Tag Archives: leader

Natural Leaders – EI – George again!

7 Aug

6 signs of a natural leader Are leaders made or do they have skills that make it easier to naturally fit into this position?  This site presents the question…. are leadership qualities innate in some people and help them to achieve success in their pursuits? Leadership is something that can, and should be developed, but are there certain people that are more likely to become leaders than others?

A busy manager who has to deal with all kinds of personalities within a team can overlook signs of leadership and instead see someone being difficult — perhaps asking too many questions, questioning their direction or stepping on their toes when it comes to guiding other members of the team.

While these behaviors can be initially challenging, they are all signs that the individual has the potential to be a great leader. It’s up to the manager to notice these signs, identify the leader and guide them in the right direction. Recognizing the personality traits is the first step so here are six signs of a natural leader.

Do effective leaders have to have similar qualities to be effective or can they range in types and personalities?  How much does that matter?


Two + Two = 63.57 Do the numbers tell the whole or true story?

5 Jun

This is based on an article and DATA from the US (NY Times), but as you can see it has relevance to the NSW system

This is the time of year when the lists of best high schools in the United States are published. For anxious consumers, the number of lists can be daunting, whether national in scope (U.S. News & World Report; The Washington Post; Newsweek and The Daily Beast) or local (Boston magazine; New Jersey Monthly; The Chicago Sun-Times).

No one in his right mind would take these lists lightly. Property values rise near best high schools. Parents will fight to the death for best high schools. Best teachers and best principals want to work in best high schools.

Newsweek’s editors recently published their list of the 1,000 best, which is worth examining to better grasp how the magazine has been able to quantify something as complex and nuanced as a high-quality education.

First, it is important to have a rating system that sounds scientific. Newsweek uses six variables: On-time graduation rate (weighted 25 percent); percent of graduates accepted to college (25 percent); A.P. and International Baccalaureate tests per student (25 percent); average SAT/ACT score (10 percent); Average A.P./International Baccalaureate score (10 percent); and A.P./International Baccalaureate courses per student (5 percent).

This results in a highly refined index score that can distinguish between the 435th best school in America, Westwood High in Massachusetts (.51), and the 436th best, New Berlin West in Wisconsin (.50).

What schools score highest on Newsweek’s index? Of the top 50, 37 have selective admissions or are magnet schools, meaning they screen students using a combination of entrance exam scores, grade-point average, state test results and assessments of their writing samples. …. the same as our Selective HS  (or even OC classes)????

In short, to be the best, high schools should accept only the highest performing eighth graders, who — if the school doesn’t botch it — will become the highest performing 12th graders.

Put another way: Best in, best out, best school.

Eight of Newsweek’s top 50 are charter schools. For those who think an important role of public education is taking struggling students and raising their academic performance, this sounds promising. Charter schools are supposed to accept any child who applies. If the school is oversubscribed, there is to be a lottery. Is this Public Education….

What could be more democratic?

The two top charter schools on the Newsweek list are the Basis high schools in Scottsdale and Tucson, part of an Arizona-based charter chain.

According to the Basis Web site, the curriculum is heavily reliant on A.P. and college-level courses, and it includes Mandarin and Latin.

This means that only the strongest academic students need apply, and those who can’t cut it will leave.

What does the student body look like at a Basis high school? At Basis Scottsdale — the third best high school in America, according to Newsweek — 95 percent of the 701 students are Asian or white.

Asians make up 2.8 percent of the state population, but 41 percent of the Basis Scottsdale students.

There are 15 Hispanics (2 percent) in a state that is about one-third Hispanic.

There are no Native Americans listed on the State Education Department’s Web site, though they make up 5 percent of Arizona’s population. The site lists 13 African-American students and no children of migrant workers. There are no children who qualify for subsidized lunches or who need special education classes.

Clearly, best schools would do best not to get bogged down serving students considered un-best.

The remaining five of the top 50 schools are in suburban districts where enrolment is open to all, as long as they are residents. OOHHH….  Maybe this is Public Education ….

