Tag Archives: change

Where I at

20 Aug

Well this is where I am at!

It’d be nice to really be able to define my place in the grand scheme of things at a point in time – like today.  More often than not I feel fluid – in some vague space between MANAGING what I do and wanting to LEAD towards why we do what we do.

After being inspired by Simon Sinek’s TED talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”, and seeking out direction by scanning thru the myriad of advice on the web, I am inspired by Mary Jo Asmus’ similie for leadership – while driving (or teaching others to drive) the vehicle of change in our school.



Winning Hearts and Minds




Where are we at in relation to Leadership, Change and Student Outcomes?

Tension? Levers? Barriers?



What do I really want?


Why? Why? Why?


Leadership – All of us.  The Why.

Management – My responsibility related to governance. The What.


Driving from the passenger side

By Mary Jo Asmus on August 15th, 2012 |

One of the most harrowing times in the life of a parent is that period when their children learn to drive a car. If you’ve had teenage children who have learned this skill, you might know what it feels like to relinquish control. When they are practicing driving, you sit next to them as they take the steering wheel and brakes; they are in control and you are there to offer (hopefully calm) guidance and advice.

Being a leader has a lot in common with the parent helping their teen to learn driving skills. Leadership is a hands-off activity that allows your team to take control of the daily work while you guide and coach from the passenger seat. It can sometimes be hard to respectfully refrain from trying to grab the steering wheel or putting the brakes on.

For many leaders who are accustomed to being in control in their lives and at work, the leadership ride can be harrowing, too. Letting go and allowing your team to take the steering wheel is not always comfortable. There will be mistakes made, but if you learn to pay attention without meddling while providing a light touch in guiding them, it can also be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll have.

As a leader, you’ll be most successful when you don’t try to drive for others. Learning to sit in the passenger seat isn’t easy, but it can be a great ride when you:

Trust them. How do you know if your staff is capable if you don’t trust them to do the things they were hired to do? Trust that they are, and your advantage is that they will trust you back. If the level of work you give them has a mix of things that meet or exceed what they are capable of, chances are that you’ll be glad you allowed them to drive.

Lead with clarity. Be clear about your expectations and outcomes. Go ahead and tell them why you are requesting that they do the work you’re delegating. Make sure these initial conversations are two-way so that you can be assured that they understand what you are asking them to do. They will be most successful when you clearly dialog with them about the work they need to do.

Are available. Especially when your team members are learning new things, make sure that they know when you are available to talk through their dilemmas. Perhaps you might want to set up meetings with them more frequently than you have, or make sure you put time into your schedule to check in with them to ask if they have questions or need assistance without falling into the trap of solving all the problems for them.

Coach them along the way. You still need to be informed of the work your staff is doing, but you should do your best to refrain from telling them how to do it. And unless they ask for instruction or they are getting into trouble, lay off on the advice-giving and problem-solving. Instead, gently guide them with questions that help them to figure out the best way to proceed: “What’s your next step?” “How will you begin?” and “What do you need from me?” are great questions to ask.

Encourage, thank, celebrate. These are the seemingly small things (to you) that are big things to your staff and the success of your organization. When they are on the right track, encourage them to go further. Thank them for what they do well. Celebrate success so that everyone can see great examples of work well done.

Leading from the passenger side isn’t easy, but when done well, it can be a rewarding experience for a leader to watch employees develop, learn their own ways of getting things done, and become an example for others.


Determining our vision……….

What do we want to achieve?

After we test and reshape your big-picture vision, you should develop the details. You need to give people some specifics as to what your big picture will mean on a day-to-day level. You also have to tell people what steps you will take to get there, i.e., develop a plan.  People may think your big picture is a meaningless mirage if you don’t give them some ideas as to how you think things will actually change.

You don’t have to have all the answers, but you need to have some ideas. What has to happen to get there? Write up some tentative ideas for how to get things done. The better your plan for reaching your vision, the more likely people will take you seriously and be willing to follow your lead.

Once you have some confidence that your vision is sound, begin to put it out as a way to gather support for your leadership and what you and your organization want to accomplish. Use your vision as a way to inspire people to act.

Help people take ownership of a vision

As a leader, you have to help people take your vision and make it their own. This is an important step in bringing people together to work toward a common goal. Members of a group need to have a shared vision and a sense of ownership in order to be committed to the group. That is key in helping people stay with a group for the long haul.

People don’t need to agree with all the details of your vision in order to follow your lead. They will have different ideas about how to put a vision to use. That is fine and healthy. But in order to work together, people need to share an overall vision and some basic goals.

To help people take your vision and make it their own, you need to talk and listen. You shouldn’t talk too much. You should mostly listen to people’s thinking. If you really sit back and listen to people, they will tell you what is most important to them.

