Friday, January 27, 2012

TGIF: The Grade Is Final (but the learning continues)

All of us enjoy the feeling of having reached a concrete fixed goal.  It provides a sense of accomplishment and, often, a welcomed boost of energy after an arduous task.  Having worked hard, it is nice to take some time to recharge.  If you are fortunate enough to receive recognition or rewards, that is fine too.

Unfortunately, you will wake up soon after and realize that its time to either move on to your next accomplishment or continue working on your current projects.

Students work hard, study, ask questions, and perform tasks or projects to demonstrate understanding (usually in the form of tests).  Based on that work, teachers evaluate their work and (in most cases) assign a grade.  That grade is either good, bad, or average.  Based on the grade, students (and parents) react (happy, sad, disappointed, angry, elated, etc.).

The grade, like the reward or recognition, takes center stage for awhile.  Until, soon after, the student realizes that on Monday morning they will be back in the class, working on the next lesson, and having a chance to learn again.

Grades are the focus of the fixed mindset, effort and true learning is about growth.  Both have their place in setting goals, but it is the learning that continues throughout life.  Remember, the term is "life-long learner" not "life-long Honors student."

Again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting good grades and working hard to achieve them, but after a long week of school most students look forward to TGIF.

We should also remember that the learning continues.

Thank you for reading this post.  As with all my posts this month, I ask you to consider joining me to help support a worthy cause - St. Jude's Research Hospital.  Between now and the end of January, 2012, I will donate $1 US for every copy of either of my two eBooks purchased.  You can find additional information about this offer by clicking here.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Educators as School Marketers: Exploring the Potential Disconnection

Given the need for independent schools to attract and retain qualified students and families, it should come as no surprise that the last few years have likely prompted many conversations in which teachers have been asked to be more sensitive to and proactive in the marketing of their school to current and prospective families.  Unfortunately, many teachers are quite confused by such requests and simply fall back on “doing what I always do” in hopes that such actions fulfill the request.  Such reactions highlight a disconnection between the teacher’s role as instructor and the need to assume a more conscientious role of marketer.

I don’t blame teachers for feeling confused.  After all, I doubt many of them had any formal marketing training as part of their teacher preparation.  Certainly a course in school and community relations may be helpful, but as a marketer?

Probably not.

As an administrator at an independent school that has asked its teachers to be more conscientious of their marketing role, I have spent the past few years reflecting on this issue.  My reflections generally revolve around a few questions.

Why might teachers feel a disconnection between the role of classroom instructor and school promoter?

Is there a way to make the connection between classroom instructor and school promoter that makes logical sense to the teacher?

If not, why not?  If so, what strategies can a teacher use to make that connection?

This post shares my thoughts on these questions.

I believe that the reason some teachers feel a disconnection between the role of classroom instructor and school promoter (or marketer, evangelist, etc.) is a matter involving the evolution of what an educator is today.  Today’s educator is trying to operate effectively in a period which will likely be identified by the access to choice, desire for change, and ease of networking.  It is an era that continues to force us to reflect upon and leverage the power of relationships and communication.  Thus, what society now sees as successful, necessary, and desired is undergoing a change.  Most noticeably, this change involves a growing desire for deep and meaningful experiences and interactions which produce a desired sense of distinction and specialness.  I suggest this is a result of almost unlimited choice which demands that consumers reflect much more on, “Why?” one option is more attractive than another.  Herein lies the basic problem.  Before people had access to so many options, “Why?” was not nearly as important as answering, “What?”.  You needed a new shirt, you went to the mall and bought one from the stock available.  Now, you can get a new tie from any tie maker in the world over the Internet.  In order to choose one from another, “Why?” becomes a much greater factor.  

What does this have to do with educators?  

Well, for as long as any living educator can remember, teachers have worked (and have been taught) in a model of education that does not sync well with the growing market for distinction, the market that needs a clearer answer to, “Why?”.  It is a mode of operation that follows a set way of thinking about, preparing for, and delivering one’s class.  I will refer to this model as the factory model and its related mode of thinking as the factory mode. Therefore, this model of education, and the related mode of thinking that accompanies it, has become part of the professional genetic code of educators.  It is part of the educator’s DNA.  This mode of thinking, while useful in clarifying, “What?”, but falls short of clearly answering, “Why?”.