The one thing that these five schools have in common is that they are full of children from the nation’s wealthiest families.  …..then perhaps not ……

Among the top 50 are high schools in Bronxville, N.Y. (No. 40), which has a median household income of $166,000, and Jericho, N.Y. (No. 41), which has a median income of $128,000, as compared with $54,000 for New York State; also, Falls Church, Va. (No. 45), with a $111,000 median income versus $59,000 for the state.

People who feel passionately about getting their children into best schools should stay away from the Midwest, which Newsweek has identified as an educational wasteland. From Montana south to Mississippi — 2,000 miles — there are 14 contiguous states without a single high school among the 100 best, including Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas.

Even Massachusetts has only one school in the top 100, which is surprising, since the state’s students have repeatedly led the nation on the federal reading and math tests.

On the other hand, this is what makes America great: Anybody can make up any formula to measure anything, which gives lots of places a chance to be best at something.

Want the best high schools for your child? Move to Texas or Florida. Texas has 15 of the 100 best, placing second over all nationwide, while Florida has 10, the fourth most. This is no doubt due in good part to the reform efforts of George W. and Jeb Bush, who — like Newsweek — have made standardized test results a true measure of academic excellence.

At all costs, avoid Scarsdale, N.Y. It didn’t even make the top 1,000. Though its average SAT score of 1935 would rank it 21st among the 100 best, the school does not offer A.P. courses, and Newsweek counts A.P. data as 40 percent of the rating.

Why no A.P.? Scarsdale officials find that A.P. courses encourage students to go a mile wide and an inch deep, so the high school has created its own advanced courses. Instead of spending all their time working out of A.P. textbooks, students visit the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston and the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site in Hyde Park, N.Y., to do field research.

Two-thirds of Scarsdale seniors are accepted to colleges that the Barron’s Guide to the Most Competitive Colleges ranks as the “most competitive” in the country. Of course, Newsweek doesn’t own Barron’s, so it wouldn’t make any sense to use that as a criterion.

There is another problem with Scarsdale. The district did not submit data to Newsweek, and that is the only way to be considered. Of the nation’s 26,000 high schools, about 2,000 sent data, and of those, 1,000 were named to the list, meaning any school with a little gumption has a 50 percent chance of being a best.

Mark Miller, director of editorial operations for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, says that as long as people understand the limits of the criteria, “the list serves a valid purpose.”

“We made a choice to rank the schools by how well they prepared children for college,” he said. “If not for the school, they might not have the opportunity to get into college.”

Mr. Miller noted that May was a record month for traffic at The Daily Beast, with 95 million views, thanks in good part to the list.

Given that magazines and newspapers are bleeding to death, this is the only plausible justification I can think of: Lists are cash cows.  

I am not against schools with selective admissions. They are a vital part of the public system. My own mother, who grew up in an East Boston tenement, passed the test to get into Girls Latin School and then went on to Radcliffe.

My concern is that the lists are stacked. Schools with the greatest challenges can appear to be the biggest failures. At a time when public education is so data-driven, that kind of thinking can cost dedicated teachers and principals their jobs.

Time to halt the fallout.

22 May

Too often we hear of quality teachers leaving the system and disregarding our profession – the most honourable profession – as a viable long-term employment option.  Far be it for me to say that the renumeration matches the efforts of teachers (and all school staff), yet it is disappointing and alarming to have quality personnel leaving – seeing other employment options as more attractive.  

It is no wonder that our young, talented teachers with so much to offer the world feel like they are not appreciated. 

On top of the ridiculous workload teachers experience each day, please note that the benefits aren’t exactly stellar:

Generally, they will have to work for about 40 years (then will receive less pension than their peers). That the work they set is too hard or too easy. That their subject is not good enough. That they need to solve gaps in parenting. That they should receive performance related pay. That teachers are paid too much, in fact all governement employees are paid too much and don’t work hard enough.   That teachers ‘cheat’ when the watchmen come. And today they’re told that teachers don’t know what stress is.

Well here are 5 tips, from Andrew Miller, that teachers need to follow to stay sane and ‘keep on keeping on’.  Despite the mixed messages teachers are receiving, we can ill afford to let them go.

