Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The difference between building and earning trust

I recently wrote a post about trust.  After writing that post and reading the comments left by a few visitors, I began to think about the implications of “building” trust and “earning” trust.

Building Trust

From a comment left by reader, Dr. Douglas Green:

You build trust slowly, but you can lose it all at once. I like the metaphor of the brick wall that you build one brick at a time. The wall can be knocked down with one blow from a wrecking ball. The wrecking ball in the case of trust is most likely a lie or doing something you said you weren't going to do. You can add bricks by doing unexpected acts of kindness.

I like Dr. Green’s metaphor of building a brick wall.  Even if we recognize that walls are usually built to “keep people out” and trust is built to “encourage people tobuildingbrickwall come in”, the key element in the metaphor is not the WALL, but the BUILDING of the wall.  In my mind, the act of building has social implications.  Building is obvious, exposed, and visible.  The benefit of building something is, generally, based on external measures such as how well others accept and appreciate the item built.  Sure, one gets a great deal of individual satisfaction from putting something together, but public validation of your efforts is also important.

For example, I built this blog.  I get a great deal of satisfaction from writing these posts and sharing them.  Even if nobody reads my blog, I will still get satisfaction from doing this.  On the other hand, knowing that people are reading it and are taking something away from my thoughts adds to the satisfaction and enjoyment I get from sharing.  The public validation is encouraging and valued.

Building also implies a less obvious end-game.  Building can, theoretically, never end.  In thinking about trust, viewing it as a building process keeps one focused on maintaining the trust built as well as looking for new opportunities to strengthen your “trust foundation.”

Earning Trust

A slightly different image develops for me when I think about earning trust.  It implies that trust does not exist on the front end and requires individual effort.  In other words, earning trust is less a social activity and more individual.  Something earned is less obvious, unless you are given some token.

For example, I earn a living.  As a result, I get a paycheck and can pay bills (not much left after that).  Another example may be that your child plays on a baseball team.  That team wins the championship.  The team earns a trophy for their season; they didn’t build the trophy.  It was given to them for their work, but once given the “social contract” between the two parties concludes.  The game ends.  Wining more games is not necessary because the season is over.

Implications for school leaders

Trust is a vital element to your leadership effectiveness.  If you are observing a trust issue developing at your school, you may want to examine the issue from two angles:

  • Are we “building” trust?
  • Are we “earning” trust?

Your answer may provide an insight into how to move forward with leading your school.

Image source page: http://www.superstock.com/stock-photos-images/1566-429942

Monday, June 27, 2011

New school leadership role? Do these this summer.

hiring-first-employee-100712-02 If you are an administrator starting at a new school this coming fall, you may be wondering about how to prepare.  Here is one thing I did a few years ago (and still do).  You may find it helpful.

Meet with as many teachers of the new school as you can (or who are available) this summer.

  1. Invite them to talk about the school.
  2. LISTEN to them!
  3. Meet them individually.
  4. Meet them on-campus or off, whichever is more comfortable.
  5. Begin to learn their names, what they like about the school, what they would like to see changed, what you should not change under any circumstances, etc.

Meet as many parents of your new school as you can this summer.

  1. Invite them to campus.
  2. Have a few meetings in the morning, share a cup of coffee.
  3. LISTEN to them!
  4. Invite them for small group settings.  There are probably too many to meet one on one.
  5. Begin to learn their names, what they like about the school, what they would like to see changed, what you should not change under any circumstances, etc.

Benefits for you.

  1. You begin to hear the “story” of your new school.
  2. Their first impression of you is:  accessible, willing to listen, cares about my ideas and thoughts,
    not afraid to be “in the front” instead of managing from the office.
  3. Your plans and ideas can now mold themselves around real information beginning in the summer instead of waiting until mid-year.

Transitions, especially in leadership, can cause much anxiety and stress for those in a school (or any organization).  Taking the time to ease those fears and build your reserves of “leadership capital” (from which, I promise, you will need to make withdrawals) is a valuable use of your summer preparation time.

Image Source Page: http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/new-employee-hiring-personality-information-0406/

Sunday, June 26, 2011

How do you build trust?

Image Source Page: http://morsehill.com/ropes-courses/low-ropes/trust-fall
 How do you build trust?

This is an important question for all leaders.  Without trust, your vision cannot and will not be shared.  Your cause receives only the superficial support of those over whom you have power based on position.  The work of the school will likely be functional at best.  Certainly, it will not have any deeper meaning.

The result?

A school in which teachers cannot collaborate for fear of making mistakes, students who only care about "what's in it for them", and families who are unwilling to become active participants in the life of the school.

My answer to "How do you build trust?" 

