Friday, October 29, 2010

Students Tout In-School Cellphone Use - Digital Education - Education Week

While this article does not speak to the use of laptops, I-Pads, etc – I would suspect the percentages would be higher.

Students Tout In-School Cellphone Use - Digital Education - Education Week

E-Readers in Schools

In my current position, I am exploring the possibilities of technology to enhance the teaching and learning environment.  E-readers are a major piece in my investigation.

The attached article (linked below) is a nicely designed piece for anyone considering such devices.

Educational Leadership - November 2010 - Page 84-85

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Global Competition, Results Based Evaluation, and Building a Culture of Civility in Schools: A Catch-22 for Educators

American loves a winner.  We always have.  As a former athlete and coach, I have great respect for and tremendously value the power of competition as a means to motivate and achieve one’s goals.

I also recognize the need for schools to be in the front of helping develop and maintain a culture of civility.  This is particularly true given the challenges presented by teasing, bullying, and confrontation exhibited not only in schools, but in society in general.

Herein lies a dilemma for schools.  How do we address the need to remain competitive and a leader globally, recognize that we are evaluated mostly based on results, and help create a climate of civility?

Competition, the need to “win” globally, the pressure to achieve higher scores, etc. are all issues that generate stress.  In the heat of competition and operating on the motivation to “do better”, a certain degree of stress is vital to success.  I agree that American schools do need to be more globally aware and competitive.  I agree that our students are not performing up to acceptable levels in many cases.  I also think we are seeing signs that the drive to “win” in education is not being checked against the need to maintain a disciplined and complete approach to education.

On the other hand, stress and competition has shown to have a negative affect on creating an culture of civility.  The more competitive and stressful the situation, the more likely it is that people are less civil towards one another.  It is creating a culture of civility that will have the greatest impact on improving the challenges with bullying and teasing.

So how do schools effectively address this catch-22?  I see a possible answer in realizing that the solution is that there is no one solution.  Maybe this situation needs to be handled like trying to balance a scale.  Leaders need to recognize when the stress levels in their schools reaches an unhealthy level (possibly by seeing a decrease in civility) and have the authority to redirect the culture away from mostly competitive to a more empathetic and supportive approach.  The opposite is also true.  When results are needed, the leadership should have the resources available to put into action.

Ultimately, schools focused on the development of emotional and social intelligence along with scholastic and academic intelligence are in the best position to “win” the game while creating an environment in which everyone feels empowered to share in the victory.   

ASCD Express 6.02 - What Does It Mean to Be a Good Teacher? The Importance of Appropriate Goal Setting

In a somewhat recent post, I offered a simple guide to setting appropriate goals as a means of maintaining motivation and developing a sense of achievement.  The attached article offers additional insight into goal setting.

While I agree with the 4 part process addressed, I still believe that many goals are either not really goals (but rather results) and/or set the goal setter up for failure.

Taken together, I think the ideas expressed in this article and my own ideas make for a solid foundation.

ASCD Express 6.02 - What Does It Mean to Be a Good Teacher? The Importance of Appropriate Goal Setting

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Leadership and Social Intelligence

Good video about social intellignece and leadership.  For school leaders, what lessons can you apply about the value of emotional and social intelligence to improve your school?

OK, Bullying Is Bad...But I'm Still Mixed on ED's Fix - Rick Hess Straight Up - Education Week

I had a similar reaction as Mr. Hess when I read about Secretary Duncan’s statements concerning bullying and the possible link to civil rights violations. 

Bullying is a serious concern and a major challenge when working with children.  Minimizing the effect of bullying in schools is going to require a multi-frame approach to the solution.  An approach that includes structural, political, symbolic, and personal solutions.  This is easier said than done.  The effects of bullying and the emotional response to it are often translated through the very personal human resource frame.  Unfortunately, I am not sure the Secretary of Education operates in an environment that can truly view concerns from that frame.  Rather, we look to the Secretary of Education to provide the political leadership to secure the resources necessary to provide public education.

In this case, the tone of the message has obviously worked to stir up fear and concern in the minds of some educators.  Maybe the Secretary should be more prudent next time and send a message that models the type of environment he expects in schools – one of support and concern, rather than threatening. 

He is correct, it is hard to learn in an unsafe environment.  It is also very hard to teach in one also.    