Baptism By Fire! That’s what I call the first year of teaching. No matter how much preparation and mentoring you have received, you are building the plane as you fly it. To make sure you don’t crash and/or burn (yes, pun intended!), I put together some hard-learned lessons from my experience as a new teacher. In addition, these are good recommendations and reminders for veteran teachers. When you get hunkered down in the day-to-day while the year presses on, you tend to forget what really works well, because you are working so hard. I hope you find these five tips useful!

1) Push Out Content in Different Ways

You know what’s exhausting? Preparing PowerPoints, presentations and other lectures! Guess what? You don’t have to do this all the time. Yes, there is a time and a place for a lecture or direct instruction, but there is also a place for a variety of strategies to have students take ownership of content learning. Use jigsaw techniques, games that teach, reciprocal teaching and other effective strategies that put students in the driver’s seat of learning. Move from sage of the stage to guide on the side. While all lessons require preparation and planning, a variety of lesson types can not only keep your students interested, but also keep you energized to try new ways of teaching.

2) Go Home!

I mean it. Go home! There is always something more to do, I know it. But you know what? It can wait! Now obviously, you do need to stay late for events, meetings and tutoring with students, but you also need to set boundaries. It is easy to get sucked into the school building, so make sure you leave when appropriate. Go home to your family (or your cat, in my case). Let your students and peers know that you are taking care of your own self by attempting to have a life outside of school.

3) Establish Boundaries for Your Time

Of course this relates to the tip above, but it has more to do with the overall structures you have in place for your time during the school day. It’s OK to keep your door closed. Yes, there are times to work with students, but there is also time to put on NPR with your cup of coffee, check you email and commence your morning ritual. Your lunch is sacred, so make sure you take that time for yourself, too. If professional development is scheduled, keep that sacred as well, because it is some rare time you have to work on your practice. Students, parents and others will respect the fact that you set time aside for them, but also for yourself.

4) Use Your PLN

In a previous blog here at Edutopia, Mary Beth Hertz wrote about the importance of the “connected educator,” suggesting that we all make sure to network with fellow educators. Great teachers steal (and you’d be a liar if you said you were “borrowing”), so make sure you use technologies like Edmodo and Twitter to keep yourself connected to other educators, your personal learning network (PLN).

5) Know What You Are Assessing

Obviously, teachers should know what they are assessing, but sometimes we forget and start assessing everything. If you collect a formative assignment, only assess for a few things. Do you have to assess for conventions all the time? No, but there is a time and place for that. Do you have to assess correct answers in math problems? Perhaps not this time. Perhaps you focus on process-oriented feedback. Know what you are assessing, and be transparent about this to students. Not only is this manageable for students to digest later, but it makes the time you spend assessing and giving feedback shorter, focused and more efficient.

Again, these are tips, and may not work for everyone, but I think in general they encompass what I learned in the first years. You can only care for your students if you are caring for yourself. If you create and live in structures that allow you to work smart, then you’ll transition into a confident, veteran teacher so much more quickly!

The Twitterverse @Ian2325

13 Mar

I collected these next two posts off blogs, referred via Twitter and they are particularly relevant as I have a number of colleagues about to delve into the world of Twitter.  Hopefully by dipping their toes in it they will gain confidence to broaden the sharing of their great ideas into a blog, as they hold a gamut of educational knowledge and know-how that we all would benefit from.

Why be an Administrative Tweeter?

Jeff Delp’s Blog

March 13, 2012

January 27, 2008.  That was the day, over four years ago, that I created my current Twitter account (@azjd).  It was an ugly beginning – tweeting about meaningless events/observations to an audience of none.  It wasn’t long before I was on hiatus from Twitter…convinced it offered little of value.

Now, several years (and thousands of tweets) later, my opinion has changed.  Twitter has become a professional development staple – a source of ideas, conversation, challenge, and inspiration.  Very few days go by that I am not scanning my Twitter stream, interacting with others, sharing links or making note of resources to read or send to others.  Yet, I still encounter many administrators (and educators) who are reluctant to dive into Twitter, seeing it as a potential time sink.  Here are several reasons why I think administrators should have a Twitter presence.