Simple in words, often difficult in action...
  • Be honest
  • Be student-centered
  • Be mission based 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

"Satisfying Aesthetic, Emotional, and Spiritual Demands": A Whole New Mind Applications for Schools, Part 3

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the FutureIn the previous two parts of this series, I examined Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Willl Rule the Future and suggested how some of the concepts in the book apply to schools.  Those three concepts are:
  1. Work that cannot be done cheaper overseas
  2. Work that cannot be done faster by computers
  3. Work that satisfies the aesthetic, emotional, and spiritual demands of a prosperous time (p. 61)
In part three, I explore how schools satisfy the aesthetic, emotional, and spiritual demands of their communities.

What do we mean by the "aesthetic, emotional, and spiritual demands" of a school community?

To paraphrase Mr. Pink, schools can no longer only provide a reasonably priced (or free for public schools) education that adequately addresses their missions.  Schools need to also be 'beautiful, unique, and meaningful" (p. 33).  In other words, there must be value beyond the teaching and learning - and that value must be obvious.  I suggest that schools can work to address these new demands through:
  • Physical plant, classroom design, and sensory awareness
  • Maintaining a global perspective and network
  • Symbolic leadership
Physical Plant, Classroom Design, and Sensory Awareness

One of the more enchanting parts of my college years was the feeling I got just being on campus.  The design of the physical plant, condition of the grounds, landscaping, etc. all combined to make the experience very special.  More than a place to learn, I found Rhodes College to be a place to reflect, relax, and enjoy the company of other learners.

The condition of your campus and your classroom should tell both students and visitors that they are in a place where learning matters, but so does attention to detail and an appreciation for the awareness of the area around you.  Next time you are on a campus or in a classroom, take a moment to look at its design.  What does it tell you?  How do all your senses participate in the environment?  Is it a place you are eager to leave?  How easy is it for you to reflect and think?  Are there distractions built into the environment that you would try to eliminate?

Maintaining a Global Perspective and Network

The question of meaning is often explored within the context of our place in the world.  Making a difference, knowing that our talents are used to help others, and believing that our time was spent on causes greater than ourselves are all issues involved in investigating meaning.

Schools have a wonderful opportunity to support a global perspective and begin to help students understand their place in a world and with a generation of people that is arguably the most connected and networked in history.

Symbolic Leadership

I have written about symbolic leadership before as an aspect of framing situations.  Essentially, symbolic leadership is thinking in terms of adding meaning to events that, on the surface, are not very important.  For example, finishing Kindergarten is not necessarily the pinnacle of scholastic achievement but many schools have a Kindergarten "graduation" or "closing ceremony" to mark the moment in the student's life.  Focusing on ceremony and meaning is the foundation of framing situations symbolically.  For more information about multi-frame leadership orientations, I encourage you to check out the work of Dr. Lee Bolman.


This post is the last in a three part series suggesting some connections between what schools do and Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Willl Rule the Future.  More than places to learn, the functions of great schools go beyond the lessons outlined in the course catalogue to provide meaning, beauty, and empathy.  In a world that is increasingly in need of people who can see the big picture and create new opportunities, great schools provide a foundation for students to do work that:
  • cannot be done cheaper overseas
  • cannot be done faster by a computer
  • satisfies the aesthetic, emotional, and spiritual needs of a prosperous society
If you missed the other two parts of this series, please click here for part one and here for part two.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The School Leader: A Mini-Saga

In A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink, Mr. Pink suggest writing a mini-saga as an exercise in story telling.  For those who are unfamiliar with mini-sagas, they are very short stories with a beginning, middle, and end.  They are, I believe, also exactly 50 words long.

I have never written a mini-saga, but decided to give it a shot.

The School Leader
The incompetence of his instruction was matched only by his inept classroom management. Student-centered and mission-driven, he was committed to improve. He got better and wanted to share his passion with others. He now has an office and business cards. Now the learning is mutual. His message is, “Follow me!”

If you are looking for a way to work on your story telling skills, I recommend this exercise.  It was a great way to help find efficient language as well as being plain old fun.

Thanks for reading!

What Computers Can't Do Faster: A Whole New Mind - Applications for Schools, Part 2

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the FutureIn part 1 of this series, I explored the notion of doing work that "can't be done overseas."  Inspired by Daniel Pink's, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, that first post spoke of the need for schools to remain financially responsible and resilient.  By practicing prudent financial management, respecting time, efficient use of human resources, and nurturing alternative revenue streams, the costs of operating schools becomes more acceptable, thus making your school a more realistic option for potential families.

In part 2,  let's take a look at how schools can not just maintain but increase their impact on the lives of students by "doing work that computers cannot do faster."