The factory model leaves little room for, and certainly doesn’t place much value in, expanding the nature of a class  beyond the curriculum - no matter how artfully it is delivered.  The teacher’s role in factory mode is limited, teach your course and make sure students are ready for the next course.  There is nothing inherently wrong with that role.  As matter of fact, effectively delivering content is an essential part of teaching.  However, when we ask teachers to expand the nature of an effective class, we then move from content and curriculum to experience and relationships, two areas the factory model cannot and does not address.  There needs to be a heightened awareness of the other pieces of the educator’s DNA to provide the balance and approach to delivering a great class that includes relationships and deep, meaningful experiences.  In other words, the environment created by deep and meaningful experiences helps students and parents answer the question, “Why do I choose this school?”.

These suggestions may seem easy to understand.  I would agree that they are easy to understand, but often circumstances make them hard to employ.  Especially when circumstances prompt a strong response from the factory mode that is deeply embedded in the educator’s DNA.

When things are going well, we naturally are inclined to avoid disruption.  The message most teachers hear is “keep doing a great job in class” or “keep up the good work” which, as open to interpretation as it may seem, for many teachers translates as “keep being a good factory worker.”  

However, in recent years the economic reality many schools face has caused them to rethink operations and work like never before to retain and attract families.  These have been years of uncertainty and pressure to perform at the highest levels, often asking every member of the school to act as “adjunct marketers and school ambassadors.”  Stated a different way, schools need teachers to be more than good factory workers.  In essence, we are asking teachers to ignore a strong and significant piece to their professional DNA (the factory worker) and become more of the artist, evangelist, innovator, and magnetic creative.  We are asking teachers to transform their classes from solely places of learning into places of learning that serve to engage students and families in making deep and lasting connections with the school.  We need teachers to embrace their “intellectual celebrity” and become linchpins for our schools.

Certainly, the switch away from factory mode is not easy.  So, a set of guidelines or examples to help teachers understand exactly what is involved in this new approach is helpful.  For some teachers, this requires an acceptance of a dual perception of their work and a commitment to an approach to their work that is conducive to the creation of deep and meaningful experiences.

The Perception of the Work

Many teachers talk about their responsibilities, but rarely do they speak of their cause.  I believe this is directly associated with the factory mode.  Responsibilities are external.  They are dictated to us as part of the job.  They represent a contractual agreement between school and employee.  Typically, responsibilities are specific and measurable.  There is a place for responsibilities, but that place is part of a market agreement between school and employee.  With responsibilities, there is an expectation of immediate reciprocity.  You fulfill your responsibility and you get something in return (a paycheck).

Your cause, though, is personal.  You chose it.  It defines you as a person, not as a worker.  The only contract you have with your cause is with yourself.  Any agreement involving your cause is social.  There is no immediate expectation for reciprocity.  You give of yourself for your cause because you recognize the value in sharing your talents for the betterment of others.  You may not even get a “Thank you”, at least not right away.  That’s “ok” because you do not engage in your cause for the rewards.  You engage in your cause for your contribution.

In order to suppress the factory mode and embrace the marketer inside, teachers need to accept their responsibilities, but adjust their approach to their class as their cause.  Perceiving one’s class as their cause (instead of their responsibility) begins to place the emphasis of the work on the receiver (student) and not on the giver (teacher).  

In other words, if you view your class as your responsibility, you are doing YOUR job, fulfilling YOUR obligation, serving YOUR need to collect a salary.  Again, there is nothing wrong with being paid a fair wage for doing a good job.  However, viewing your class as your cause places the emphasis on the receiver.  Your class is serving THEIR needs.  You are responding to THEIR issues.  Your role is to demonstrate that your class is worthy of THEIR following and participation.

Your cause is student centered.  Your responsibilities are yours alone.

Accepting the cause perception, and the social agreement from which it operates, is not a denial of the factory mode of thinking and the responsibilities that accompany it.  After all, the market agreement that brought a teacher into the classroom must be honored and there does need to be some markers set up for the teacher to measure content delivered progress.  Finding the balance between the two, or applying the correct approach to any given situation, is the key.

The “Open House Culture” in Your Class

Once you begin to perceive your class as your cause, you are in the right mindset to build an inviting and engaging culture in your class, one conducive to deep and meaningful experiences.  To do so, I suggest borrowing the characteristics of one of the more enchanting events at schools, the Open House.