  • It has been said that teaching is a lonely profession.  I hope we are moving away from this idea, but the same could certainly be said of school administration.  As a new principal, I have had more than my share of challenges, and sometimes I feel like a man on an island.  While it does not replace face-to-face conversations with other administrators, Twitter is a valuable avenue for developing connections with administrators from around the world.  The varied perspectives, and opinions, is phenomenal and I often find that my Twitter conversations provide a “spark” for change in my approach.
  • Staying connected with what is happening in the classroom is an absolutely essential task of successful school leaders.  In order to successfully assume the role of “instructional leader,” administrators must be knowledgeable about current practice.  Twitter provides timely, and relevant, conversation related to classroom teaching trends.  I am constantly amazed by the level of creativity, innovation and collaboration demonstrated by educators on Twitter.  It is such a fantastic source of ideas that I am able to share with my staff.  Not to take away from books/publications (I read those too), but the profession is so dynamic, that we can’t always afford to wait for a book.
  • Not only should school administrators be up to speed on current classroom trends, they should work diligently to ensure that their staff members have access to this information and opportunities to explore new ideas and connect with others who are implementing.  In a time of budget restrictions, Twitter provides a viable professional development opportunity – one that should be modeled by school administrators.  My experience has been that educators are intrigued by Twitter, and related technology tools, but often need a bit of encouragement to get going.  As leaders on our campus, we have a responsibility to encourage exploration and innovation.  Twitter is a potential means to that end.
  • When others read my blog, or see my activity on Twitter, they frequently ask…”How do you have time?”  When I get this question, I do consider whether I spend too much time on Twitter, but I have come to a realization.  Twitter has become embedded in my professional development practice (something that I see as an administrative responsibility).  Because of numerous apps, for almost every imaginable device, Twitter is a ubiquitous tool.  I can access my Twitter stream from my office, my driveway, while waiting for a meeting, in a classroom, at a ballgame – well, you get the point.  I am not on Twitter all of the time (and I don’t want to be), but accessibility allows me to fit it in, when it is convenient.
  • Twitter can be customized to create individualized professional learning opportunities.  Twitter hashtags (#) allow users to select an intended audience, or filter information based upon specific interests.  Want an overview of the education world?  Check out #edchat.  Want to know what other school administrators are talking about?  Follow #cpchat.  Curious about how technology is being applied in education?  Check out #edtech.

A quick Google search will help you identify tools and resources for getting started on Twitter.  For those of you just beginning, I would recommend visiting Jerry Blumengarten’s (@cybraryman1Twitter Page.

If you are looking for a few school administrators to follow, I would recommend that you peruse the Connected Principals web site.  There is a vast array of experience, talent and interests represented on this blog.  It is a great place to begin building your professional learning network.

Twitter – The Very Basics

Posted on March 13, 2012 by T. Henriksen (via George Couros)

Our district has been engaging administrators in a Digital Discovery Series this year. We have had two very powerful sessions. Our last session was just last week, with George Couros speaking to us about Social Media.  You can find my blog post about that evening here.

After our session with George, there have been a number of administrators wondering where to start with Twitter.  As a result, I thought I would make a very basic blog post for those just getting started.

Interestingly enough, one of the quotes made by George that stood out for many was

“If you are not on Twitter and don’t know what # or @ mean then you are slowly becoming illiterate.”

So, let’s start with the basics:

When you send a message in Twitter (called a tweet), if you send it and do not add anything else to you message, only those people who follow you will see your message.  If you have two followers, only two people will see your message.

What does the “#” hashtag mean?

You use this anywhere in a tweet.  The # and the keyword(s) that follow the # sign does a couple of things:

1.  The hashtag sends your message to a particular group. This sends your message to a larger group of people (not only those who follow you). For instance, if you want to send a message so that people in our own school district would see, you would put our school district hashtag at the end of your message (tweet). The hashtag we use for our school district is #sd36learn.  If you send your message to this hashtag, anyone who views this stream will see your message (not only those people who follow you).

2. The hashtag can also be used to allow others to search for the keyword in your tweet.  For instance, if you were tweeting about a particular topic, but did not know if there was a particular group already formed on that topic, you may add a hashtag to your message. This will enable anyone to search for that topic. If they do, they will likely come across your tweet.

