haycock describes the importance of language for leaders in this PDK article. Our messaging can be as important as our message. In trying to motivate others, leaders can beat people down or inspire them. Hard truths are necessary but so is hope that the work that needs to be done can be accomplished.

  • Be honest and forthright. People can tell if you’re hiding something.
  • Be sincere. No one wants to feel they’re being manipulated.
  • Be supportive. It’s a group effort, lead by example.
  • Choose your words carefully. Always be professional.
  • Be inspirational. What is the expectation? The vision? What is at the core of your message? It’s not just about numbers and procedures. What is it for you? What is it for your people?
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A Case Study of School-Linked, Collective Parent Engagement

In A Case Study of School-Linked, Collective Parent Engagement authors Michael Lawson and Tania Alameda-Lawson examines issues surrounding Latino parent engagement in schools. In it they find a successful structure for parent engagement (Community Action Network) working with parents, university, and school district. The authors describe a program that is tailored to the needs of parents because parents are expected  to design, implement, and operate the activities. Support is provided to parents by individuals (typically a parent and a community resident) who are trained as paraprofessional social workers by the university.

I’ve worked at schools that have had parent centers with paid staff working to facilitate activities. In my role I have worked to empower parents by meeting with them to identify needs and find resources to address those needs. Many of those resources are outside the immediate school but many community based organizations worked with us. Some of those needs could be met with training that the school could offer. However, in most cases, parents simply wanted to feel needed on campus.

What do you think is a good model for parent engagement?

Tech Resources

January/February 2012 Leadership has some great web resources for administrators. Some of which I use and recommend:

  • Facebook: I post work related items on a group page.
  • Twitter: to update myself and others on relevant educational info
  • Hightail (was Yousendit): You will always need way to send a large file.
  • Slideshare: One way to share a presentation you worked hard on that others might appreciate after your done with it.
  • Livebinders: My newest find. A little clunky but is working well.
  • Dropbox: Been using it for years. A great way to keep files and to share with others.
  • Evernote: Not as handy as it would seem but I do use it occasionally. Mostly, it seems when I’m out in the field and need to take a quick picture with a note attached.
  • RSS: Use this in hootsuite as an easy way to stay up to date with webpages with an RSS feed.
  • Tripit (I’m not sure how “administrator” specific it is but I use it when I travel.)

Some resources I haven’t tried but looking forward to trying them based on the article:

  • Tungle.me
  • fcmat.org

What do you use?

Leadership matters in school improvement

The November/December 2011 Leadership magazine article “Focus on Success” emphasizes many of the finding from my own research upon high performing schools. For example, a collaborative culture (distributed leadership) is important for schools. Working together in a collaborative manner keeps groups from believing that school improvement is the work of “someone else” . School improvement is everyone’s work. The ability to work together for a common goal is vital to increasing student achievement.

Trust, Data, & Leadership

The November/December 2011 Leadership offers some important insight for administrators that begin a new assignment.  Terry Welhelm points out that the development of trust is critical from the very outset. It is important for leaders, new or experienced to focus and communicate intent, integrity, capabilities and results. In most cases a school will have an established culture and creating change can often hinge on being mindful of existing school culture. Accordingly, new leaders should focus upon gathering data early on in their tenure.

A sense of urgency vs a sense of crisis?

Do you work in a culture with a sense of urgency or a sense of crisis? What is the difference? Jim Collins, author of

    Good to Great

, briefly describes the negative impact of working with a sense of crisis. In a sense of crisis, organizations run from one solution to the next wildly grasping at “silver bullets” to “save” the organization. A sense of crisis focuses upon avoiding impending doom. Over time this creates cynicism rather than purpose of action. A sense of urgency emphasizes the need to get things done to be the best.

The Answer to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle in teaching: Virtual Coaching

ASCD had a thought provoking article on virtual coaching. The idea is basically that the coach would use technology do “drop in” to a classroom to conduct classroom observations. It suggest the following equipment for teachers a) wide angle webcam b)bluetooth adapter c) bluetooth headset and for the coach a)external HD b)headset with microphone c) webcam and microphone. The idea being that the teacher could recieve real time feedback as the coach watches the classroom in action. I like this idea because it addresses one of the basic problems with current classroom observations i.e., that the observer can often change the behavior of the classroom by the simple fact of being in the room. With a Virtual Coach the drops in via a webcam the visit becomes truly unobtrusive. I think this would also lead to increased productivity by the coach and teachers as the coach can easily visit multiple classrooms in the same time it would take the coach to visit one classroom and then walk to the next classroom.

However, I would not advocate dropping in without the teachers prior knowledge. If this were to be used to “spy” on teachers, I think that the program would be counter-productive as any advantage would be eliminated by creating an unhealthy school environment.

Study suggests grad rates will dip with A-G completion requirements

SI&A Cabinet Report that a study suggests grad rates will dip with A-G completion requirements. However, I do not believe that has to be the case. I believe in the A-G requirement for graduation because it sets a bar that says when you graduate, you will be ready for college. Many students and parents are surprised to learn that graduating from high school has/had no such assertion. Will it be more difficult? Absolutely. It will be more difficult because there will not be a track for students that aren’t “going to college”; this track has historically been populated by the poor and children of color. Many school systems have shown themselves poorly prepared to deal with students that are outside the “mainstream”. However, simply because it is difficult does not mean we should not do it; in this case it is the right thing to do. The work becomes how do we assure that students can meet this benchmark. It will take a shift in entire education communities which includes teachers, administrators, parents, students, and politicians. Teachers will need to develop and learn new instructional strategies, administrators will need to allocate resources for interventions, parents will need to actively support student participation in interventions, students will need to participate in additional interventions, and politicians will need to prioritize resource allocation for schools. It can be done but it will take a concerted effort and imagine the pay off: every student graduating college ready! Go make a difference.

Use Social Media at Schools and Districts.

The use of social media in schools should be greatly expanded. I know there are privacy issues because students are involved but those can be addressed. For example, I would love if every school had their own twitter account that was an extension of the school districts’ twitter account. For example, @District and @District_School. Whenever one tweeted the others would retweet. The sharing of information would be exponential! Imagine an @district tweet about upcoming open house dates which all the @District_School accounts would retweet. It would instantly increase the breadth and depth of the message. And if @District_School could advocate for parents of the school to follow, then the message goes even deeper into the community which is part of what we want between schools and the community. The relationship would also work in the other direction. For example, let’s say @district_school was having a local production of a play. @district_school could tweet it and @District would retweet; increasing the spread that @district_school could have by itself. Schools could truly be the model in the use of social media but instead we’re caught up in thinking of reason to not implement new technologies.
http://www.sunwords.com/2013/02/18/should-your-staff-be-allowed-to-use-facebook-and-twitter-at-work/

Leaders and Bureaucrats

There is a young leader in my office. He has lots of enthusiasm and ideas. Recently I noticed that he’s been trending towards some bureaucratic tendencies; it’s easy to do in a large organization. So here is some unsolicited advice to him and others:

Bureaucrats play not to lose.

Leaders play to win.

Bureaucrats think of reasons why an idea may not work.

Leaders think about ways to make an idea work.

Bureaucrats react to situations.

Leaders create environments.

Bureaucrats learn not to repeat past failures.

Leaders know that failure is part of building success.

Bureaucrats worry about how they are perceived.

Leaders worry about doing their best and how to bring out the best in others.

Bureaucrats fear risk.

Leaders love to push the envelope.

Bureaucrats manage organizations.

Leaders support people.

Who do you want to be?