Open house is your school at its best.  Your doors are open and you welcome new prospective families to tour and learn more about your school.  Ultimately, successful open house events prompt the attendees to take the next step in the admissions process with the eventual desired outcome being a new enrolled student.  Your class’ “Open House Culture” operates similarly.  In an “Open House Culture”, you are presenting your class (your cause) at its best.  An effective “Open House Culture” prompts students to “take the next steps” towards becoming an active contributor to your cause (your class).

Borrowing from the numerous Open House experiences I have had, I suggest their are five qualities of effective open houses and also provide the ingredients for an “Open House Culture”.  These qualities are: friendly, trustworthy, reliable, responsive, and interactive.

The Director of Admissions at my school frequently reminds us all that every interaction with parents and students is an opportunity to either improve retention or motivate that family to recommend a friend.  Having a cause mindset and nurturing an “Open House Culture” in your class are powerful foundations upon which you can clearly address the dual role of educator and marketer in your school.

Final note:  If you and I share some of the same reading preferences, you probably noticed the influence of a couple of different people in this post.  Over the past few years, I have found the writing of Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki among the most influential.  Kawasaki’s Enchantment has become my “go to” guide for winning the hearts and minds of people.  Godin’s Linchpin, Tribes, and practically every title from his work with the Domino Project are invaluable reminders and prompts for us to embrace our ability to do great work.

Also, this article was cross-posted on Kevin J. Ruth's blog, Introit: thoughts on the life and culture of independent schools.

Thank you for reading this post.  As with all my posts this month, I ask you to consider joining me to help support a worthy cause - St. Jude's Research Hospital.  Between now and the end of January, 2012, I will donate $1 US for every copy of either of my two eBooks purchased.  You can find additional information about this offer by clicking here.

Nothing Prevents You From Sharing

It used to be that your choices for sharing your ideas, thoughts, and expertise were few and seemingly reserved for a small fortunate number of anointed gurus.  You could write a book (and hope it was chosen for publication), submit an article to a magazine or journal (see note about writing the book), or invest time and energy into finding forums (such as conferences ad visiting other schools) that might be open to hearing your ideas.  For many people, the daunting task of trying to share was overwhelming.  The net result was a culture of educators who like the idea of sharing, but mostly felt powerless to do anything about it.

Today, those barriers to sharing no longer exist.

You want to write a book?  Do it.  If you can't find a publisher (or don't want to try to find one), publish it yourself.

Want to share articles about your ideas and thoughts?  Start your own blog.  Submit a guest post for someone else's.  Publish your own online journal/magazine.

Want to share in real time with other educators?  Join a Twitter chat.  Open a Google+ account and hangout with your circles.  Skype in with another school and demonstrate your techniques.

The technological resources available today make sharing, connecting, and learning from others easier than ever before.  Sure, the traditional venues are still available.  There is nothing wrong with pursuing them, but you are not restricted to them only.  As a matter of  fact, if you take ownership of your sharing and consistently provide great resources to others, the traditional venues may come knocking on your door.

As a side note, I am happy to discuss and share any of the insights, ideas, thoughts, etc. found in this blog or in my eBooks.  If you are interested, please email me.

Thank you for reading this post.  As with all my posts this month, I ask you to consider joining me to help support a worthy cause - St. Jude's Research Hospital.  Between now and the end of January, 2012, I will donate $1 US for every copy of either of my two eBooks purchased.  You can find additional information about this offer by clicking here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What Is Your "Great Work?"

If you had the ability to do anything you wanted to make your class more effective, more engaging, or more transformative - what would you do?

If you knew you only had 5 years left to teach, would you change anything?

If today was your last day teaching, how would you approach your class?

Does what you are currently doing as an educator match up with what your idea of "great work?"

If so, how are you helping others do their "great work?"

If not, why?

Thank you for reading this post.  As with all my posts this month, I ask you to consider joining me to help support a worthy cause - St. Jude's Research Hospital.  Between now and the end of January, 2012, I will donate $1 US for every copy of either of my two eBooks purchased.  You can find additional information about this offer by clicking here.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The 3rd Dimension: Deep and Meaningful Experiences

In a previous post, I wrote that motivated students doing great work can be found at the intersection of opportunities to build essential skills and the opportunities to learn important subject matter.  I still believe this, but want to add a third dimension into the discussion.  It is a dimension that is less about what you teach or how you teach it.  The third dimension is about nurturing a culture within your class conducive to developing deep and meaningful experiences.