There are two key aspects to this idea for schools that I want to discuss.
  1. Identify the work that the school does (or the value provided) that cannot be provided by a computer.
  2. Effectively putting computers to work in schools.
Identify the work that the school does (or the value provided) that cannot be provided by a computer

An essential question that I find helpful is, "What is the human element of education and how do we maximize that part?"  This is a tough question because for quite some time the human element included (to a larger degree) content expertise and knowledge.  Today, things have changed largely due to computers - content is available 24/7/365 over the Internet.  This fact alone has forced educators to examine what the role of a modern teacher needs to become.

I am reminded of something a professor said in my first education course:
When you feel as if you do not have as firm a grasp on the content as you want, remember that you still know more about it than the students.
Sadly, that advice is no longer applicable.  Good teachers, and therefore good schools, must be better at "doing the work" that computers cannot do.  This work includes synthesizing various information to create options unseen by pure analysis, empathizing with students and families, and celebrate successes.  This developing paradigm for schools certainly does not ignore the value of content experts or strong analytical thinkers.  What is does demand is a greater emphasis on balancing these different approaches.  Schools are better of having scientists teach science.  I am not implying that anyone can teach anything because the content is available.  What I am suggesting is that those same content minded teachers need to also provide the "human element" to their classes in an obvious way.

In other words, teachers who teach STUDENTS first rather than SUBJECT first are usually in a better position to do the work that computers cannot do. 

Effectively putting computers to work in schools

Currently, I believe that technology's place in education is basically a tool that helps students and teachers with a list of "...tions" which I suggest are key components to the essential process of learning in the modern world.
  • Motivation
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Production
  • Investigation
  • Information
If we are going to put the cart (technology) behind the horse (learning), then any initiative involving computers needs to address the items on this list.  Effective use of computers in schools is simply identifying the effective (and essential) processes involved in school and applying the technology to those processes.  Make the computer work for you, not the other way around.

In conclusion

Computers are great tools for enhancing the educational experience.  The availability of information, ease of communication, ability to make connections, and speed of analysis are unmatched.  Schools that have relied on being the keepers of secret knowledge are finding (or have probably already found) that role is no longer sufficient.

Providing an educational experience that is also focused on the work computers cannot do, the human element, is more important today than ever before.  Employing computers to work for us to support motivation, collaboration, communication, production, investigation, and information is a key piece to your school remaining relevant in a technology enhanced world.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Whole New Mind - Applications for Schools, Part One

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the FutureIn A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, Daniel Pink speaks of the necessity of work that:
  1. Cannot be done cheaper overseas
  2. Computers cannot do faster
  3. Satisfies the "aesthetic, emotional, and spiritual demands of a prosperous time" (p. 61).
I have been thinking about how this applies to schools. Specifically, I am thinking about how these three points apply to private school enrollment and operations.

This post explores statement one:

Work that cannot be done cheaper overseas

While most schools are not directly competing with an overseas market for students, whenever potential families have choices about how to use their dollars, there is competition for those dollars.

In the most basic sense, tuition charging schools need to decide to position themselves in the market that they choose to enter for students.  The three I refer to most often are:
  1. High tuition: best product, highest quality
  2. Great value: less expensive, but getting a great deal for your dollar
  3. Specialized program: serve a VERY specific niche group and charges an acceptable tuition for such specialized attention (an example may be a school specifically for students with certain learning challenges)
Tuition revenue makes up the highest percentage of the operating budget, so striking the correct balance between what your community can support and the amount that covers most of your budget is essential.  "Cheaper" may not be an option if it is financially irresponsible.  So, what can schools do?

One way to apply this statement to schools is to examine cheaper in terms of expenses other than liquid capital.  What other resources do schools "spend" for operations?  Are there any efficiencies to be found?

Human resources

Taking a look at how the school is staffed may shed light on possible efficiencies or shortages.  Are too many people assigned to some areas and not enough to others?  Are there possibilities for re-assignment of some people?  Would additional training add to the flexibility/diversity of your staff?

Ultimately, the well-trained professionals in your school are your most valuable assets.  There needs to be enough of them to deliver the desired school experience.  If you are lacking the human resources to deliver, either get more or be prepared to adjust your expectations about the experience. 


Time.  It always seems in short supply.  There are only so many hours in a day, so it is important that time is spent well.  From time to time, examine your calendar.  Is your time being spent among those you are most directly responsible for supporting?  Is there a disproportionate amount of time used by initiatives better delegated to others?  Time is among the most precious resources a school has to use.  Use it well. 

Alternative revenue streams

Outside of tuition, other revenue streams need examination.  The more a school can rely on other sources of revenue, the less dependent it needs to be on tuition.  That may help keep your tuition costs competitive and manageable.  Examples of sources include annual giving, endowments, restricted and unrestricted gifts, special events (such as auctions, school fairs, etc.), and planned giving.

