Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Katrina Memory

About 5 years ago today, I was evacuated to Memphis with my wife, 2 dogs, 2 cats, and my mother in law.  We were being housed by some very good friends whom I met while teaching in Memphis during the early 1990’s.  My wife was expected our first child (she was actually born on Sept. 24th – in Memphis).

Also at the time, I was an Assistant Principal at a Metro New Orleans private school.  After the storm hit and we realized that nobody was going to return anytime soon, I decided to try to establish some communication with our scattered faculty and families.  I began spending hours on a computer, starting message threads on various news sites and blogs.  Soon, I had found almost the entire faculty and many families. I used this link to keep people in the loop, as much as I could, and to try to calm fears.  I also went to a few Memphis area school that had taken in New Orleans families and just spent some time talking to them and providing some comfort.

This time was one of great tragedy and heartache.  It was also a time for great character and bravery.  I am especially proud an appreciative of the many educators who worked tirelessly to get their school back in order and who also opened their doors after the storm to so many displaced students.

This was certainly a moment that changed my outlook on educational leadership forever – not to mention becoming a father for the first time!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Empowerment and Capacity through Delegation

One of the most effective methods of building leadership capacity in a school is to look for and appreciate the skills, enthusiasms, and talents that school personnel bring with them each day.  Often, many professional educators have abilities and interests that go beyond their most important role – classroom instructor.  As an educational leader, it is important to find ways to empower these professionals with appropriate opportunities that serve the school’s mission and develop leadership capacity throughout the staff.  With clear guidance and support (not to be confused with the dreaded “micro-managing”), the school leader can empower others to advance the school’s mission and, thus, begin to develop a team of highly capable team leaders.

It should be noted though that the leader, with whom ultimate responsibility rests, needs to approach such opportunities prudently.  Delegation of authority and opportunities for leadership building need to match up with the right persons.  In the end, correctly matching the school’s needs with the strengths and talents of individual staff members has the potential to empower the staff to develop their professional skills.  Ultimately, an empowered staff of team leaders who can advance the mission of the school is likely to develop.  

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Ideas and Insights from other Educational Leaders

In the course of my career, I have been fortunate to have met a number of effective school leaders with whom I have maintained an on-going relationship.  Often, conversation gravitates towards some basic philosophical issues regarding leadership.  I am a private/independent school administrator.  Naturally, my conversations tend to lean more towards the private school side of leadership.  Never the less, I believe that sound leadership is transferable to most any environment.

I remember one such conversation with an experienced independent school headmaster in which he offered some insight into his own leadership style and philosophy.  The basic premise was founded in two ideas:

  1. You can (and often should) delegate authority, but if you are in charge you cannot delegate your responsibility.
  2. (from a note he has taped to his desk) - “You lead it or it will lead you.”

In coming posts, I will offer a few examples of each of those ideas.  Feel free to offer your own examples or comments.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

To paddle or not to paddle students -

If we are going to outlaw it, we need some evidence that kids that have never been spanked actually perform better, and we really don't have that yet.
--Marjorie Gunnoe, psychology professor

This is from the linked article.  I don’t know about you, but I find it scary and bordering on appalling that evidence is needed about school performance in order to make a decision on whether or not corporal punishment is acceptable.

What happened to the idea of valuing the human dignity and respect of each child?  A relationship based on power and intimidation cannot possibly co-exist in an environment in which we are asked to also nurture, support, and  be a role model for students.

I wonder if any of these advocates would think it is ok for a store manager or movie theatre usher to paddle their child if they misbehaved in those settings.  I would bet a law suit would be forthcoming.

To paddle or not to paddle students -

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