Why is creating such a culture in your class important?

There are probably many reasons (feel free to leave a comment with your reason), but I suggest the importance of creating such environments in your class are related to society's move away from standardization and more towards distinction.  In other words, in a connected world in which choices are practically unlimited, people are more likely to choose options that are aligned with their desire to make connections with others who share their own specific preferences.

Standardized options, which present limited (if any) opportunities to advance one's attempt to find a connection with like-minded peers, are not designed to produce the reaction that evokes distinction.  Standardization is one size fits all.  Standardization is the result of a factory mentality born in the industrial age.  We are experiencing a change from that mode of thinking to one of empowerment, choice, innovation, creation, and distinction.  Successful educators today must find the balance between the standardization of school and the need to create enchanting experiences that attract and motivate students to do their best work.

Unfortunately, teachers have been subjected to the standardization mindset for so long that many find it terribly difficult to implement a mode of thinking that helps create a more distinct experience.  I am not suggesting that the standardized model be eliminated.  The standardized model can be helpful, especially in situations requiring a structural frame of thinking.

On the other hand, modern society demands teachers be more than structural thinkers and standardized factory workers.  As a matter of fact, many studies (including my own research) exploring how effective educators think have found that the most effective educators use multiple frames of reference.  The two most used being the aforementioned structural and the human resource frame, which is used to connect individual needs to overall goals.

So the question becomes,

How can educators approach their craft in a way that nurtures a climate conducive to creating deep, meaningful, and distinct experiences in an educational environment often designed to accomplish standardized goals?

My answer to that question reflects a concept I have written about before, the Open House Culture.  In an Open House Culture, educators begin to view their work as their cause rather than their responsibility.  In addition, educators working in an Open House Culture are specifically focused on developing a classroom defined by being friendly, trustworthy, reliable, responsive, and interactive.

Students do not like generics.  They want to learn, but also to learn in an environment which taps into their desire to make connections and feel distinct.  Providing opportunities to learn important content and build essential skills certainly encourages motivated students to do great work.  Adding the third dimension, creating deep and meaningful experiences, into the equation elevates the experience to a higher, more enchanting level.


Thank you for reading this post.  As with all my posts this month, I ask you to consider joining me to help support a worthy cause - St. Jude's Research Hospital.  Between now and the end of January, 2012, I will donate $1 US for every copy of either of my two eBooks purchased.  You can find additional information about this offer by clicking here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Students Do Not Like Generics

Picture found on http://maryandmatt.net/2011/06/
As I walk around schools, I notice that students really attach themselves to brands.  That is nothing new.  What is hard to find are students who love generics or knock-offs (also not new).  They want to feel special, not generic.
Of all the ways to identify themselves, where they go to school is among the most used.  Think about it.  When kids meet each other, one of the first questions you are likely to hear is, "Where do you go to school?"

Their school is part of their brand - and they want it to be special!

What is special about your school?

Do you recognize and celebrate, unashamedly, that quality?

Do you tell students how special they are for attending your school?

If so, how?  If not, why?

How do you show your appreciation for their being a part of and contributing to your school's special qualities?


Thank you for reading this post.  As with all my posts this month, I ask you to consider joining me to help support a worthy cause - St. Jude's Research Hospital.  Between now and the end of January, 2012, I will donate $1 US for every copy of either of my two eBooks purchased.  You can find additional information about this offer by clicking here.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"Dodgeball" Strategies for School Leaders

When kids play dodgeball, I typically notice two extreme strategies.

One is to race to the front, risk elimination, and challenge the other team.  By doing so, the player learns more about his or her own abilities and make the necessary adjustments next game.  This player learns.

The other is to hide in the back, make yourself as invisible as possible, and last as long as possible.  Since little effort is made, this player rarely learns how to play better.

The problem with the first is that unless the game allows you to return when a teammate catches the ball, you will probably not play very long.  For games with no "returns" the kids who really don't want to play will use this strategy to get out, but the ones who are more likely to help their team win will be more cautious.

The problem with the second strategy is that, if successful, eventually you are the only one left and cannot hide. Thus, a very obvious and public failure is inevitable.

Dodgeball hint from my coaching days: the best strategy I have seen is to rally your team in to a charging horde that overwhelms the other side from the start.  If everyone charges ahead, none get eliminated quickly.