Efforts to maximize these sources need to focus on more than just the bottom line/total amount collected.  While that figure is important, it often does not tell the entire story of your school's effectiveness.  Other important items include a per family/household amount given, volunteer appreciation and support, and points of entry.

By points of entry, I am referring to how often people other than students and faculty/staff are exposed to the life of the school.  This includes after school events, special events, newsletters, alumni magazines, and other similar communications.

In addition, using technology to maintain close contact is becoming more and more essential.  Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, effective web sites, etc. are critical pieces to your development plan - if no other reason than to nurture your network of connected community members. 


While maintaining an awareness of hidden efficiencies may be important, keeping the costs of running a school manageable is a challenge most private schools need to meet.  Lowering costs is usually not a significant option, especially when your greatest expense (the salaries and benefits your employees make) is only going to increase.

Remaining sensitive to the needs of your program, teachers, students and families, and to the scarcity of time may help bring hidden opportunities into the light of day.  Once identified, such opportunities should be acted upon and celebrated.

Finally, the financial realities of operating a school are important.  In addition to prudent tuition management, alternative revenue sources are key to remaining a financially viable.  Keeping costs in an acceptable range for your community also helps keep retention numbers high and makes your school attractive to a larger, mission-appropriate population.

School leaders focus their efforts on doing the "expensive" work so that the "costs" associated with being a member of the school community is acceptable, if not attractive.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Success is hard: The realization that love is not enough

fathers_day I’m sitting at my breakfast room table on Father’s Day morning and thinking about how easy it is to love my children, yet how hard it is to be a parent.  Love alone is not enough.  If it was, then the parenting part would be easier.  The love may keep us from losing our minds and provide the necessary foundation for good parenting, but love alone is not sufficient.

How does this relate to education?

Loving our students is not enough.  Caring about them is not enough.  Wanting the best for them is not enough.

Sure the love, care, and hope are all critical as a foundation for success, but they require additional pieces to make a true difference.

Here is a list of additional qualities that help complete the profile of an effective educator (and parent).  Feel free to add to the list.

  • Patience
  • Skill
  • Good communication (clear and disciplined)
  • Accept that you need to let students “fall” a few times as part of the learning process
  • Organized
  • High standards, reasonable expectations, unwavering support
  • You’re not incompetent is you ask for directions
  • Actively engage with students
  • Never let students leave feeling that you do not care
  • Take time to play as well as work
  • Get comfortable with the idea that you are the only one who will ever take out the garbage (Ok, maybe that one is for dads only!) :)

And to all the dads out there, Happy Father’s Day!

Image Source Page: http://blog.couponcactus.com/fathers-day/5-ideas-for-an-awesome-father%E2%80%99s-day/

Friday, June 17, 2011

Upholding a Student-Centered Culture - The Prezi!

Here is a Prezi based on one of my most popular posts.



Thursday, June 16, 2011

Find your fixed point

Wilderness2 If lost in the wilderness, people without a sense of direction will eventually walk in circles.  Therefore, it is important to find a fixed point somewhere on the horizon upon which to maintain your movement in a certain direction.

Schools can be challenging environments in which the demands of the day (or even the hour) can disorient a teacher or administrator from achieving necessary progress on important strategic issues.  This is not to say that being flexible enough to assist with unexpected issues is not important.  Such flexibility is important for school leaders.  What I am suggesting is that it is equally important to have some mechanism to “maintain your direction.”  You need to find your fixed point on the horizon.  Otherwise, you may begin circling back over issues long since covered and no longer in need of attention.

Do you have any tips for finding your fixed point?  How do you keep a big picture/strategic outlook while addressing the daily operations of your school? 

Image Source Page: http://www.personal.psu.edu/tjt5058/

The Growth Mindset Is Not Just For Students

I have written before about the value of establishing and supporting a growth mindset in and towards students.  As school leaders, do we also work to establish a growth mindset in and towards our teachers?

Some school leaders may be hesitant to approach growth oriented feedback with teachers.  The temptation to focus on fixed results (test scores, duties performed, clubs sponsored, etc.) is powerful and is not entirely without some merit.  Using some markers to suggest areas for growth, such as fixed results, can lead to a clearer, more effective growth plan.

Talking about professional growth and making that mindset the foundation of most conversations makes people vulnerable.  Weaknesses are exposed.  Walls are torn down.  This can make some people uncomfortable.

It can be just as uncomfortable for students to engage in growth oriented conversations.  Therefore, strategies that help students focus on growth may also help teachers.

