Leadership means you’re supposed to lead

Vicki Davis just blogged that an innovative teacher friend of hers has been shut down by her school district’s leadership because:

No one else is doing this in our state, so why should we?

BeafollowerPathetic. Appalling. And sad.

Talented personnel drive innovation. Any school organization that hopes to successfully navigate these complex times needs every talented educator it can get. I hope that Vicki’s friend leaves that school system as soon as she can; the managers there (note I did not use the term ‘leaders’) deserve what they get. Unfortunately, the students and families there do NOT deserve what they now will be getting, which is a lack of exposure to the essential competencies they need to be successful in a hypercompetitive, technology-suffused, globally-connected information economy.

Leadership means you’re supposed to lead. There’s absolutely nothing about this statement that reflects the concept of leadership. Shame on those administrators school board members.

Update: I changed this post slightly to reflect the new information that Vicki shared below…

39 Responses to “Leadership means you’re supposed to lead”

  1. We cannot expect “Out of the Box” Innovation when we limit ourselves to “In the Box” thinking.

  2. Well this story just illustrates the paradox of leadership.

    If, as your title suggests, “leadership means you’re supposed to lead,” then by definition, your followers can’t lead, because then you’re no longer leading.

    So from the perspective of leadership, it was perfectly reasonable for the leader to say to the follower, “stop leading, dammit.”

    In fact, the entire discussion around ‘leadership’ is misplaced. You don’t want to foster leadership. This is just a recipe for setting up putative leaders in competition with each other.

    You want to encourage creativity, innovation, expressiveness, experimentation, and similar attributes. And you want to promote, not ‘leadership’, which implies followers, but ’empowerment’ (or some such thing), which does not seek to set some people above others.

  3. Interestingly her administrators empower her and believe in what she is doing. Perhaps I should go back and edit — this statement came from the school board that shut her down!

    Can we leave when we meet opposition? If so, there would be no where for any of us to go!! Any person who works in this environment experiences it!

    Thank you for echoing this upsetting incident and sharing your thoughts!

    • Thanks for the additional info, Vicki. I made a couple of changes in my post above.

      I see a difference between ‘leaving when I meet opposition’ and ‘not being able to do the work that’s important and makes my heart sing because my organization won’t support it.’ I’m all for trying to navigate roadblocks but I also believe that, unfortunately, sometimes you just have to go to where you can do the work you love because your current place isn’t it.

      • Yes there are times to “leave.” Always. But with budget cuts – we have to do a good job of marketing ourselves and having good old fashioned people skills with the people we see every day. Often, I’ve found the biggest influencers aren’t the hot shot who goes from one school to another looking for the perfect place but the teacher who rides out the storm and consistently makes good decisions through thick and thin. If we stay long enough system wide change DOES happen. Right now we have a whole school at my school ready for full technology integration. We have a handheld group working for K3-1st; a 1:1 laptop lab group discussing what to do for the elementary and a 1:1 laptop group working for middle and high school. We’re writing the plan and many are ready to move ahead…but often it takes time and one has to be humble and realize that I nor any teacher is the “center of the universe.” Be positive. Stick it out. Help others see what is possible and eventually the very good people who happen to be teachers will want to move into technology integration because it is the right thing to do.

        The tough thing is telling people to leave right off the bat, I think sometimes causes people to miss the great outcome that could happen if they push through it. It is kind of like when I Had my beautiful 10 pound 3 oz baby girl (who is now 6 feet tall) – I couldn’t leave because the pain was to great – I had to go through that in order to have a great joy in my life.

        Great post and your points are very valid. Thank you for responding and adding to this conversation and pointing out a horrible wrong.

    • Don’t you think it would have useful to the readers to present both sides of the issue instead of framing it that the admins are the bad guys and your friend is the automatic hero?

      How do you know that your friend’s idea wasn’t hairbrained and the admins were just letting her down easily?

      • Yes, Mark, I’m biased. She had been told that she was going to the Flat Classroom conference in Beijing – a conference which I co-organize and run. They let her go last year to India and voted she could go and take students in December.