It may take people a long time to get to the point of telling you what is really important to them. They may have to tell you first about their children or a crummy experience they had with a politician. However, if you can listen long enough, people will tell you their thinking about how things should change.

A balancing act: Meet people where they are and challenge them at the same time

At times people may not be ready to hear your vision of how things can be. Some people may disagree. Some may have so much of their attention taken by surviving day-to-day that it is difficult for them to listen to how things can be better. Also, people sometimes feel mistrustful, hopeless, discouraged, and cynical. Some people depend on a narrow picture of the world in order to feel secure.

Communicating a vision to people through that obstacle course can be tough. You often have to meet people where they are in order to establish some trust. As we talked about earlier, listening is an important tool in doing that.

But you also have to communicate the parts of your vision that people can relate to. They may not be ready to think about an overall plan for transforming the school. However, they may be able to think about doing something about the reading in the classroom. If so, talk about reading. Talk to people “where they’re at.” Speak to their conditions and their personal needs. This will help you build some trusting relationships. Later you can do more.

On the other hand, it is sometimes important to say things that people are not quite ready to hear. People need to think about new ideas over a period of time before they can make sense of them. New ideas are important to introduce, even if they engender initial resistance. Often the strongest and most important ideas meet with resistance.

A leader has to lead. And the most important aspect of leadership is winning over the thinking of people to a vision of what things can be like.

This can take time. You may need to be gentle, but also persistent.

Be courageous

In order to create and communicate a vision, you must be courageous. People who communicate a vision of what things should be like are often the people who are courageous enough to state what is obviously wrong and unjust. It can be difficult to say out loud that the prince has no clothes. However, once you say it, people will see that it is true.

If, for example, you see some clear problems in your school, be courageous and start talking about them to others. Ask people how they think things should be. You may find that you have more in common with people than you had thought.

You should also be prepared for people to attack you for what you are trying to do. Ideas that lead to fundamental changes are frightening to people. People may actively campaign against you. Often, these campaigns can get quite personal. People may try to make your personal problems or shortcomings the issue, rather than the issue you are trying to put forward.

If this happens, gather your close friends and allies around you. Together, come up with a plan to handle the attack and direct the discussion back to the real issues. Don’t try to handle an attack by yourself. When an attack is being directed at you, you will need the perspective of friends. It will help if you can anticipate and plan for such attacks before they happen, but sometimes that is not possible.



Leading a school to where it has never been

20 Mar

As leaders, whether in the capacity as a teacher or administrator, it is our duty to be agents of change. 

In 1995 Henry Kissinger lectured across Australia and spoke of leadership within society and politics.  Akin to his references about society is leadership of our schools.

The hardest problem for a leader is to take his school from where it is to where it has never been, and that is a lonely task.  If he gets too far ahead of his people he will be destroyed; if he is too cautious, problems will overwhelm him.  How to find that middle ground is the overwhelming problem.  It is a problem that has yet to be solved in our schools.

So can effective change be driven by the students, rather than dragged along by the leader?

Dr Gary Stager spoke at the 2012 National Association of Secondary School Principals in Tampa, Florida addressing this issue, as summated by EricSheringer.

We must collaboratively develop and implement our own ideas to improve the learning process in a way that emphasizes our student’s cognitive growth, passions, and strengths, while challenging them to push their own boundaries.   

It is difficult work to transform a culture of learning that has been embedded for nearly a century, but every problem in education has been solved sometime or somewhere before.  The time is now for all of us to critically analyse our respective schools and take a stand against the status quo in order to do what is best for our students. 

Best ideas in the world don’t succumb to incrementalism or any other type of excuse or challenge.    As Gary stated they evolve around the following:

Respect for each learner:  We need to have actual conversations with our students.  They must be part of transformation efforts and their voices can provide invaluable feedback in efforts to reshape everything from curriculum, to pedagogy, to technology purchases, to how time for learning is allocated.  Respect also entails we will consistently seek paths to grow professionally in order to discover and implement new ideas on their behalf.

Authentic problems: This is as real world as it gets.  In my opinion there is no other powerful learning strategy that to have students exposed to and tackle problems that have meaning and relevancy. 

Real tools and materials: Students are using technology to solve problems outside of school.  They are also creating their own technology in some cases.  As Gary emphasized, learners are capable of incredible things if they are placed the right environment.  It is our responsibility to create these environments.  To do so we must relinquish control, provide support (purchasing the right tools and providing quality professional development), encourage calculated risk-taking, exhibit flexibility, and model expectations.

Expanded opportunities:  All students should have the opportunity to be exposed to authentic learning experiences, online courses, specialized field trips, independent study, credit for learning experiences outside of school, and internships. 