Here are a few.
  • Establish trust.  No trust, no chance of genuine conversation.  Be supportive and deliver on your promises.
  • Share your growth plan with the teachers.  Involve them as key parts to your growth feedback loop.
  • Set appropriate goals that address effort, preparation, attitude, and approach.
  • Use fixed markers as data points to track your progress.  For example, "What does the fact that more students are engaged in class say about your efforts to try a new instructional method?"
  • Observe what great teachers are doing AWAY from class as well as IN class.  How do they prepare?  What effort goes into designing a great class?
  • Focus on formative evaluations as part of an on-going development strategy.  Use summative evaluations to speak about overall performance and contribution (or detraction) from the "team."
Do you have any other suggestions for developing a growth mindset culture with teachers?  If so, please leave a comment here or email me.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A question of authority

Many of us may have had a conversation like this before:

You are talking to a department chair (or another appointed manager/leader) who asks you about how to “get my teachers to do what I tell them to do.”  The chair’s issue is that once she tells certain people what needs to happen, they usually just go about their day as if the request was not made.  She asks, “What authority do I have, as chair, to make them do what I want them to do?”

If I am trusted to do a job, I want the power given to me and then I will be held accountable for it.  But give me the chance to make or mar that job myself.

- Theodore Roosevelt

I believe this quote holds many answers to the question posed by the department chair in the example above.  Let’s look at the issue from multiple angles: the teacher being asked to perform a function by the chair, the chair herself, and you, the school leader being addressed by the chair.

The Teacher

For the most part, I find teachers to be quite willing and able to perform various functions.  When situations like the one in our example arise it is usually the result of one or more of the following.

  • You asked the teacher to do something that he doesn’t feel he has the resources to do well.  Have you also given him the time, budget, support, etc. he needs to succeed?  If not, do so.  Will he require extra or specialized training?  Has that been arranged?
  • You are asking the teacher to do something that you do not want to do.  Teachers are usually quite perceptive.  If you are assigning a task or duty because you don’t want to do it, you will get very little buy-in and a superficial effort at best.  If what you are asking is something you are not willing to do, then rethink whether asking someone else is a good idea.
  • The teacher needs time to adjust to this change.  If the request involves a significant change in approach or responsibilities, the change process needs managing.  Have you established specifically what the change is, why is needs to happen, and how YOU will support the teacher’s efforts to make this change?  If you answered , “no” to any of those questions, go back and start again. 

The Chair

Looking at the issue form the department chair’s point of view, a few challenges are immediately identified.

  • Chair’s are also teaching (usually flu class loads to very close to a full schedule).  Finding the time to spend on leading the department can be difficult.
  • Since time is scarce, it is easier for teachers to just say, “yes” when asked to do something rather than have to invest time and energy into an issue.
  • There is usually pressure (either real or perceived) to move an initiative along.  Thus, the chair finds herself in the difficult spot of needing to get results while attending to her instructional responsibilities.
  • The chair should remember that authority lies in many areas, not just in personnel matters.  Authority can result from position, but is more genuine when earned by example, expertise, and enthusiasm.
  • “Enchant” your teacher to the cause you are promoting.  Be likable and trustworthy.  Let him know you are there to help and share the responsibility. 

The School Leader

The school leader, usually an administrator, needs to play a supportive role in helping the chair accomplish the department’s goals.  If a meeting with the teacher is necessary, then have it.  The leader can also explore the issue from different perspectives than the chair.

  • Was the request by the chair consistent with school-wide expectations?
  • Is there an implied or obvious conflict of interests placed on the teacher?
  • Has the leader provided enough support of departmental initiatives in the past to help emphasize the new expectations?
  • Support the chair by removing unnecessary impediments such as cumbersome polices and procedures.

Authority or Leadership?

When trying to move people from point A to point B, I see that as a leadership issue more than an authority issue.  Leadership says, “follow me.”  Authority speaks to, “go there.”  People in a free and democratic society usually resist authority, but respect and appreciate leadership. 

Is the issue that you do not have the “authority” to make the change, or do you lack some leadership skills to lead the change?

Final Thoughts

In schools, most good teachers will do almost anything asked of them if they can make a clear and direct connection to how that request will benefit their students first and themselves (professionally) next.  When requests are met with non-compliance, it is natural to think about how to use one’s authority to make things happen.  In reality, there may be a question of motivation, trust, or philosophy that is causing the static to occur.

Clearly articulated requests and expectations that address the needs of students while accomplishing larger strategic goals are in a good position to be accepted.  Once accepted, provide support and celebrate your successes along the way. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Art of Education is now included at Alltop.com

After reading Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions by Guy Kawasaki, I decided to take a look at Alltop.com.