        Also, I think that if you read Suzie’s post below she is the teacher. The point is that the students raised the money themselves but the board wouldn’t let them spend it.

        In this case, there really isn’t anyone to speak out for Suzie.

        Mark –

        I will say this. You have a right to speak whether your own blog is updated or not. I always appreciate that Scott encourages dialog from many different people in his comments.

        I think perhaps you are an administrator who Wants people to see it from their perspective. There are so many great administrators and Suzie has a great one – in this case it is the school board not backing the administrators. But then again there are many great school boards.

        I think the biggest issue in this case was the WHY they turned her down. They turned her down because no one else in the state was going. That is the problem.

        The kind of thinking that says I’ll only do it if others are is a definite follower-only mentality.

        Anyway – I appreciate your comments, it always upsets me when people get too personal in comments as I feel they have below – everyone deserves their own opinion and your blog doesn’t need to be updated to have it be just as valid as those of us who might blog more often.

  4. To have leaders, you must have followers. And if everyone is ‘taking the lead’ then who is doing the following? I have found that many teachers are content with being in the role of followers, however, that is contingent on the effectiveness of the leadership of their admins.

    Schools are grappling with keeping up with the trend of the day – teacher-leaders, collaboration, innovation, etc. but it is for some mere lip service. Unless the admins. are deeply rooted in that philosphy the effect will be one of staff confusion and rampant disorganization. Admins have to establish a cogent culture on principles they truly espouse so that their faculty know whether they are truly expected to lead, follow, or innovate.

    • Ma’am: there’s no shortage of lemmings in the world who don’t have the courage to stand apart from the collective and risk the blowback from being a maverick. One only needs to read the education blogosphere to learn that. 99% of them all basically repeat the same mantras.

      • Mark,

        I couldn’t help but notice that your own blog hasn’t been updated since September.

        Does someone who chooses not to speak at all fall into your leader or lemming category?

        At least the bloggers you criticize are actively trying to catalog what they know and to start conversations centered around that knowledge. You may not agree with them, but at least you have the choice to agree because they’re making their own thinking transparent.

        You’re just dropping cheap shots in comment sections. That’s evidence of intellectual weakness, don’t you think?

        Bill

        • Dear Bill:

          The reason my blog hasn’t been updated is explained in detail there.

          These bloggers are making behavioral choices based on the wrong motivations and foisting them on their students. It has nothing to do with gathering or disseminating knowledge. There’s no thinking involved when you see, read, or hear a Madison Avenue created ad for a trendy digital product that you’re conned into believing you can’t do without.

          A majority of the education field is filled with lemmings who have fallen for the con. These same people fill the blogosphere repeating the same garbage message that’s been fed to them.

          There is a difference between an iFad and an IWB. An IWB is a practical and pragmatic tool designed exclusively for business and educational use. It’s marketed to adults. iFads are marketed via pop culture to kids and adults who are in truth simply retro-adolescent gadget freaks trying to relive the Christmas morning rush of receiving a new toy.

          For that reason (and others), I consider the latter product and its
          corollaries with suspicion and contempt. I feel the same way about pop culture, Madison Avenue, and Silicon Valley.

          I don’t clutter my life with useless toys. I use only the bare minimum of what I need. I don’t Twitter, Facebook, or text. If I need to talk someone directly, I’ll call them. I have no time for this crass consumerist attitude of “buy more be happy” and “new and more is better.”

          I also have no time for people who are addicted to their devices or the internet. Yet this is what so many of my fellow educators want to do– create a another generation of addicted gadget freaks with limited attention spans.

          There is nothing more pathetic that watching people scurrying around wiggling their thumbs over some device like they’re trying to catch the last helicopter out of Saigon.

          What you consider “cheap shots” I consider uncompromising honesty that’s sorely lacking on the blogosphere.

          • Dear Mark,

            I’m going to say something that might make you uncomfortable here:

            I feel bad for you.

            Here’s why: You’re obviously passionate and you’ve shown that you can be articulate. That means you should/could be influential—but you’re not.