Important to note: If you click on a hashtagged word in any message, you will be taken to a list of other tweets with the same hashtag somwhere in the tweet.

According to Twitter-etiquette, you should try not to use more than three hashtags for each tweet.

Some hashtags you may consider using and/or following:

#sd36learn – Surrey School District

#bclearns – British Columbia Learns – those people who are interested in tweeting about education-related topics (not political) in BC tweet here.

#edchat – General education-related chatter.

#cpchat – Connected Principals Chat – This is a great chat for administrators to use. It is always filled with interesting and relevant education topics and discussions – with some great school principals to learn from and follow.

#edleaders and #edadmin – resources and ideas connected to educational leadership.

#edpolicy and #edreform – resources and ideas connected to educational reform.

If you want to search for a posts (tweets) on given topics, you can go to: http://search.twitter.com (even if you don’t have a twitter account)

If you are looking for all the hashtags that are useful to people in Education, you may want to check out Cybrary Man’s list of Educational Hashtags.

Here is a good video on the basics of Twitter Search and using hashtags.

Next up, what does the “@” tag mean?

You use the “@” when you want to send a message to someone, or reference someone in a message. For example, if someone wanted to reply to something that I said, they would preface their post with “@henriksent” (“henriksent” is my Twitter username). The “@” symbol could also be used later in the post to reference someone (ie: “I am going to the movies with @henriksent”).

Here are some video tutorials you may want to watch, as you get started with Twitter.

If you are wondering who to follow on Twitter, you may want to look at this list. This is a very large list, organized by particular area of education. For instance, if you would like to follow some administrators, go to the column that is titled Admin.  As you scroll down, you will see many administrators who are currently using Twitter. This is a google doc, so you can add your Twitter username while you are at it.  🙂

Here is a recent list of some of Canada’s Most Influencial Edu-Tweeters. You may want to check out this list and follow some of these people.

What does “RT” Mean?

You will often see “RT” in a tweet.  The “RT” is short for “ReTweet”. You would use “RT” if you wanted to pass on what someone else has already said.  A RT may look something like this tweet I RTed tonight:

RT @evernoteschools: Don’t miss our webinar tomorrow — 11 ways to use Evernote in your classroom http://ow.ly/9BNMK #edtech #sd36learn

You may wonder why people would RT something someone else has Tweeted.  There are a couple of reasons:

1.  You liked what that person tweeted and would like to respond to it in some way.

2. More importantly, you want the people who follow you to see that tweet, thus, spreading the information to a wider audience.

If you change a tweet that you RT, you may want to change the RT at the beginning of the message to MT (Modified Tweet).

Direct Messages (DM’s)

You may not want everyone to see what you have to say all of the time. You may want to send a direct message to someone so only that person reads what you have to say.  If you want to do this all you need to do is start your message with a d and a space, followed by the person’s username.

For instance, if you wanted to send me a DM, you would start your tweet with “d henriksent” followed by your message.

So, that’s the very basic guide to starting with Twitter.

You may want to look at using some other applications that will help you organize Twitter, as I find it quite over-whelming in when I just use the Twitter platform itself.

On my laptop, I prefer to use Tweetdeck – where I can set up columns with my favourite hashtags I like to follow. There is an app for this for your iPhone.  You can use the app for this on your iPad as well, but it will only show you one column at a time.  On my iPad, I prefer to use the Hootsuite app.  There are many apps out there, so I recommend you explore them and find one that works best for you.


2 Mar

c/- wikipedia….. Resilience is the ability of a material to absorb energy when it is deformed elastically, and release that energy upon unloading. The modulus of resilience is defined as the maximum energy that can be absorbed per unit volume without creating a permanent distortion. It can be calculated by integrating the stress-strain curve from zero to the elastic limit.

Like any job, teaching can be pretty thankless at times.  Like the stand-up comic who fails to make an audience laugh, sometimes I find my efforts to highlight the importance of character and mental toughness fall on apathetic ears; both young and old.  

We hear about ‘resilience’ a lot, and perhaps it has been over-used in education, along with terms such as engagement and authenticity and significance. So much so I fear, we take for granted its contribution towards our own success and failure.