Collegiality: Let’s face it, as educators we need to work together in order to successfully implement the best ideas in order to improve teaching and learning.  We must overcome personal agendas, bring the naysayers on board, implement a system focused on shared decision-making, and move to initiative a change process that is sustainable.  The best ideas will only become reality through collegiality.

The best ideas in the world can and should be cultivated in our schools.  As leaders it is our responsibility to see that they are.  The time is now!

I Bid Ye Fare Thee Well

6 Mar

I had a lovely farewell with a group of parents and colleagues the other day, as I again moved on from one school to the next.  While this was a great chance to catch up it made me ponder the changes that had been instituted there as well as at subsequent positions before this.  I must say here and now that I don’t think I initiated or made the changes, but rather it was my management of the changes and my leadership of the staff as we felt the undercurrent of change drag us along.  So then what challenges will I face in my next tenure?

The 21st century does not fit neatly into rows, so should students? Do we allow the network-based concepts of flow, collaboration, and dynamism help you rearrange your room for authentic 21st century learning?

Knowledge acquisition is only a smartphone away. Get rid of those clunky desktops and monitors and do something fun with that room.

Ok, so this is a trick answer. More precisely this one should read: ‘Our concept of what a computer is’. Because computing is going mobile and over the next decade we’re going to see the full fury of individualised computing via handhelds come to the fore. Can’t wait.

The 21st century is a 24/7 environment. And the next decade is going to see the traditional temporal boundaries between home and school disappear. And despite whatever academics or politicians might say, we don’t need kids to ‘go to school’ more; we need them to ‘learn’ more. And this will be done 24/7 and on the move (see #3).

I predict that the SC is on its last legs and the HSC isn’t far behind. Over the next ten years, we will see Digital Portfolios replace test scores as the #1 prerequisite for TAFE and university admissions.

The 21st century is customizable. In ten years, the teacher who hasn’t yet figured out how to use tech to personalize learning will be the teacher out of a job. Differentiation won’t make you ‘distinguished’; it’ll just be a natural part of your work.

Wikipedia is the greatest democratizing force in the world right now. If you are afraid of letting your students peruse it, it’s time you get over yourself.

Books were nice. In ten years’ time, all reading will be via digital means. And yes, I know, you like the ‘feel’ of paper. Well, in ten years’ time you’ll hardly tell the difference as ‘paper’ itself becomes digitized.  How many of you now grab national news via the net or mobile, and only peruse the paper to occupy your mind as you sit in the staffroom or waiting room?

Bio scans, bio scans and bio scans.

A wardobe?

Ok, so this is another trick answer. More subtly put: IT Departments as we currently know them. Cloud computing and a decade’s worth of increased wifi and satellite access will make some of the traditional roles of IT — software, security, and connectivity — a thing of the past. What will IT professionals do with all their free time? Innovate. Look to tech departments to instigate real change in the function of schools over the next twenty years.

School buildings are going to become ‘homebases’ of learning, not the institutions where all learning happens. Buildings will get smaller and greener, student and teacher schedules will change to allow less people on site at any one time, and more teachers and students will be going out into their communities to engage in experiential learning.

Education over the next ten years will become more individualised, leaving the bulk of grade-based learning in the past. Students will form peer groups by interest and these interest groups will petition for specialized learning. The structure of K-12 will be fundamentally altered.

This is actually one that could occur over the next five years. Universities have to realize that if they are to remain relevant, they are going to have to demand that 21st century tech integration be modelled by the very professors who are supposed to be preparing our teachers.

No one knows your school as well as you. With the power of a PLN (professional learning networks) in their back pockets, teachers will rise up to replace peripatetic professional development gurus as the source of schoolwide professional development programs. This is already happening.

There is no reason why every student needs to take however many unit of the same course of study as every other student. The root of curricular change will be the shift in Yr 5-8 providers to a role as foundational content providers and Yr 9-12 schools as places for specialised learning.

Ongoing parent-teacher relations in virtual reality will make parent-teacher conference nights seem quaint. Over the next ten years, parents and teachers will become closer than ever as a result of virtual communication opportunities. And parents will drive schools to become ever more tech integrated.

Nutrition information + handhelds + cost comparison = the end of $5.00 lasagne in foil containers. At least, I so hope so.

You need a website/brochure/promo/etc.? Well, for goodness sake just let your kids do it. By the end of the decade — in the best of schools — they will be.

20. MANDATORY ALGEBRA as an example
Within the decade, it will either become the norm to complete courses in primary/’middle’ school.  We’ll have finally woken up to the fact that there’s no reason to have content like algebra as a prerequisite for anyone other than the absolute few who will continue to use it. 

In ten years’ time, schools will decrease their paper consumption by no less than 90%. And the printing industry and the copier industry and the paper industry itself will either adjust or perish.