            Here’s why:

            1. You aren’t willing to extend your thinking in longer entries on a blog. Instead, you limit your exercises in articulation to comments. That limits your ability to express—and our ability to understand—-your point of view better.

            2. You’re bringing competitive vibes to collaborative learning spaces. Instead of seeing blog entries and their comment sections as places where we learn together, you see them as places driven by “me v. you” thinking. It’s like every comment is a passionate attempt on your part to prove that you’re right and everyone else is wrong.

            If you were willing to see these spaces as forums for collective inquiry, you might just find that people could learn from you and that you might just be able to learn from them.

            Instead, you’re not learning from anyone and we’re not learning from you. As a result, your comments are nothing more than a waste of digital space. Why bother posting them?

            3. You seem to use your professed commitment to “uncompromising honesty” as an excuse to be condescending and rude. You come into spaces where people are learning together—sometimes agreeing and sometimes disagreeing—and you suggest that they’re “harebrained” or schills for Madison Avenue.

            You name-call (lemmings and gadget freaks) and denigrate ideas with throwaway comments (rainbows and lollipops).

            That’s not honest expressions of dissent, Mark. That’s rude expressions of your position. If students in my classroom took the same approach, I wouldn’t be surprised—they’re 12—but I would certainly work to help them understand that being influential requires showing respect to those who hold diverse opinions.

            Based on your comments—both here on Scott’s blog, on other blogs that I follow, and on your own blog—I’m not sure you’ll be willing to listen to my position. It’s important enough to say, though, that I’m willing to give it a whirl.

            And honestly, I’m tired of seeing your unproductive angst and negative personal attacks in the places where I’m trying to learn.

            Good luck to you,
            Bill

  5. Thank you for posting this, Scott. I have to side with Vicki on this one… I can not simply leave. Or rather, I will not. I am still convinced that some how, some way, I can have an impact on my students here even if others don’t quite understand… yet.

    You and I met briefly last year on a bus in Mumbai on the way back to our hotel following a conference dinner. You and Vicki were in the midst of a conversation about the sustainability of projects, etc. Me sticking with this is about that very sustainability. It would be easier to go somewhere where what I try to do is better understood. But, I don’t do easy. And, as Vicki mentioned, I am fortunate to have supportive administrators.

    In the midst of this lifetime, I have been fortunate to work in both the education and the technology fields. I have been fortunate to live in various places in the US and to travel abroad fairly extensively. I moved back to my small, northeast Pennsylvania hometown and Alma Mater ten years ago hoping that I could share some of my life experience in the “out there” with the students who sit in the very same seats I sat once upon a time. That remains my goal, even if it is a slow and steady one student at a time.

    Thank you again for this post. Sometimes we all need to hear others echo the very thoughts occurring within our own minds. Today has been one of those days for me.

  6. Unfortunately, what passes for “leadership” these days is simply paying lip service to the Web 2.0 movement and their evil cohorts on Madison Avenue and in Silicon Valley.

    • Mark,

      In one of your final blog posts, you wrote:

      “I don’t follow. I never have. I prefer leading, because that’s what I’m good at. Astrological Leos are born leaders, by the way. Followers are generally uncomfortable with aggressive, take-charge types who won’t settle for less.”

      So I’m guessing that you see leadership as an aggressive, take-charge, demand and expect others to deliver regardless of the circumstances kind of act.

      How’s that working for you?

      Can you tell us more about your work as a leader? What are you doing to drive systematic change in education? What kinds of leadership practices have been the most successful for you?

      You’re so outspoken about the failures of other leaders. I’d love to see you explain what you think they’re doing wrong—and more importantly, how you’d do things differently.

      Looking forward to your response,
      Bill

      PS: You’re also very critical about bloggers who have a lot of followers on their sites. Do you think it’s possible to be a leader when you don’t have anyone that is engaged by—or willing to listen to—your ideas?

      Isn’t one characteristic of influence the ability to be influential? And doesn’t being influential start by crafting messages that resonate—rather than turn away—others?

      • “How’s that working for you?”