For schools, if you want your students to take the more active, first strategy approach to learning, you need to allow for "returns" and/or be willing to "play" again.  Coach students to learn from mistakes and provide opportunities for them to try again.

Of course, you can allow your students to "hide in the back" but eventually they will not be the only ones staring helplessly at overwhelming numbers on the other team.


 
Thank you for reading this post.  As with all my posts this month, I ask you to consider joining me to help support a worthy cause - St. Jude's Research Hospital.  Between now and the end of January, 2012, I will donate $1 US for every copy of either of my two eBooks purchased.  You can find additional information about this offer by clicking here or you can simply click on either book cover above to purchase that title.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Guest Contributor Kevin J. Ruth - Leading the Way...Online



This post was submitted by Dr. Kevin J. Ruth. Kevin is CEO/Executive Director of eSchool Network. He holds degrees from the Pennsylvania State University, Rutgers University, and Stanford University, and is in his seventeenth year in education. He has served independent schools in the classroom and on the courts, and he also serves as a trustee at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy in Virginia. He has published on medieval studies, leadership, and school strategy; additionally, he runs an independent school blog at Introit. He lives in southeastern Pennsylvania.



Independent schools have taken their time in entering the online/digital learning arena, and for good reason. We’ve wanted to watch the efforts of our colleagues in the public and charter spheres, and we’ve waited patiently for data to roll in on whether online/digital learning shows any real promise. Finally, a recent report on digital learning from the US Department of Education shows that digital learning can be effective, especially in a “blended” format, i.e. some instruction delivered asynchronously and some delivered synchronously either by synchronous software or in a face-to-face “traditional” classroom. NAIS released a survey on online learning back in May/June 2011 that showed a growing interest and implementation of online learning in our schools. It would seem that we’ve begun to enter the fray.

The first venture was undertaken by Online School for Girls, which focuses on girls in grades 9 to 12. For a couple of years, they were the only game in town. Then, just this past summer, we learned of Global Online Academy, which is open to boys and girls in grades 9 to 12. Both models are consortium-based business models, meaning that a school pays a fee to become a consortium member, either a core or affiliate member (the latter, currently, belongs exclusively to Online School for Girls). Each online school, which was born from a relationship among multiple schools, is also a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with its own board of directors, and each is led by an Executive Director. They are having a very positive effect on the landscape of digital learning in independent schools.

The new entrant, eSchool Network, is one in which I’ve been deeply involved over the past year, culminating in its launch on January 1, 2012, just days ago. Given the subject matter of this blog site, I’d like to share some “leadership highlights” with you regarding the journey of this newcomer which, I personally believe, will alter the landscape of “how we do school” in independent schools, over time.

1. “Don’t be afraid to cut a program.” As leaders, we hear this phrase often enough, but it is difficult to follow! In our case, we (my head of school at Tower Hill School and I) began under a different guise, that of Tower Hill eSchool. We began the current school year operating under this name, and we’re still running the accelerated math program for grades 7 and 8 at a local PK-8 independent school. However, we realized in late summer (around Sept 1) that our fledgling eSchool, as an idea, really resonated with lots of folks. However, the brand association didn’t hold as much meaning for other schools. So began step two of our online journey: we laid out a plan to transform Tower Hill eSchool into eSchool Network and to grow it into something that would serve more schools even better. We have done just that over the past four months, and now that we’ve migrated everything over to eSchool Network, we’re ready to “sunset” Tower Hill eSchool. Funnily enough, even though Tower Hill eSchool wasn’t around that long, I’m somewhat attached, as its creator. It’s a bit sad to let it go, but I know that eSchool Network will serve more schools and in better ways.

2. “It’s all about relationships.” I think it was Tom Hoerr who wrote that in his book on leadership (The Art of School Leadership, 2005). He’s right. I have spent countless hours in wonderful, deep conversations with school heads and top decision-makers regarding digital learning, as it relates to other issues schools are dealing with in the current climate. As much as Web 2.0 has made many things convenient, we’re still “school people”, and face-to-face conversations and concomitant relationships still matter, as they always will! Relationships, therefore, are at the heart of eSchool Network. We are a network of relationships.