So too like the comic, I have to put up with my fair share of hostile hecklers and critics.

Sometimes the inexplicable lack of awareness in those I deal with approaches soul sucking levels.

Although this proves only that I have plenty of work to do in helping these people grow, I get frustrated and lose my resolve.

For those days when I feel like my efforts are futile I put up a nondescript piece of paper in my classroom.  Just a few little pieces of wisdom that remind me to press on.

I just thought they might be of value to you.

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt “Citizenship in a Republic,” Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
but make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
and yet don’t look to good , nor talk too wise,
yours is the earth and everything thats in it,
and-which is more-you’ll be a man.
-W.B. Yeats

“The beauty of the soul shines out when a man bears with composure one heavy mischance after another, not because he does not feel them, but because he is a man of high and heroic temper.”-Aristotle

“In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless in those who have never achieved his title. Do not lose your knowledge that man’s proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it’s yours.”-Ayn Rand

“All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”-Edmund Burke

5 Levels of Principalship

26 Feb

When I hear of teachers talk about principals who rule as a dictator I can’t help but cringe on the inside. You know the type of principal I’m talking about, the one who would rather hit you over the head with the teacher handbook and board policy than to smile and say good morning. I believe the principal should serve as the working captain of the educational team instead of the autocratic coach on the sideline calling all the plays. I believe the principal sets the tone and the atmosphere of a school, whether that atmosphere is positive or negative most often times falls on the shoulders of the lead learner, the principal. The best way to create a postive atmosphere is to lead through influence.

John C. Maxwell has just written a new book entitled The 5 Levels of Leadership. His basic premise is that influence is gained with people in levels. Every person who leads others has to start at the bottom level with another person and work his or her way up to higher levels one at a time. I believe these leadership principles absolutely without question apply to school administrators. I’m going to summarize these levels as I see them as a principal.


Position is the lowest level of leadership. You have the title of principal and people follow because they have to. Everything is wrong with using position to get people to follow. Position is a poor substitute for influence. Principals at this level of leadership rely on rules, regulations, policies and organizational charts to control their people. Principals who make it only to level 1 may be bosses, but they are never leaders. They have subordinates, not team members. Principals at this level have difficulty working with volunteers, younger teachers, and the highly educated. Why? Because positional leaders have no influence, and these types of people tend to be more independent.


On the permission level, people follow because they want to. When you like people and treat them like individuals who have value, you begin to develop influence with them. You develop trust. The agenda for principals on Level 2 isn’t preserving their position. It’s getting to know their faculty and figuring out how to get along with them.

You can like people without leading them, but you cannot lead people well without liking them.


One of the dangers of getting to the permission level is that the principal will stop there. But good principals don’t just create a pleasant working environment. They get things done! Level 3 is based on getting results. Production principals gain influence and credibility, and people begin to follow them because of what they have done for the school. At this level, work gets done, morale improves, student achievement improves, and school improvement goals are achieved.


At this level principals become great not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others. They use their position, relationships, and productivity to invest in their faculty and develop them until those faculty members become leaders in their own right.
Two things happen on level 4. First, teamwork goes to a very high level. Why? Because the high investment in people deepens relationships, helps people to know one another better and strengthens loyalty. Second, performance increases. Why? Because there are more leaders on the faculty, and they help improve everybody’s performance.


The highest and most difficult level of the principalship is the pinnacle. Only naturally gifted principals ever make it to this level. What do principals do on Level 5? They develop people to become Level 4 principals. They create opportunities that other leaders don’t. They create a legacy in what they do. People follow them because of who they are and what they represent.

The above summary was taken from an article by John C. Maxwell in the November edition of Success Magazine, and was bloggarised by Max Roberts.

Wine & Education

22 Feb

Written by CBirk and posted among the Connected Principals

Recently I had the opportunity to go to the British Columbia School Superintendent’s Association Conference in Vancouver, BC.  At the conference, there were more than 450 District Superintendents, Principals, Vice Principals, Treasurers, and students in attendance to listen to presenters speak about personalizing learning for students in the 21st century in a British Columbia context.