        Very well, thank you. I am a special education teacher working with adjudicated teen boys with emotional and learning disabilities.

        I am not trying to change anything in education. That’s not my job. My job is to therapeutically treat the clients on my caseload by modeling responsible behavior and teaching them that the future can be their’s if they learn to make the right behavioral choices. At the same time, I provide academic opportunities so they can graduate and go one to college or some vocational training.

        Again, leaders are born, They aren’t made. I am influential within my direct sphere because I lead by example and I know what I am doing and saying. Fifty years of living gives one that edge. I can’t expect to be influential within a realm that’s in my estimation, an abstract. That’s what the internet represents to me, a medium where I cannot see, hear, or truly sense the humanity of others. Lacking that concrete component, I can’t consider it with the seriousness others can more easily.

        Leading is not taking popularly accepted views and adding your own twist. True leadership is eschewing the popular and the safe. The contributors to Scott’s latest book, for example, view themselves as leaders, no doubt, but they aren’t saying anything truly radical or revolutionary. They aren’t even taking account of the recent trends in the world’s economy and America’s dwindling status as a world superpower. They keep talking about a “future” of rainbows and lollipops, instead of considering the possible fallout of a complete and utter collapse of Western civilization if certain measures are not taken soon.

        Really, they are like children, in my estimation. Giving kids iFads is not going to save Western civilization. Spending more money won’t, either

        A revolution unlike any seen before is fast approaching, yet, so many supposedly educated people are afraid to broach the ugly issues with clarity and honesty. They’d rather cheerlead for corporate America, one of the causes of our present problems.

        It is for this reason that I maintain my cynicism about the present “leaders” within the education profession.

  7. I ache for the fabulous teachers and administrators who wear handcuffs of fear about taking a stand and making leadership a priority in education.
    I believe that the 21st Century definition of leadership is not an individual, it is a collective, a team. My company has spent the past several years with an administrative staff in a large school district and the work we have done is now being filtered to the teachers and next to the students and will eventually, in the spring, offer leadership education to the parents.
    Sadly, we have had two cancellations to work with the Board. That does seem to be where the resistence lies.
    So much begins with our original organization, the family and then moves to the next vital organization, school. I know what we have done in one district can be replicated in others; we have helped the team come together in a creative way where trust, cooperation, and even fun reside.
    Our society needs leaders in education, those who are authentic and especially can think systemically. The key what we have been doing is the philosophy that “We are all connected and no one wins unless we all do”!
    Sylvia Lafair author, “Don’t Bring It to Work”

  8. I just heard a conversation on the radio that fits into this conversation. The commentator—an expert on effective businesses—said:

    “When people are passionate about their work, they are both more innovative and more productive. Good businesses recognize this and find ways to hold on to passionate people.”

    What I wonder is how schools rate when it comes to holding on to passionate people.

    I mean, when trailblazers are shut down—something that happens every time a tool is banned, a scripted curricula is introduced, or new programs are passed on without feedback from those responsible for implementation—aren’t we creating workplaces that quash innovation?

    And by doing so, aren’t we chasing away the types of hyper-motivated thinkers that we need to overhaul education?

    Bill

  9. So many of us in education today struggle with our learning landscapes and the support we need to be innovators. For some, it is a daily battle to take baby steps forward. Others of us are fortunate to have support and autonomy. Regardless, we need to hold fast to our beliefs and what we know is right for children.

    It is difficult to reflect on this particular situation without knowing the specifics. So I will refrain. But we all need to find a place where we can flourish as educators an innovators. It is a personal decision to find another environment in which to work. There are too many factors involved. I do agree that some times we just have to be persistent. It is easy to abandon an idea when we hit roadblocks or when things get difficult. I agree with Vicki.

    So as educators and innovators, how can we build the persistence and stamina we need to blaze new trails in education? We try to teach our students persistence and stamina as they take on new learning. New learning is tough sometimes and we just have to see it through. Is innovation similar? Do we need to keep knocking at the door? Do we need to keep a steady sense of urgency and a steady pace of action to make things happen? I think we do. We cannot give up easily. We have to see the glass half full and not half empty. We have to be positive and hopeful. Because our children deserve it!