OK, Bullying Is Bad...But I'm Still Mixed on ED's Fix - Rick Hess Straight Up - Education Week

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Private School Strategies for Success – Taking It Personally

In another segment addressing some strategies for success for private school teachers, I offer the following advice:
“Take It Personally.”
Many teachers invest themselves in their craft.  When their lessons work, they are humble.  When the lesson doesn’t quite work out, they are disappointed.  My current strategy goes beyond the reaction to a thoroughly planned lesson. 
Taking it personally also refers to investing time in getting to know your students well and valuing this knowledge of your students as part of your professional responsibility.
Taking it personally is also the reminder that every teacher in private school chose that school.  They were not assigned.  Therefore, the mission of the school must have struck a chord with the teacher.  Often, in the stress of school life, it is very helpful to take a moment to reflect on what attracted you to your current position and to figure out if that same desire to serve that school’s mission exists.

Institutional Growth During Tough Economic Times

Many schools, particularly private schools, are faced with balancing the need to develop/maintain programs while realizing the reality of tough economic conditions.  One possible option I have heard (from other schools) is to “freeze” growth plans, but is that a realistic option?

I am not sure it is possible for any school to “freeze” growth.  I say this because I differentiate between institutional growth and new initiatives.  While new ideas can be a part of growth, they do not necessarily define it.

There are many internal programs that can certainly be addressed with little impact on overall budget.  Specifics would be determined by individual school strategic plans and priorities.  To help identify them, ask yourself - “What types of internal/operational items have we been discussing for some time that seem to have trouble gaining traction?”  The answer may provide some clarity and an opportunity to continue your school’s growth while remaining sensitive to the difficulties of the current economy.

I liken this to a person committed to physical fitness, but who can no longer afford the health club membership.  There are options available to explore to maintain your fitness level, but also recognize the difficulty in paying for a membership.  Examples include using public parks, running outside, using alternative exercise routines in the home, etc.

It is often the tough times and how we respond to them that define us as individuals.  Our schools will also be judged on how they respond.  If committed, schools can continue to grow their programs – even if enrollment and revenue may be somewhat flat for a time.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Think You Know How To Study? Think Again : NPR

Very interesting and easy article to read about studying.  I am curious to know if the emergence of technology and social networking has contributed to some of these new and effective strategies.

Think You Know How To Study? Think Again : NPR

Private/Independent School Teachers: Strategies for Success #1

In a series of postings, I want to focus on strategies for success for teachers – particular attention is given to private/independent schools.

In no particular order, these strategies are gleamed from numerous teachers with whom I have worked, as well as my own personal experiences.  I encourage you to share your own thoughts about these strategies and feel free to suggest future topics.

Our first strategy:

“Be sensitive to the needs of the private school student.”

Simply explained, private schools are in the customer service business.  Parents will vote their satisfaction with their tuition dollars – which is needed for the school to exist.  This does not, however, mean that schools and teachers should make decisions that are contrary to the mission of the school.  Rather, the challenge is working with families on an individual level to educate them about the school’s mission and value while linking the needs of the student and family to that mission. 

In most situations, schools that are student centered and can articulate how the mission, as delivered through the classroom, addresses the student’s needs are very successful in retaining their families and creating positive and productive environments.  Obviously, such an approach requires a commitment to service leadership and the willingness to abandon one’s “ego” at times for the sake for the school’s mission.

Another way of looking at this strategy is to fully embrace the concept of preserving the dignity and respect for each student, regardless of one’s personal opinion.  This is also very difficult at times, especially when there is unreasonable resistance to the idea that the opinion of someone other than the teacher (like a parent for example) could possibly be the right opinion.  In that situation, vent to your administrator – but demonstrate the flexibility, thoughtfulness, temperance, and prudence required of a professional.

Remember, your school’s mission will define the non-negotiables – seek guidance from your administrator as needed. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Advice for Setting Goals

One piece of advice I try to offer to teachers and parents is to ask their students what their goals are for each class.  Often, students are caught off guard when this question is posed, and will respond with a typical “I don’t know.”  At this point, an important teachable moment emerges.

Setting goals is harder than it seems.  Telling a student to “set some goals” can often be the equivalent of asking them to fix a leaky faucet.  Without a clear set of understandable instructions, setting goals can become frustrating and counter-productive.

  The advice that I have always given is to make sure goals pass a 3-part test for students:

  1. Is the goal appropriate (in other words, is it ambitious enough to be considered an actual achievement)?
  2. Is the goal realistic (is it something the student can honestly achieve if he/she follows an appropriate plan of action)?
  3. Is the goal flexible (can the student adjust the goal to account for early achievements)?

These three simple guidelines for goal setting have been very helpful to me both personally and professionally.  They are applicable in almost any situation and, if followed, can be a source of great motivation and pride.