3. “Listen, my son.” This advice from sixth-century Saint Benedict is as insightful as ever! Relationships are all about listening, as any leader knows. Listen, listen, and listen some more. As I met in person (and sometimes online or on the phone) with school heads and decision-makers, I listened to the issues that schools face, whether they were keenly interested in joining the digital learning movement or merely on a fact-finding mission (i.e., to compare us against other providers). As the creation of eSchool Network was truly an exercise in design-thinking, the first stage centers on “empathy” (listening to the end user, and incorporating those observations into the product. In this case, eSchool Network is the result of these many conversations with school heads; what we are offering is what schools want to see: democratized access (many things are free), cost efficiencies (things that have a cost are exceedingly reasonable and won’t break the bank), safeguarding of autonomy (schools and teachers control the instruction, not us, and they can alter all course content, if desired), and an opportunity to create a non-tuition revenue stream (schools can develop courses/lessons/professional development courses for us and receive a royalty each time it is purchased).

As I continue to lead this effort in digital learning, I am reminded constantly of these three areas, in addition to many others. I wanted to highlight them for you now, though, because I wanted to underscore that leadership is leadership, no matter whether we’re talking about bricks-and-mortar schools or online educational ventures. What matters, matters everywhere. Our values and principles know no boundaries.

In closing, please allow me to shed some light on a few other pieces you may be wondering about:

  • Like the aforementioned independent school ventures into online learning, eSchool Network is currently seeking 501(c)(3) non-profit status; that can take from three to six months, depending on the backlog at the IRS.
  • We are small staff of one - that’s me! We are all about efficiencies. We work with interns and volunteers to accomplish our projects.
  • We are not consortium-based, so there is no joiner fee; if a school wishes to join, great, come on in! You can use our learning management system (LMS) for free within your own school.
  • We’re an upside-down business model. We haven’t built the entire eSchool Network...on purpose. We’ve built a foundation, and now we’re asking independent schools to come in and help build the network and its offerings.
  • We’re not just about digital coursework, we’re about research, development, and innovation in education, helped by existing and future technologies. Think of us as an incubator!
Visit us at www.eschool-network.com, and consider how you can join us in leading the way to “make a dent in the universe!”


I want to thank Kevin for finding a few extra minutes in his busy schedule to contribute to The Art of Education. If you are interested in being a guest contributor, please visit my Guest Contributors Page for more information.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Balancing Tradition and Innovation in Schools

At some point, in every school, someone spoke up in a meeting and said something like, "I have an idea.  Why don't we try 'Idea X.'  I think it will work well at our school."

"Idea X" was new.  The school decided to try it, to experiment with it, to get feedback and make adjustments.  Suddenly, "Idea X" was being referenced in conversation, people began identifying themselves as a member of the school that does "Idea X."  Aspects of "Idea X" began to show up in areas of the school far beyond the original intention.

Now "Idea X", which was once innovative, is now tradition.

Of course, not every idea or innovation will stick.  Innovation implies experimentation.  Therefore, some ideas will not survive in their original form.  Unsuccessful initiatives shed light on new, previously unseen ideas, which may eventually change the landscape of your school.

Tradition and innovation are not opposites as much as they are dynamic phases of the life of ideas.  Schools need to embrace this thinking and examine the two for what they can be.

Tradition - The reward an idea receives for having a long-lasting, significant impact on the lives of the members of a school community (students, parents, faculty, staff).

Innovation - An idea that has significant potential for making a positive impact on the lives of the members of a school community.

Accepting the connected nature of tradition and innovation eliminates one as a barrier to the other and allows the school to adopt a growth mindset which embraces improvement and effort as a standard of excellence.




Thank you for reading this post.  As with all my posts this month, I ask you to consider joining me to help support a worthy cause - St. Jude's Research Hospital.  Between now and the end of January, 2012, I will donate $1 US for every copy of either of my two eBooks purchased.  You can find additional information about this offer by clicking here or you can simply click on either book cover above to purchase that title.

As of the writing of this post, 7 copies have been purchased.  My goal is 100, but we still have over a month to go.  PLEASE consider this cause and, if comfortable, send this request to your friends.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

School Leaders as Matchmakers or Match Makers

Image found at http://periodictable.com/Stories/015.8/index.html   


Matchmaker


You are a school leader.

You have a team of educators with whom you work.

You have problems to solve, ideas to explore, and initiatives to put into action.

If you have invested enough time to know your team members' needs, strengths, and challenges, you have half the information you need.