    • Positive and hopeful? Yes. Check. Done.

      But someone could still come into my room and tell me to change. They might be right or I might be. So, What do I do to get ready for that day when it comes?

      Data I collect, represent, and save.

  10. Dear Bill:

    There’s nothing you can tell me here that I would find uncomfortable. There isn’t anything on this earth that I haven’t heard of, read about, or experienced personally, as far as the depths of human existence.

    If you believe “gadget freaks” do not exist in the teaching profession, then I have some swampland in Florida I’d like to sell you!

    “That means you should/could be influential—but you’re not.”

    I exert influence upon the clients on my caseload and my fellow faculty and staff members. They also exert a level of influence upon me, because their presence and influence is relevant. They don’t exist in the abstract of cyberspace.

    I can’t be too concerned with what a teacher in North Carolina or even Indonesia thinks about what I say or do. They have no bearing on my life or work. They aren’t able be of any service to me because they aren’t in my direct environment. Likewise, I can’t be of any help to them, either.

    It’s a shame you wasted a golden opportunity to try and refute my contentions about the state of the education profession. You wasted your time trying to scold me over using an innocent ad hominem like “gadget freak.”

    if you think repeating the same talking points about the virtues of “21st Century Learning” ad nauseam is a form of learning, then our profession is doomed.

    As I’ve said before, poor behavioral and lifestyle choices among teachers, primarily of the 40 and under set, is what’s hurting education, not administrators.

    • I think the point was that there is no such thing as an innocent ad hominem.

      It is people who argue by smearing their opponents who obscure the search for facts, and nobody else.

      • I agree that everyone deserves to be heard and that personal attacks are never OK. It just cheapens the argument of the person doing it.

        I also hope that although this one issue may have people somewhat up at arms that we still look at the bigger picture here – obviously a great many people are in similar struggles right now this moment as reflected in the comments.

  11. My frustration with ineffective (or lack of) leadership in schools is based on several observations that I’ve seen in many schools over the years:
    1. Principals need to be (seen as) instructional leaders and that includes teaching and learning with technology. Too often, as soon as the word fragment *tech* appears in conversation, the responsibility gets shifted to a “tech person.”

    2. Many principals and school admins think of training, not PD – that teaching teachers the nuts and bolts of hardware and software, rather than thinking about using technology to improve student outcomes.

    3. There have been edtech innovators and risk takers in classrooms for decades now and yet, in many schools, these remain largely isolated rather than part of a larger change process. The change process is not easy and many, when given the choice, opt not to change. This lack of accountability is driven partly by poor leadership (school board on down) and lack of vision.

    Earlier, Bill offered, “When people are passionate about their work, they are both more innovative and more productive. Good businesses recognize this and find ways to hold on to passionate people.”

    Since practically all of us went into the field of education with passion and conviction that this was not only a noble and valuable calling but a the type of work that we *wanted* to do, it would make sense for the organization to marshall resources to maintain those attitudes. I think that fundamental structural changes are needed before we can think about doing that effectively – these include the traditional notions of what a school day, class period and school year are and could be. These are largely unchanged since I was last in HS nearly 40 years ago and those structures go back much further than that. Really, much of what we decide we can do is limited (still) by bus schedules!

    Students are ready for things to change. Nearly every time we try a new project where students are using technology tools to gather and create information and are given the time to work together and dive deep into something, it becomes more interesting and the quality of their work improves. Yet, these are largely exceptional experiences rather than “normal” practice.

    And if we could be transported to a random hallway in a HS (or even MS), a walk down the hall past classrooms would reveal one person (the teacher) talking in most cases and a group of relatively passive students. “Anyone, anyone.”

    We are in desperate need of educational leaders that want different schools with different outcomes. I don’t see many of them rising up but, as that part of me that wanted to be a teacher still sings, I remain hopeful that somehow, this will change.

    • Well Said.

      Now, how do we get rid of bad practices? If the innovators could be wrong and ‘old ideas’ need to be sorted to be good bad or ugly. How then do we do this?