From their site:
The purpose of Alltop is to help you answer the question, “What’s happening?” in “all the topics” that interest you. You may wonder how Alltop is different from a search engine. A search engine is good to answer a question like, “How many people live in China?” However, it has a much harder time answering the question, “What’s happening in China?” That’s the kind of question that we answer.

You may notice the Alltop.com widgets on this blog and even the badge I now display.  You can now find this blog, The Art of Education, as well as many other great sources on Alltop.com's Education page.

If you are looking for a good place for searching topic specific information, give Alltop.com a look.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Chief Storytelling Officer: Benefits for the school leader

storytelling-full One of the school leader’s most important role is what I call being the CSO – Chief Storytelling Officer – for the school.  I have written before about telling good stories well, I neglected to include why storytelling is a vital skill for the leader.

School Culture and Tradition

Sure, your school may have an archive and the library may have an entire collection of past yearbooks, but being able to “tell the tale” of how your school has evolved into the paragon of virtue and scholarship is a key part of your school culture and tradition.  Here’s a hint – find the teachers or staff members who have been around “forever” and LISTEN TO THEM!  There are great nuggets of wisdom in their stories.  You will be surprised to learn what they maintenance worker, cafeteria assistant, bus driver, or 7th grade history teacher remembers about how the school operated in 1989.

Recruiting and Retention

Telling the story of your school is a powerful piece to any recruiting or retention plan.  This applies to any type of recruiting and retention effort – faculty, staff, or students.  Powerful stories about your successes and your students’ successes are among the most important and effective parts to recruiting and retention plans.  As proof, have you ever read a book, watched a movie/TV show, or visited a website that you really liked and found enlightening?  Probably so.  After, did you check out another book from that author?  Watch another movie from that director/actor?  Set the DVR for the next TV episode?  Bookmarked the website?  Also likely.  Good stories keep people coming back and help attract new people to you.

Fund Raising and Development

Of all the areas school leaders are involved in, this one is often among the ones the leader has the least amount of experience.  This is because most school leaders are former teachers, not professional fund raisers.  Funds and volunteers are more eager and generous when they feel they are making a genuine impact for the betterment of a cause that is seen as most worthy of their time, money, and energy.  School leaders who can tell the school’s story – or more importantly a story of how the students benefit from similar generosity – make a significant impact on the success of fund raising and development efforts.  Investments follow value, but the school leader is critical in communicating that value to the larger community.


Finally, and maybe most obviously, school leaders who tell the story of their school well are INTERESTING!  School leaders often need to speak publically.  They use their school’s stories in those addresses.  Be interesting, avoid putting you audience to sleep.


Image Source Page: http://noteandpoint.com/2010/11/storytelling-101/

Saturday, June 11, 2011

So, you have any idea. Now, how to get administrative support?

Here is a nice  response to my recent post, Innovative teachers: Revolutionaries or rebels?
I enjoyed this post, my Admn. trusts me and allows me to do almost anything I ask (in the name of education). I take many risks because I know she will allow me to do it. Unfortunately I am one of the only ones in my building taking the risks....
This response, as well as a recent #isedchat Twitter session (Thursday evenings at 9 pm EST), got me thinking.
Why do some administrators not "allow" innovation to exist? 
What strategies can teachers use to "enchant" support for innovative ideas from their administrators?
Before I begin, let me offer a strong recommendation for the following books.  If you are interested in this topic and are looking for a stimulating and passionate read, please check out Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions by Guy Kawasaki, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? bySeth Godin, Poke the Box by Seth Godin, and Do the Work by Steven Pressfield.

Why do some administrators not "allow" innovation to exist?

There are two reasons why I think some administrators would discourage innovation.  One may be that the administrator is not a naturally innovative thinker.  The other may be attributed to the fear of failure and how that applies to the responsibilities of the administrator.

A lack of innovative thinking is not uncommon.  As a matter of opinion, innovative thinkers are rare and often in demand.  The good news is that she may be more innovative than you think and simply needs to rediscover that part of her.  Try to listen to her objections carefully and ask clarifying questions.

Another reason is connected to the administrator's responsibilities.  I have written quite a few times that the school leader can delegate authority, but cannot delegate responsibility.  When the day is done, the final outcome rests mostly on the leader's shoulders.  Fear of failure is a huge reason why innovative ideas are not eagerly supported.

I also expect that, if faced with the opinion that they are discouraging innovation, they would disagree.  People are not born to be less creative or innovative, they become that way over time.  Because the change can take years, it is rarely noticed by the person.  Much like I can only tell that I have aged after looking at pictures from years ago, a less innovative administrator may need to find a barometer (or project) against which the creative spirit can be measured.

What strategies can teachers use to "enchant" support for innovative ideas from their administrators?

Good leaders expect, essentially, one thing - for you to deliver a successful product that produces the desired results.  If you want to get on the administrator's "good side" begin by looking at your recent history of delivering results.