Amongst the speakers was Charles Leadbeater, a renowned expert on innovation in various areas in the private and public sector.  He talked about a number of different things including the changing face of innovation with social media, the evolution of innovation from the contributions of few to the contributions of many, and the scaling up of innovation from small pockets here and there to large scale implementation of innovation throughout a particular sector.  He also described a series of thought provoking analogies;  while each was interesting, the one that piqued the attention of the large group on a Friday night after a long week was not difficult to pick out.

What education can learn from wine.

Dr. Leadbeater began to describe the French wine industry and the process of selecting a suitable bottle from a long list of French wines that one might experience were they to go to a posh and exclusive French restaurant.  He described the oft-intimidating process of the sommelier coming with a list that might have several dozen different varieties and brands to a person that might have little or no experience with wines.  Having gone through this experience on many occasions myself, I really identified with the strategy that he described:  “One doesn’t pick the top three for fear that one might be seen as cheap just as one tends not to pick the bottom three because they are far too expensive.  Instead, the typical person blindly picks something somewhere in the middle, with little knowledge or proffered advice as to whether that bottle would go well with their particular meal.”

I can identify with this.  I certainly have felt intimidated by what appears to be an expert who speaks in terms that I have little or know comprehension about.  Truth be known, I just hope that I get a nice wine that tastes palatable.

Leadbeater went on to describe what happens when the bottle shows up.   It is often non-descript, with a label in a different language and very little information about the contents.   I will admit (with a bit of a red face) that at times in the past, if the bottle was of a particularly dark color, that I have wondered whether I have actually ordered a red or a white wine right up to the point where I pour it in my glass!  He talked about how most people do not have the time to research and figure out whether a particular variety compliments their meal.  The French had the wine market cornered, the language of wine cornered, and did little to help their consumers because they didn’t have to.  France and good wine were synonymous, and if you wanted to know what variety went with your lamb, you needed to go do your research and find out.

With many people nodding in the crowd, Mr. Leadbeater then talked about the Australian wine industry, and how they had stormed on to the wine scene with a very different approach.  If one were to look at their typical wine bottles, one would find a simple description of the wine AND some useful tips about which meals that particular wine might go well with.  Having Chicken Korma? Try me!  As a result, he contended, Joe Q. Public in a hurry on their way home from work would rather read a label and grab a bottle of the grape from Oz rather than wander aimlessly up and down the multitude of aisles filled with French wine trying to determine what was going to go well with the salmon they purchased from Costco.  This really struck a chord with me.

He then related this to education.  He cautioned the group about the current system and methodologies around education might be considered to be analogous to French wine.  In BC, education might be considered by many to be a lexicon for quality, with a proven track record of success.  However, for many, it might be shrouded in a dark bottle without a description of what it might actually ‘go with’.  It might be considered to be described in terms that people outside of education are not familiar with, and understood only by educational sommeliers–district administrators, principals, and teachers.  And he also highlighted the fact that our consumers (our students and parents) right now may be looking for something that is more easily understood, that is in clear and transparent packaging, and that is more applicable to what they need to succeed.

This resonated with me.  I realize that oftentimes, I speak in ‘educationese’, in terms that are puzzling (and sometimes outright offensive) to people in business, industry, the trades, or to the general public (including our students).  In order to create positive partnerships with our ‘consumers’, we need them to be very knowledgeable and informed about what we do at schools and the value of this education for our students as contributors to society.  We need to be able to clearly articulate the skills that kids are learning in our buildings and how these will be transferable not just to something such as post-secondary education, but to business, industry, the trades, or whatever our students may choose to do.  And perhaps most importantly, we need to articulate this for our students in our buildings TODAY.

The answers to the question “Why are we doing this?” can no longer be “because you need to know this”, “because it is important”, “because it’s on the test”, “because you need this to go to university”, or “because I said so”.  To use the wine analogy,  if we don’t put our outcomes from our classes and our system into a transparent vessel with clear markings that everyone can understand, we run the risk of our students and parents looking to ‘consume’ their education from a ‘bottle’ (educational provider) that goes better with their chosen meal (career).  If we do personalize this ‘consumption’, we have a much greater chance of engaging our students in their learning at our schools.