      I’m leading here a little bit. I think we need to collect teacher-created data…

      The sheer number of teachers and students out there and the vast field of different methods, well it’s overwhelming when you begin to think as large as you are. Tough problem just figuring out how to change.

  12. Have to say, only read this because you banned mark and blogged it, I was curious about his comments.

    What good is giving all the white middle class kids from selected schools iPads, “whn day r usn dem 2 tlk liek dis.”

    A little more focus on literacy and numeracy, and a little less on clicking the “i liked this” social networking button every time one of your friends in the blogosphere comes up with a new way to hand even larger portion of the school budget over to crass, consumerist, for profit only corporations like Apple.

    mayb dat $$$ culd b btr usd teachn kids 2 rite prprly.

  13. Anonymous opion,

    Although I relish the emails I receive every time Scott updates his blog, I too only read this because Mark has been banned, but I am glad I did.

    What is interested to me is your focus on writing “properly” — what is proper writing and who gets to decide?

    Isn’t a truly literate person be able to code switch between contexts — school writing and texting for example? If a student is able to take a traditional sentence and translate it into text speech, then couldn’t that be considered a higher language skill?

    One of the ideals that I have taken away from reading Dangerously Irrelevant is that our definition of what is means to be literate in a web 2.0 world is changing and we need to prepare students to embrace, adapt to, and involve themselves with these changes.

    Does that make sense?

  14. Scott, Vicki, thanks for the great conversation! The conversation affirms my awareness of the “just leave and go to where your light can shine” vs “bloom where you are planted.” The choice is different for every situation, hence the challenge. What may work for one may not work for others.

    I am increasingly focused on learning to use new technologies to help people accomplish their vision…my vision is exactly that, a way of helping others embrace technology that meets their needs.

    I’ve found that while collaboration works well, as a group of people, we sometimes crave strong leaders who empower us, who enable us, who “creation conditions that promote authorship” (Bolman and Deal). In that context, I work to be a leader for those whom I am responsible and given authority for. We must work with limited resources…not all solutions can be pursued.

    What makes the Read/Write web tools so wonderful is that we can create, collaborate and share ideas in almost endless ways without consuming resources. Does the team want to facilitate online learning opportunities for K-12 and adult learners? Then, we can do that!

    Thanks for letting me ramble on…just sharing a few thoughts kicked up by the blog post, which I started reflecting on when I read Vicki’s original entry.

    Warm regards,

    Miguel Guhlin
    Around the Corner-MGuhlin.org

  15. Miguel – you had mentioned, “We must work with limited resources…not all solutions can be pursued.”

    Does this mean that when you have to say, “No” due to this restriction, that you are not being a leader?

    Is it possible that this played out in this particular instance (it is very hard to tell because there is no “other side” to the story here and very few details).

    We have broadly painted this person’s school leadership as poor and I am not even sure I understand the context around the comment being condemned.

  16. Joel – Not at all. A failure in leadership is often a failure in communication, a decision to hold information secret that one is under no obligation to withhold for official confidentiality.

    As an administrator, I am in situations where funding is limited. In those situations, I encourage team members to share what we each see as the best way to invest those funds for maximum or strategic impact (depending on funding, technology plan goals, etc.) and then proceed from there.

    Since funding is limited, we can usually reach consensus, but as the team member responsible for making the final decision, I do not hesitate in making the call and saying, “No.” By the time the “Yes” or “No” is offered, all team members know why and how it occurred. Who can say what projects sound good but then after research turn out to be ill-advised? A leader’s strength flows from his/her team. That’s not to say some decisions shouldn’t be made in spite of the team’s objections…some days, we must go down a road even when it’s going to be rocky.

    If there are decisions that need to be made that are not appropriate for the team to decide (these are less frequent than you might imagine), then I do make them and try to be as transparent as possible as to why. Some decisions aren’t popular and I’d rather get to the heart of why before making the call…after all, no one is perfect…especially the “leader.”

