Monday, May 27, 2013

The Questions that Won't Go Away.

What is going to be fundamentally different about your school next year?

What huge risk for kids are you dreaming about implementing?

Do you truly still believe in incremental change?

With what school in the country are you most impressed because of the way that they serve kids?

Are you a disruptive force for your school and education as a whole?

Do you have enough courage to do this position?

What is your best example of how you model excellent learning for kids?

What fuel do you have in the system to promote students innovation and creativity?

Are you college-ready kids truly life ready?

Is your school a joyous place?

Are you dreaming big enough?

Is this your vision for technology integration? Check out this video that inspired this post. 

What Students Should Expect from their Schools

Lots of conversations in schools have to do with maintaining high expectations for our students. While having a culture of high expectations is an essential one for building, maintaining, and growing an incredible school, there are so few conversations about what high expectations truly means.

How do we actually know the "just right" amount of expectations for our staff and students?  Is having the highest expectations among your neighboring schools enough? Is having the highest expectations in your state enough? Is having the highest expectations in your region of the country enough?

Another thought in this space is about what expectations our students and families should have of our work in schools on a daily basis. Do you think that your parents are asking you to give more in the right places for their kids? Do you think that kids know the right expectations for their teachers? Could students truly shape their schools to meet their needs? How uncomfortable would a school driven by student expectations be?

Watch the video below as you reflect on the questions above.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Looking for Gaps to Close?

The cries that we are building a socialist state in all things from taxes to health care seems to be a way to avoid the complex conversations of wealth, poverty, and the conditions that lie between. It is unfortunate that we can't lean into these topics in a more meaningful way that explores the concepts of fairness and justice. In the next few weeks, I'll have the opportunity to work in some wealthy schools that feature strong endowments, beautiful campuses, and have some students and family that live behind the veil of wealth.

These moments are always filled with comments and thoughts about how all schools should treat their faculty and staff with this level of professionalism and how it would be great to have my children attend school in these places. Hospitality can mask reality and set the course for just having the easy conversations. Unfortunately, the concepts of Two Americans, an idea that John Edwards never got to fully discuss, is happening in all things in our country with the quality of schools being at the forefront of this inequality.

The solutions aren't simple. The ideas to change this over time and sustain it cost money, time, and sacrifice, and the cries of socialism will probably drown out the dialogue that is truly needed for us as a nation to reshape the consequences of the accident of the zip code in which we are born. Let us begin to think about the daily reality for kids on either side of the wealth gap, and in the process begin to formulate ways to close the experience and opportunity gaps for all.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tests Will Not Decide our Fates

The pressure continues to mount on our teachers and students in public schools. The pressure surrounds a system that measures the wrong things in the wrong way, and a system that focuses too little on measuring creativity, innovation and perseverance. The results of this pressure are clear. They show up in parent newsletters in March and April as students are told to eat right and get sleep for the tests. They show up in the energy level of teachers after the testing season is over. They show up in the marquee signs in front of school reminding folks to "Shhh. We're testing." Many of these things have become annual rituals that we no longer question. For many young teachers, this is all that they know. They were a part of the system as a student, and they are well on the way to perpetuating this system on their students.

Each year, I'm brought back to some questions surrounding testing. If you could guarantee fresh successes for students outside of test scores, then would you be willing to sacrifice some portion of your test score success? Would hiring good people, supporting them in their growth and development, and having an active, engaging curriculum have the same exact impact on your scores with no mention or preparation for the tests? Who will be the first public school to just say no more state testing?

Lately, I've added a new one. Can we ever standardize enough to get the benefits of standardization?

Let's go into the summer with a hope and possibility that we will all be able to have more space to inspire kids to learn and engage kids in those things in which we are passionate.

We should not as educators allow our fate to be decided by the culture of testing.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Leading from a Different Chair

The first blog post for Principally Speaking came after I realized that I would be moving from the assistant principal chair to the principal chair some four plus years ago. After 360+ posts surrounding my thoughts, life, and dreams as a principal, life is again shifting, and I have an opportunity to lead from a different chair moving forward.

Over the last month, I have transitioned into the role of Director Technology and Innovation for the Affton School District, and it has been a whirlwind. I realized that over this transition, I have slowly moved away from writing in this space, but I've been pulled to return. Writing has always been an outlet for my ideas, a place that I needed to participate in the marketplace of ideas, and an important contribution to my Professional Learning Network The name of the blog may change, but the person writing the words will remain the same.

On another note, I was able to talk with a group of 4th graders at a local career day, and I told them that the dream that I had for them was the same that I had for myself, a career that each morning when you wake up you can be excited about the possibilities and a career that allows for an opportunity to serve others. These are the two metrics that I have always marked whether my career was headed in the right direction, and my new role brings renewed energy to both of those goals.

Many great things have happened over the last month. Some I may return to, and others that will probably fall into the black hole of transition. I was very happy to host and organize the first TED event in our community, TEDxMRH. It was a celebration of ideas, and an opportunity for some great thoughts to be released into the marketplace of ideas.  In addition, I have an opportunity to participate as a key speaker at the Martin Institute Summer Conference besides Pam Moran, Will Richardson and others in Memphis in June. Finally, I have signed with a publisher to author my first book, Leading Engaging Schools. This book hopes to take many of the ideas of this blog and shape them into a book with the energy to propel more leaders to shape their places of learning into space and places of deep, authentic learning. Much more on that in the future.

Finally, it seems like the travails of life, and the need to persevere are pretty well summed up in the video below. I hope that you enjoy, and here's to shaping transformational  education together moving forward.