If you or someone you know can benefit from additional guidance on goal setting, please feel free to contact me at:

Friday, October 8, 2010

edWeb News – School Principals and Social Networking

I saw a blurb in the October 2010 issue of Tech&Learning that directs readers to the report “School Principals and Social Networking in Education:  Practices, Policies, and Realities in 2010.”  A link to the free report can be found by going to the page linked below.

There are a number of interesting findings for educational leaders.  One part that I found particularly interesting is that none of the responding principals felt their school or district policies are adequate for social networking.  On the other hand, about half of these principals felt social networking was very valuable in terms of potential to providing value in education.

What does this say about a perceived need for structural leadership in these schools?  Structural leaders, according to Bolman and Deal (Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership, 2003) “create rules, policies, procedures, and hierarchies to coordinate diverse activities into a unified strategy (p. 14).

See the link below to access a copy of the full report. 

edWeb News

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Schools Urged To Teach Youth Digital Citizenship : NPR

Like many educators, I am concerned about the ability of schools to keep up with the demands of our technological world.  Obviously, the nature of social interactions has changed permanently and our schools must recognize their role in promoting positive digital citizenship.

A few years back, I was hired to lead a new all-boys independent school.  We opened with grades PK-2nd.  In one of my first curricular decisions, I insisted on beginning a technology course of study in PK.  The core of this program was teaching digital responsibility.  There was some push back from a few parents who were not sure if their child should be exposed to a computer at all at the early grades, but I simply said that our students will be exposed to the internet and other technologies well ahead of when we were.  I asked whether these parents would rather their student learn about such things at a friends house under looser supervision or at school with a teacher in a safe environment.  After that, the program was widely accepted and it became a part of our core curriculum.

Schools may not be able to keep up with all the technological advances, but that is to a reason to ignore our responsibility to help develop good citizens – both in the real and virtual world.

Schools Urged To Teach Youth Digital Citizenship : NPR

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Educational Leadership:Interventions That Work:Cell Phones as Teaching Tools

Over the past few years, I have been amazed by the possibilities such technologies bring to the classroom.  I am particularly interested in how to cut costs on supplies for parents.

I am, however, sensitive to the arguments against expanding cell phone use in schools.  This is particularly true in schools whose missions are well defined and, therefore, the expansion of cell phone use has yet to find the correct marriage between function and mission appropriateness.

Either way, a good article for those interested.

Educational Leadership:Interventions That Work:Cell Phones as Teaching Tools

Monday, October 4, 2010

Leadership in Education: Michael Fullan Six Secrets

My first exposure to Michael Fullan’s work was in graduate school.  I read his book, Leadership in a Culture of Change and have referenced it ever since.

Excellent source for leaders of all types, especially educational leaders.

More Items for Reflection for Educational Leaders

Here are a few more reflection points for educational leaders.  Feel free to comment – even if you are not an educational leader, but also if you find yourself in any leadership position.  Simply apply to your own field.


We Need Noncoercive Lead-Management from the State Superintendent to the Teacher by William Glasser

  • “…teachers as well as administrators are burdened with a method of management that limits their ability to succeed…” (Pg. 28)
  • “Quality always leads to increased productivity.” (Pg. 30)
  • “There would be no coercion, and, therefore, no discipline problems, as they do not occur in a noncoercive atmosphere.” (Pg. 35)
  • “…when there is a dispute between the leader and the worker, the leader makes it clear to the worker that this is a problem they can solve together.” (Pg. 36)
  • “Therefore, the essence of good managing is caring and hard work.” (Pg. 37)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Adding Value and Meaning with Symbolism

In the course of our everyday lives, both at work and at home, we often forget to recognize and celebrate the value of the “ordinary” events and actions.  In schools, we assign value to many of these “ordinary” items by creating rituals and traditions designed to bring attention to the value of our daily experiences.

Rituals and traditions provide much needed symbolism.  The leader who is aware of the power of symbolic leadership opportunities is in the best position to recognize when new chances present themselves and, thus, works to establish new frontiers to explore and discover new avenues for value in the “ordinary.”

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Push vs. Pull – an interesting thought and insight into leadership

I saw the blog post attached below and it brought to mind another perspective on leadership that is worth mentioning.

Consider the following directions:

  1. “Go there!”
  2. “Follow me!”

Now, which of those seems more like leadership and which one sounds like bossing? 

Independent schools have an outstanding record of student achievement.  I would argue that one factor that contributes to this success is the leadership independent school headmasters provide.  In my own experience and research, most headmasters are “out front” urging their schools to “Follow me!”

Push versus Pull - Introit

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