Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Simple and Effective: My grocery shopping story and leading schools

The story you are about to read is true.  I know it is true because, well frankly, it is about me.  It takes place in the grocery store about 7-8 years ago, BC (Before Children).  My wife and I were doing our weekly shopping.  As we walked through the produce section, she noticed that cucumbers were on sale.  She asked me to pick a few out and put them in our basket.

Now before you fall asleep, let me say that my grocery shopping “jobs” are very specific.  Push basket, get items I am asked to get, and make sure we do not leave anything off the grocery list.  This last “job” is the key to the story.  I am responsible for the list.  As such, I am given the privilege of handling a pen or pencil to cross items off the list.  Again, I am in charge of the list.  This is key!

You see, cucumbers were NOT on our list.  For many people, this would be no big deal, but I guess I have some type of personality quirk.  As keeper of the list, I need to make sure that all items are present and accounted for.  If it isn't on the list, I cannot account for it.  Now, you see my dilemma – right?!

Ok, so I’m a little peculiar about my list, but I NEVER had an item left behind – and I wasn’t about to do so this time.  I needed a plan to adjust for this new twist in our shopping, but without distracting me from my “job” of managing the list.  So I did the only thing I could think of.  I simply added cucumbers to the list and promptly crossed them off.

Job done.  Disaster averted.  Relationship still in tact!

So, why do I share this story?  Well, I was thinking today about the complexity we often assign to challenges in schools that, when and if we thought for a moment, are not all that difficult to resolve.  Instead of just going with a proven, simple, and effective solution, we sometimes get caught up in the moment and look to be the most creative problem solver.

As educational leaders, we are always under tremendous pressure.  This can cause us to be unclear in our thinking.  One way I have tried to “clear the fog” is to remind myself to remain student-centered and mission focused.  Every potential challenge is not necessarily a reason to dig deep into your cache of solutions.

Often, simple and effective are more important.

Now if you will excuse me, I have a grocery list to prepare.  I wonder if cucumbers are on sale? 

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