The One Word Leaders Rarely Use

The great privilege I have is working with leaders and districts all over Canada and the US and seeing what it takes to create cultures of joy. Joy is the word I use and have begun to see more and more educators use this to describe their classrooms, schools, and districts.

I was humbled to help kick of Royse City Independent School District‘s year. They’ve adopted the theme of joy for this school year. The students opened the morning’s festivities, and then they shared this video.

 

The inclusion of the school board, mayor and other community members spoke volumes of the importance of public education in this region.

Six teachers were asked to share what joy meant to them. Each told a compelling story of what it’s like to teach in Royse City ISD. I wasn’t sure anyone needed to hear my message to add to what was already an uplifting, joyful celebration of learning. After I shared, Superindent Kevin Worthy ended the morning by giving every employee a $1000 that was funded by a surplus of funds. Kevin is someone whom I’ve had the pleasure to get to know over the past year or so and … Read the rest

I’m not an Expert, But Neither are You Part 2

Yesterday’s post was intended to challenge teachers for the most not to be swayed by those who have either been given or taken the title of an expert. Anyone who spends any time working with children and helping them learn brings with them a reasonable level of expertise to be able to contribute to the conversation and question authority.

While my context was largely about online spaces I think it’s important to examine and apply this more locally. In particular, how do schools and districts work to either include teachers as experts or suggest teachers need to see those higher up on the org chart as having more expertise?

For as long as I’ve been in education, there were always those in leadership positions who were not respected and when they made suggestions or mandated policies they were met with eye rolls, furrowed brows, and heavy sighs usually behind their backs. Sometimes principals or Superintendents were the least knowledgeable people about teaching and learning. They may have had administration and management skills but didn’t couldn’t discuss pedagogy, let alone pronounce it.

In our best schools and districts, this isn’t the case. Leaders, specifically principals are asked to be instructional leaders. … Read the rest

I’m Not an Expert, But Neither are You

I remember the first time I heard Ewan Mcintosh speak. He invited the crowd to be critical of his talk and to feel free to disagree with anything he said. That was the first time I had ever heard a person of authority, in a public setting, invite criticism in such an overt manner. I’ve since used that idea often when I talk.

Jose Vilson writes about why teachers need to see themselves as experts. This cannot be understated. Although while I understand what Jose is saying, my belief is that none of us are experts in the sense that we know it all but rather teachers are no less of an expert, and as Jose says, maybe more than those who don’t work directly with learners. I used to believe the Internet might be used to break down this hierarchy in the way I’d experienced. Through blogging, in particular, I found a space to share ideas and thoughts and positioned them in a way that was not about authority but about community. Today, it seems the vast majority of teachers who call themselves connected, live largely if not exclusively, in spaces like Twitter. They don’t see themselves as … Read the rest

A Survey on District Culture

On Friday I’m going to be offering a workshop at the Canadian School Boards Association’s National Conference entitled, “Getting Serious About Culture”:

“Culture is not the most important thing, it’s the only thing.”
– Jim Sinegal, Co-founder and former CEO, Costco

Is this true for schools and school districts? Having worked with districts across Canada, Dean Shareski has discovered some important ideas about building community and creating cultures where students, teachers and leaders feel empowered and work together for a better learning environment for students. This session will provide an opportunity for participants to share, gain insight and develop plans to create a powerful learning culture.

In preparation for this, I sent out an informal survey on Twitter to get a sense of people’s perception of their own district. I was pleasantly surprised. I defined culture as, “the beliefs, perceptions, relationships, attitudes, and written and unwritten rules that shape and influence every aspect of how a school functions.”

I received 146 responses and here are the results:

(these were the top answers)


I also ask for any additional thoughts, here are a few:

Empowered in my classroom, but not so much outside my classroom.

Wanted to answer yes and no.

Read the rest

Many of You Will Hate This School

Imagine a school that makes students take the same courses at the same times as everyone else. Also, this school uses little or no technology. This school does not utilize contemporary texts and in fact, does not even aspire to contextualize these ancient texts to the modern world. You’ve probably dismissed this school as irrelevant and without much understanding of the real world.

You’re probably wrong.

St. John’s College seems to be offering much of what many educational reformers are trying to reform. They unabashedly hold on to traditional methods like the Socratic approach and offer no computing classes, no contemporary studies and have no minors and majors. Everyone graduates with the same degree. So much for personalized learning.

This article shares the details of what they refer to as “The Program”. Let me share the highlights and things that struck me:

Fixed curriculum:

Starting with the Greeks and working through the 20th century including some “recent” science readings from the 1950s and 1960s, the curriculum is rarely altered.

It seems like they’ve determined which works best foster deep thinking and discourse and simply stick with those. Contrary to even more innovative practices like global competencies, it … Read the rest