My Back to School Speech

It’s been interesting watching the various ways schools and districts kick off the new year. Some begin in a very low key fashion with staff meetings and prep time. Others start with professional development for large or small groups and some bring together the entire district in a pep rally atmosphere. I’m not sure there’s a right way or a wrong way but in most cases, leadership tries to convey a common, if not inspiration message to set the tone for the upcoming school year.

So I got to thinking, what message would I like to hear from leadership?


So I thought I’d write it out.

Good morning everyone,

I don’t want to keep you long because I know you have a great many things to do in preparation for the upcoming school year but I did want to be sure to share what’s on my mind. 

I hope you had a relaxing, restful summer because you deserve it. The more time I spend in education, the more  I realize how difficult the job has become. Teaching and caring for children with such diverse needs is taxing. The opportunity to refuel is a key component to doing great work

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The Greatest Gift

I read recently about an advertising company in Minneapolis that gave their employees 4 months of paid time off.

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More than a bonus or added salary, this gift as you can see and imagine is perhaps more precious.

One of the primary benefits of today’s technology is how it can eliminate time as a primary factor in learning. We’ve come to realize that learning can happen anywhere, anytime with anyone. That “anytime” part is closely tied to the “anyone and anywhere” part as well. Yet our schools and work places alike struggle with removing the constraints of time.

gift_of_time_2I’ve been on the recipient end of these gifts on several occasions and consider them integral to my growth professionally and personally. In 1999 I was part of a grant initiative called “Project Lighthouse”. One school in our district received this grant and seconded me to work for them 1/2 time for six months. From January to June I spent every afternoon removed from classroom duties to explore and create and play with various technologies and try them in out different classrooms. After 12 years in the classroom … Read the rest

Professional Development is Not That Complicated

As a follow up to my previous post on learning, I’ll add this one to the list of things we’ve made more complicated than it ought to be. In a sense it’s much the same as Professional Development is obviously learning too but perhaps needs to have a little more light shed on it.

I was thinking back about 10 years. I attended a three day workshop with several of my colleagues in Prairie South in Portland with Dr. Rick Stiggins talking specifically about Assessment but also Professional Learning Communities. It was really the first time I had heard about the Dufour model and its impact on student learning. We left those workshops feeling very excited about both these ideas. As we thought about the PLC model I pushed very hard that we not tell people what their PLC’s should be centered around but rather let every teacher choose something they wanted to learn about. I then would take all the submissions and allow teachers to self select their groups. Of course lots of concerns were shared about logistics about how we would organize these groups and how would we know it was effective.

But even with those … Read the rest

Communication and Community are Different

137526362_88b9b7b108_n As I talk with and work with schools and districts interested in using social media they often talk about their communication strategy and how they might use social media in a strategic way. My first reaction is you can’t.

The word “strategic” implies a tactical and deliberate approach. While that might be fine for communication before social media, it doesn’t work so well now. Communication strategies from a organizational perspective was traditionally about “getting the word out”, “keeping stakeholders informed” and these notions are essentially about broadcasting. I noticed a school district who recently purchased brand new signage for their schools to provide a consistent look and message regarding upcoming events. I have no idea the cost and am not suggesting it’s not an important part of the communication strategy but it once again points to an emphasis on broadcasting. These efforts certainly communicate, but they don’t really build community.

I recently had a conversation online with Darren Draper, Karl Fisch and others on the struggle schools and districts have in implementing social media. Darren summarized the conversation quite well. I think part of the issue is a fundamental dissonance between traditional communication strategies and the way social media … Read the rest

A Lesson for Administrators

_MG_3000 wil p via Compfight

It's been over 5 years since Randy Pausch delivered his last lecture. If  somehow it passed you by, watch the video and even get the book.  As I was preparing for some work with administrators I recalled a short story from the lecture. I've trimmed it and would be happy to see others share this little story with other leaders. There's a simple but powerful lesson here. One that has the potential to empower others. Know any leaders like this?

[podcast format=”video”][/podcast]… Read the rest