New Leadership

When we have so many concerns about the mismatch between school education on offer today and the needs of young people, we have to acknowledge that little is really going to improve until we are prepared to look very seriously at leadership within education. In short, will we have the schools and the education we need and want unless we bring about significant changes in schools’ leadership culture – and what are the changes that would be necessary?

I found this article from a senior member of the Ken Blanchard Companies interesting. Whilst its talking about the new ways of leading required in all types of organisations (especially those that need to harness the creative and innovative power of the employees – is that now all organisations?) I found some parts especially interesting when thinking about where we are currently in school education.

Ken Blanchard Companies – Unleashing The Crazy Ones

The article identifies three core roles for the leader; catalyst, architect and coach. The latter of the three is something I’ve believed in for some considerable time as an effective approach to leadership in schools. I think part of the appeal has to do with the importance of the first of the three roles. Directive, controlled leadership that centralises power and authority, decision-making and accountability doesn’t ‘grow people’ or have the potential to engender passion, commitment and true innovation.

The ‘abundance mindset’ talked of doesn’t just apply with the organisation’s own employees, but also with outside vendors and contractors. As time goes on I have found myself less and less interested in squeezing out the best price or a bit of cost saving (scarcity mindset), and more and more interested in building high-trust relationships with vendors and suppliers that are mutually beneficial and based upon the willingness of the vendor to work creatively and effectively to support what the schools deliver.

The second role – the ‘architect’ is undoubtedly the most important when it comes to change management, innovation and educational reform. This is the one that potential worries me the most. I see far too much ‘going through the motions’, replicating yesterdays schools and just trying to do everything they did. It’s often considered innovation and commitment if leaders in schools just seek to do the same old, but to do it 1% better. However, I don’t believe these are the approaches that are going to bring us the schools and the education we need today and tomorrow. That is going to require the courage and commitment to lead teams that think in new ways, are willing to try new things and are not afraid to sometimes fail.

One particular area where this is apparent is in the harnessing of technology and ICT to bring about fundamental changes in learning processes.

Marketing and the Food Industry

Here’s an incredibly powerful video that has really got me thinking about our food and the messages we’ve bought in to so that we’re not troubled by where it comes from, how it’s produced or the price to be paid:

Supporting Performance With Feedback

leadership in schools has many aspects, but undoubtedly one of the most important roles is helping each and every teacher and other employee to;

a) Work in accordance with the mission, vision and values of the school, and
b) Exhibit being a ‘lifelong learner’ by seeking to continuously enhance their abilities in their role, and
c) grow

For these to happen one of the most important areas of insight is with regard to giving feedback. Over the years I have heard so many leaders in educational fields who have been frustrated and challenged by the issues related to giving feedback. All too often they have struggled with perceptions that teachers only want ‘nice feedback’ (praise, congratulations and positive strokes). Some have conjectured whether cultural factors were involved, some whether it was a gender issue and some whether it was specific to the profession and the people who are attracted to it.

So, i was therefore very interested to come across this webinar by the highly regarded Zenger Folkman Group in which the presenters share the findings of research they carried out on the subject of feedback. Whilst much of the focus is on differences between age-groups, they also have some interesting things to say regarding gender.

Zenger Folkman Webinar – Feedback

Amazing Potential in Solar Power

I’m always interested to follow the latest things happening that have the potential to stem the devastating impact of climate change and environmental destruction – our legacy to the next generations that will follow us.

So, I was excited to see this short video, though couldn’t help wondering why there hasn’t been more publicity about this;

Solar Roadways – Film

Could it be that some of the cynics posting in the comments sections at the bottom of that page are right – i.e. could this have too much potential to be acceptable to the big industries that rely on fossil fuels for their livelihood? Would they have the will and the power to kill such an idea?

This is one worth tracking over coming months to see what happens. I’m sure many students would be interested to study this idea, to know more about the science behind it and to be part of the creative ideation process as its potential is explored.

Summer Reading for Educators

In some past years, colleagues have asked me for lists of books i recommend or suggest for their summer reading (who says teachers are idle in the summer vacations!). However, on this occasion ASCD and Edutopia have put together a superb Pinterest Board of suggested reading – and eclectic mix that isn’t all directly about education.

There are more than a few here that i’ve already read, but plenty more that will shape my reading list in the coming weeks and months.

(Click on the link below to go to the Board)

Pinterest Board – Summer Reading

Differentiation Revisited

Carol Ann Tomlinson conducting a Webinar for ASCD in which she revisits her work since she first wrote ‘The Differentiated Classroom’. A very interesting and useful review for teachers and interesting insights for parents

Becoming vs. Learning

Marc Prensky was the man who coined the phrase ‘ digital natives’ to describe young people growing up in a time when technology is a ubiquitous and natural part of their lives. He is also a future oriented thinker who writes and speaks passionately about the education young people need to be effective in the Twenty First Century.

This is a superb article written by Prensky recently for Education Week. In it he highlights how those who treat learning as the end product of school education are pointing towards the wrong end goal. To him ‘becoming’ must be the end purpose of school education;

Marc Prensky – Education Week Article

I recall a few years ago in a graduation speech to senior students setting out the goals that they should aspire to be the best ‘them’ that they can be. The best person, friend, employer, employee, spouse, sibling, child, friend, citizen etc.

Within school we have the ability to help children to develop the reflective skills and the understanding of the importance of these over simple things like how many maths sums one can answer correctly or how many social studies facts one can remember and reproduce in an exam.

One key element is recognising and focusing more on progress, effort and movement forward as justifications for recognition and praise more than end outcomes. For example, i am reminded of a piece I read about some German research based on a longitudinal study of young athletes and sports persons. They were tracked from childhood. The ones who, in the longer term went on to achieve at the highest levels in their chosen sports were not the ones identified as having the highest levels of latent talent at a young age. Ultimately, those with the high latent talent too often squandered it, or at least failed to apply themselves enough to develop what they had. Those who were the long term winners were the ones who took their initial abilities and worked, strived and applied themselves to honing their talents and building their skills.

In some of my future articles here in the blog i will be focusing on the directions i believe we need to take in schools to shift the focus to ‘becoming’ as the overriding objective.

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