Now examine the problem, idea, or initiative.  What personality, skill set, interest level, etc. is needed to solve it, try it, start it, lead it, or finish it? (You may even ask a colleague to answer the same question to see if her answer is the same as yours).

Last step: "introduce" your problem, idea, or initiative to the team member(s) whose personality, skills, needs, strengths, etc. are a good match.  You are also expected to provide the necessary resources to encourage success (think of it as paying for the first date).

More than likely, you have created a platform for success, empowered your team, and made progress in realizing your shared vision.




On the other hand...




There is always the other method:  Match maker.

Either don't get to know your team members' needs, strengths, and challenges.

Assign the problem, task, idea, or initiative to anyone who is available and hope for the best.

Get lucky and you may pick the right person responsible enough to get the job done.  Of course you could also choose the wrong person and risk disaster.





      


Thank you for reading this post.  As with all my posts this month, I ask you to consider joining me to help support a worthy cause - St. Jude's Research Hospital.  Between now and the end of January, 2012, I will donate $1 US for every copy of either of my two eBooks purchased.  You can find additional information about this offer by clicking here or you can simply click on either book cover above to purchase that title.

As of the writing of this post, 7 copies have been purchased.  My goal is 100, but we still have over a month to go.  PLEASE consider this cause and, if comfortable, send this request to your friends.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Low Hanging Fruit

Image found at http://www.retaildoc.com/blog/fruit 
"Low hanging fruit" is a term describing objectives that are easily achieved with little effort.  While I would suggest NOT including low hanging fruit as a part of your professional goals, there may be value in recognizing how "picking such fruit" may play an important role in maintaining your efforts over time

In other words, though you may prefer the "tastier" fruit located on higher branches, don't starve yourself by ignoring the sustenance in front of you.  Work tirelessly to achieve your most desired goals by feeding off of some less "important" achievements in the short run.

For educators, I have often seen many good teachers and administrators with wonderful goals who mistakenly ignore easy, short term gains because they think it will derail them from working towards their larger, more impressive long term achievements.

Long term, higher reaching goals are vital, but unless you also find ways to sustain momentum and motivation, you are likely to fall short of your goals.

That low hanging fruit in front of you may provide the essential "nutrients" to keep you moving "up the tree."

Question for educators:

What "low hanging fruit" do you think exists in schools that can help provide the energy you need to keep working on your long term goals? - Comment below with your ideas





Also, as with all my posts this month, I ask you to consider joining me to help support a worthy cause - St. Jude's Research Hospital.  Between now and the end of January, 2012, I will donate $1 US for every copy of either of my two eBooks purchased.  You can find additional information about this offer by clicking here or you can simply click on either book cover above to purchase that title.

As of the writing of this post, 7 copies have been purchased.  My goal is 100, but we still have over a month to go.  PLEASE consider this cause and, if comfortable, send this request to your friends.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My Official "Most Popular Posts of 2011" List

Most Popular Posts of 2011
Now that 2011 is officially over, I am happy to provide my most popular posts from The Art of Education from  the past year.

For those who have been frequent readers, "Thank you" for such a successful year.

If you are a newer visitor, feel free to catch up by reading these posts.

Visit often!

My Top 10 Most Popular Posts from 2011 (#1 being most popular)

#10:  Suggested Summer Reading For Teachers and Parents

#9:  2 Questions Every School Leader Should Ask Themselves Daily

#8:  Maintaining Student Connections: 7 Tips For Future and Current Administrators

#7:  Are You An Inspired Educator?

#6:  3 Common Practices Educational Leaders Should Avoid

#5:  Why Some Resist Tech Integration in School

#4:  In Memoriam: My Friend Stanley Rauch

#3:  The "Evolution" of Education

#2:  Things School Administrators Should Say Daily (But Usually Don't)

#1:  3 Pillars to Uphold a Student-Centered Culture






Finally, as with all my posts this month, I ask you to consider joining me to help support a worthy cause - St. Jude's Research Hospital.  Between now and the end of January, 2012, I will donate $1 US for every copy of either of my two eBooks purchased.  You can find additional information about this offer by clicking here or you can simply click on either book cover above to purchase that title.

As of the writing of this post, 7 copies have been purchased.  My goal is 100, but we still have over a month to go.  PLEASE consider this cause and, if comfortable, send this request to your friends.
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