Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Secrets of change..

We are in the midst of a lot of change at Rugby Public Schools.  We have implemented a late start this year to set the tone for where we want to go with teacher collaboration.  We are creating a culture of professional learning, by providing embedded time to read and learn about best practice.  The focus is on the teacher, and creating an atmosphere of continuous learning from the top to the bottom.  There is various research that supports the teacher as the number one influence on student achievement.  Along with all this comes the scary word... change.

I am finishing up the Six Secrets of Change by Michael Fullan.  I am going to talk about the first four, because I believe they are the most important.  Fullan talks about the following secrets, which to me aren't really secrets they are just what good organizations do.

Secret One: Love your employees 

Fullan feels that loving the customer (student) is equally as important as loving the employee (teacher).  Can we even have balance between what is best for teachers and students?  I don't know that for sure. I try to base all decisions with the student in mind and many times that is in direct conflict with the teacher.

Secret Two: Connect peers with purpose 
"Show me a cohesive, creative organization, and I'll show you peer interaction all the way down."
It is so important that we setup and establish job embedded time for our teachers to collaborate. We are learning from each other, and that is key to improvement.  The types of conversations and work that is being accomplished during our collaboration time is amazing.  We would never accomplish this work in any other way.  We cannot expect them to collaborate effectively without goals, we must give them direction.  Fullan refers to this as tight-loose, meaning we need to provide the direction, but give teachers the flexibility to make it their own.
"When teachers within a school collaborate, they begin to think not just about "my classroom" but also about "our school." Fullan 
Secret Three: Capacity building prevails AND Secret Four: Learning is the work
"The quality of the education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers." Barber and Mourshed
These two secrets are very similar in my opinion and fit nicely together. Building capacity is about learning.  As school leaders we know we can't pick and choose who we want in our schools. That is why it is so important to develop capacity within our schools.  In my opinion this cannot be done voluntarily, we have to establish a system that forces this.  I am all about job embedded time that forces professional learning to occur in a nice way. :) I wrote previously about our changes to professional development.
"People have built quite successful careers - describing the hill, measuring the hill, walking around the hill, taking pictures of the hill, and so forth.  Sooner or later, somebody needs to actually climb the hill." Pfeffer 
Do you provide opportunities for teachers to engage in substantial learning about their practice in the setting in which they actually work?

We aren't there yet, but I believe we are heading in the right direction.  Change isn't easy, but it is essential for progress!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The moral imperative

The moral imperative is something that must happen because it is the right thing.  In education the moral imperative gets in the way of our own selfish motives. Reforming education is hard, and messy.  In my experience, the way we do things in education is largely based on anecdotal evidence.  Meaning that we embrace methods that we feel are successful based on how we have been taught and what has worked for us.  These methods are not grounded in research.  We think they work, and rarely question them.  What we perceive as working may not always be truth.

The moral imperative is important to consider, because without it we remain stagnant.  Doing the right thing for kids and keeping the focus on kids can be difficult for us adults.  Why did we enter this field? We begin to lose sight of progress when we forget about the moral imperative.

At what point do we realize that maybe I am not impacting as many kids as I could?

At what point do we question ourselves and become critical of our practice?

At what point do we begin to look at ourselves in the mirror and not out the window?

For us to really move forward as an education system we have to continue learning. We have to be okay with coming to the realization that what I have been doing is possibly not working.  I think we are reaching a pressure point in our district where we are questioning everything.  It is an uncomfortable feeling, but a feeling we need to have.  Discomfort can be good for all of us.  

Mark Edwards a superintendent in North Carolina recently wrote an excellent book titled, "Every Child, Every Day." The slogan in the district really keeps the focus on the moral imperative and doing what is right for every child and reminding ourselves to do it everyday.