Do you meet deadlines?  Are you often late to school?  Are you aware of what is going on or do you ignore memos and emails?  Have you said you would do something recently only to not deliver on that claim?  Can you be trusted?  Are you dependable?  Do you make excuses or are you responsible?  Are you a team player?

When teachers present ideas to administrators, believe me when I say that almost all of those questions (or other similar to those) are answered inside the leader's head.  Here is an inside tip, so pay close attention.

Leaders want you to have ideas and be innovative in class.

The problem is that administrators have limited resources to spend (either money, time, energy, etc.) on ideas.  If you have a trust/dependability/responsibility problem, you are going to have a tough time convincing any administrator that your idea deserves attention.

If you want support, be the responsible professional who consistently delivers results. 

Concluding thoughts for school leaders
There is a saying that I refer to in my work that was shared with me by a friend and mentor.

You lead it or it will lead you.

I believe this is an important part of being a school leader, but the art of leading is in properly defining what "it" is.  When it comes to innovation and creative thinking, we should not confuse tradition for a lack of innovation.  As a matter of fact, excellent schools are places where part of the tradition is in finding innovative ways to continue to uphold the high expectations developed over time.

I like to define innovation as "ideas in action."  The collective wisdom of your teaching faculty is one of the most valuable resources at your school.  Put that resource to work by supporting good ideas.  Lead the effort to be innovative or the drive for innovation will lead you. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Quick communication tips for teachers and administrators

children's can phone In many ways, education is essentially an on-going conversation.  Therefore, effective communication is often a staple of good teaching and learning.  Unfortunately, this skill does not com easy for some of us.  It takes practice, the desire to learn from each conversation/lesson, and the willingness to apply what you learn to your next interaction.

It is also important to remember that communication is both verbal and non-verbal.  What you do is often more powerful than what you say. 

For example, Teacher ‘X’ tells a student that she would like to help him, but she cannot because he didn’t sign up for the help session in advance.  The student notices that there is plenty of room for him, but is denied the session anyway.  The result – even though the teacher said she wanted to help, the decision to value the sign up procedure over the student’s initiative to seek help sends the message that the student is not worthy of consideration over a seemingly benign procedural issue.

Navigating the complex path to clear communication can be difficult.  Here are a few tips for staying on course.

  1. In schools, unless you are dealing with an non-negotiable issue (drug use on campus, fighting, etc.) put the needs of the student before your desire to follow procedure.  Policies worth having are designed to put students first anyway!
  2. Communication is less a two-way street than it is a multi-lane highway.  Make sure as many necessary parties are involved as possible.  Avoid inadvertently excluding those who need to contribute.
  3. Take time at the start to make sure the reason for the communication or conversation is clear and understood by all involved.
  4. Listen, clarify, summarize, work to understand.
  5. It is acceptable to not have all the answers right away.  Ask for time if needed.
  6. When you respond, speak about what you CAN and WILL do.  Avoid speaking about what you CAN’T or WON’T do.
  7. Summarize at the end where the conversation stands.  What was accomplished?  What are the next steps (if any)?  What follow up is expected?

Here is are some bonus tips for email:

  1. Answer them promptly!  This usually translates into within 24 hours of receiving them.
  2. If you cannot fully address an email at within the acceptable response time (see #1), then send a response stating that you have received the message, the message is important to you, and you will be back in touch within 24-48 hours with a response.
  3. Email conversations that involve more than 3 responses likely need a phone call or a face-to-face meeting.
  4. Shorter emails that respect everyone’s time and are to the point are better than long-winded essays about the virtues of every decision.  If you need a forum to be more verbose, call a meeting or hold a conference.

Do you have any communication tips?  If so, feel free to leave a comment, email me, or contribute to the Communication Tips for Educators Google Doc.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Innovative teachers: Revolutionaries or rebels?

Americanrevolution I had a conversation with a friend recently in which the subject of rebellions vs. revolutions came up.  Looking back on the conversation, I cannot remember how it came up, but it did.  What I do remember is saying something to the effect of the difference between a rebellion and a revolution is:

  • Rebellions are something to be put down and are historically viewed as being defeated.
  • Revolutions, on the other hand, are historically viewed as successful and positive movements.

Both are the result of mobilizing and unifying passionate followers to take action on a radical, new, or innovative idea. 

One is successful.  One is not. 

If given the choice, be a revolutionary – not a rebel.

In schools, we say we want creative and innovative thinkers coming up with ideas about how to educate students better.  When teachers come forward with ideas, do we as school leaders view them as rebels or revolutionaries?  Are the ideas presented in a way that motivates you or invites you to be a part of it?  Does the teacher expect you to assume all the risks involved?