    Speaking specifically to THIS particular instance, I can’t judge whether the administrator acted in an appropriate leadership role or not. Obviously in the context of THIS situation, being a leader meant making a decision, not divulging the thinking that went into the decision. That is one way to lead and is appropriate in certain cultures…but none that I wish to be a part of because it is so exclusionary. Such an approach requires great trust in the leadership, don’t you agree?

    Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to share my reflections on leadership. I offer them as scribed in sand, rather than chiseled on concrete…I am always learning.

    Miguel Guhlin

    • Miguel,

      What evidence would you as a school prepare to show a school board that your teacher’s methods are working?

      Would you encourage your teachers to collect data on their performance?

      Well put comments,

      -Jim

    • @Miguel

      Your response is exactly what I was hoping to draw out in this discussion. I was hoping you would say it more eloquently than I could (as you usually do).

      Thanks for responding.

  17. A leader is one who can not only lead but is also compassionate and considerate

  18. School culture fears change, which by its very definition (change) is learning.

    Go figure.

  19. “No one else is doing this in our state, so why should we?”
    -is the response from an unknown school board in reply to a teacher who is doing something differently.

    Is the board right? Is the teacher right?

    Honestly, we will never know. (Miguel Guhlin well put)

    Now, if the teacher had been collecting data, disaggregating it into graphs of some sort and providing the school board with those results, then this teacher would have a leg to stand on. Don’t be surprised when some adult walks into your class and does not agree with your teaching methodology. This can and will happen to all of us. So, we need to be ready for that day, not caught off guard and told “no.”

    Writing excellent assessments that can then be easily graphed and communicated to others (students, colleagues, parents, admin and school boards) is your best tool. Collect as much as you can, and for years. Note and show where the limitations of your strategies are, and what you are doing to solve them. Show the evolution of your practices, and compile this information into folders or on the computer. Don’t over do it, just do what is also beneficial for you and others immediately around you. Share the data with the students so the too may buy into your teaching and their own learning.

    Here, your best defense is a well planned offense on your effectiveness.

    See more at my blog if you wish!

  20. As a classroom teacher, experience taught me that the best stories involving the use of technology in a classroom had to do with amplifying student voices. Who can criticize a child making a multimedia presentation about with emotional affect about academic content?

    For example, in my situation, a first grade teacher worked with her students to create a digital story where every student contributed a sentence they had written, then was recorded reading it. The presentation was shared with the school board as an example of how precious funds were spent on technology.

    As a principal–a role which I chose not to serve as in schools–I would find student projects compelling and worthy of sharing. I would also ask teachers to show the connection between student-created, possibly student-generated, projects and whatever ruled supreme–district curriculum standards, state/national standards, upcoming test questions. This could be as simple as a presentation or document with a table aligning the components.

    I would also encourage campus principals to invite parents in to see student work and share these documents with everyone possible. Post this information on the campus blog, send it in to local publications, post video/audio interviews with students as they create a product or work on a project to make the process more transparent.

    The goal is to make clear and transparent the work that is going on in the school, showing how all that happens is an important part of THE PLAN to impact student achievement.

    And to directly respond to your question about teachers collecting data on their performance, yes, creating a portfolio of student projects, the thinking that went into them–using documents you created already as I described above–would be useful.

    As was pointed out in Calkins and Pessah’s book (check this link for more info – http://goo.gl/icdIA ), the following is true, not just for the teacher but also the principal:

    “What teachers are expected to know how to do is too complex these days for teachers to close their classroom doors and teach in isolation.
    If one teacher has special knowledge in teaching…that teacher’s teaching needs to be transparent enough and public enough that other teachers working at the same grade level can borrow her expertise.”

    The teaching, learning and leading while transparently sharing everything makes performance all the more measurable.

  21. @Miguel,

    “…that teacher’s teaching needs to be transparent enough and public enough that other teachers working at the same grade level can borrow her expertise.”

    great quote! I love this bit myself. Also the transparency needs to extend to the students, parents and entire learning community. I’ve spend 20 minutes explaining my data on the wall to the person who cleans my room. I want her involved too!

    Cheers,

    -Jim

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