These are important questions.

As school leaders, our focus should be less on resistance and more on support.  Many ideas are valuable, but need some thrashing around before they reach their true forms.  School leaders are in a great position to support ideas and serve as barometers for those who may not see all the potential benefits of their ideas.

Act as supporters and we may be a part of a revolutionary movement.

Default to resistance and create a rebellion from within your faculty.

Which would you prefer?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My Idea Grows: A Follow up to “I have an idea”

Wfilmfest_Magnificent7_00I like Westerns.  One of my favorite scenes from The Magnificent Seven is when Chris (Yul Brynner) is recruiting men for his group to protect the village.  The first “recruit” was Vin (Steve McQueen).  

While sharing a drink in a saloon, Vin asks Chris how many men he has lined up to take on this seemingly impossible task.  When Chris indicates one (raises one finger), Vin takes a deep breath and holds up two.



There has been plenty of interest in the idea I wrote about in my recent post, “I have an idea.”

In response to this interest, I want to share an expanded version of the idea.  This expansion is more detailed, but still calls for collaboration and feedback.

Click the logo to access the Google Doc outlining additional thoughts and details.

ASISE logo4

I have also created a collaborative working document with the purpose of collecting your thoughts, ideas, questions, etc.

After reviewing the information and/or contributing to the working document, please feel free to let me know what you think.

Many thanks!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

I have an idea

For quite some time, I have been working on an idea.  I have been calling it, for lack of a better name, The American Society of Independent School Educators (ASISE).

ASISE logo4

The Idea

The idea is to create a society designed to bring together the collective wisdom of independent school educators (and others who share a set of basic principles  about education) in an effort to improve education for all students.  The resulting effect being the advancement of independent school education through the work of the school’s most valuable assets - the people who deliver the school’s programs and are responsible for the school’s operations.

While many current groups are designed to support independent school educators through relationships with member schools (i.e. state and/or regional accrediting associations), my idea is a society designed to support independent schools through the networking and development of independent school educators.  To strengthen schools by strengthening educators.

The basic principles from which I have worked on this idea are:

  • A community whose foundation is built upon honesty and trust.
  • It values the diversity that accompanies an inclusive network of professionals.
  • Its members are mission-driven, student-focused, and growth-oriented.
  • Members conduct themselves in a manner that values excellence through effort, building relationships, and making a positive impact on the field of education.

As a society committed to the advancement of independent school educators, it would adhere to and promote the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Principles of Good Practice among its members.

My vision for the work done through this society includes:

  • Facilitating mentoring relationships among members
  • Providing a platform for independent school educators to network
  • Coordinating on-site and/or virtual professional development opportunities
  • Encouraging, guiding, and publishing action research performed by ASISE members
  • Having an active presence at relevant educational conferences
  • Hosting our own conferences, “unconferences”, “edcamps”, and meet-ups

Now What?

I have worked out a few additional details, but I am at the point where I want to get some feedback from other educators.  I am also looking for people who may be interested in helping me thrash this idea around some and move it towards delivery.

I believe that an organized society of independent school educators whose mission is the support and development of fellow educators has great potential to make a positive impact on the work done by their schools.  If you are interested in this idea and would like to discuss it in more detail, you can fill out this simple form, email me: troy.roddy.phd@gmail.com or leave a comment on this post.

All feedback is welcomed, so please be as critical or complimentary as you like.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Honor in education: More than just scholastic achievement

Many schools have Honor Rolls for students who achieve a certain grade average.

Philosophically, I do not have any problems recognizing students for their achievements, but I do think about the term “honor” and how it is used in that context.

Recently, I participated in National Junior Honor Society induction ceremony for a group of middle school students.  As part of that ceremony, I was asked to make a few comments.  In preparing to do so, I drew some inspiration from our 30th President, Calvin Coolidge, who saidCalvin_Coolidge

“No person was ever honored for what he received.  Honor has been the reward for what he gave.”

This quote really got me to think about the role honor plays (or is ignored) in schools.

Undoubtedly, there are numerous teachers, students, parents, and administrators who have spent this past school year giving of themselves for no other reason than to make someone else’s day better.  As a matter of fact, I often ask students two basic questions:

  1. What have you done today to make yourself a better student?
  2. What have you done today to make someone else better?

Question one focuses the student on their own independence in learning.  Question two is designed to remind the student that they are also part of a community of learners who need each other in order to grow.  It is question two that separates the good students from the great ones.

The same can be said of teachers and administrators.

  1. What have you done this year to make yourself a better educator?
  2. What have you done to help someone else become a better educator?

In the middle of rewarding those who deserve recognition for their achievements, let us not forget to honor those for what they gave.

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