Leadership for Deeper Learning: Excerpt 03

Leadership for Deeper Learning[To celebrate our upcoming book, Leadership for Deeper Learning, I am publishing an excerpt each day for a week before its release. We interviewed leaders at 30 different ‘deeper learning’ schools around the world in 2019 and 2020. We then followed up those interviews with site visits, observations, on-site photographs and videos, and additional conversations. Our goal was to try and parse out What do leaders at innovative schools do that is different from their counterparts in more traditional schools? As you might imagine, we saw some fantastic leading, teaching, and learning. We describe what we saw in detail in the new book and, in Chapter 7, articulate a Profile of a Deeper Learning Leader that’s based on empirical research, not just anecdotes. We think that this book makes a unique contribution to what we know about leadership in deeper learning schools. The book is written for a practitioner audience and is full of concrete, specific examples to get folks thinking about possibilities. Also, every main chapter concludes with Key Leadership Behaviors and Support Structures. If you order it, let me know what you think!]

Excerpt 03

We love the journey that Skyline High has traveled because it’s a story of school turnaround success, student redemption, and hope. Heidi told us during our visit:

People thought we would shut down. You know, we just weren’t known for anything that was really good. And we’ve completely turned around the culture of our building. We’ve completely turned around the impression of our community about Skyline High School. But we’re still serving all of the same kids. We’re still serving our underrepresented populations, our free and reduced lunch kids, our second language learners.

The general impression of Skyline over the last twelve years has completely changed. Realtors were literally telling people not to move into our area. Because you didn’t want to go to that high school and those feeder schools. And now realtors are saying, “You should go there because of the programs. And you should stay in your area because of this.” Fewer kids are choosing to open enroll out. They’re starting to stay here in our home area. We’re back to being the biggest high school in the district. So people want to stay here, but we’re also serving our community.

Parents are grateful. They’re excited about what’s going on at Skyline. I think for the most part they really trust us to do what’s best for their kids. I talk to parents at open houses that say, “Hey, my kid’s coming here but when they were six, there was no way I was going to send them to your school.” And now they say, “I’m really excited for my kid to come here.”

Every student and family deserves a chance to authentically say, “I’m really excited to come here every day.” At the schools that we profile in this book, educators are doing everything that they can to fulfill this promise to their families and communities.

Leadership for Deeper Learning, Chapter 3

 

Leadership for Deeper Learning: Excerpt 02

Leadership for Deeper Learning[To celebrate our upcoming book, Leadership for Deeper Learning, I am publishing an excerpt each day for a week before its release. We interviewed leaders at 30 different ‘deeper learning’ schools around the world in 2019 and 2020. We then followed up those interviews with site visits, observations, on-site photographs and videos, and additional conversations. Our goal was to try and parse out What do leaders at innovative schools do that is different from their counterparts in more traditional schools? As you might imagine, we saw some fantastic leading, teaching, and learning. We describe what we saw in detail in the new book and, in Chapter 7, articulate a Profile of a Deeper Learning Leader that’s based on empirical research, not just anecdotes. We think that this book makes a unique contribution to what we know about leadership in deeper learning schools. The book is written for a practitioner audience and is full of concrete, specific examples to get folks thinking about possibilities. Also, every main chapter concludes with Key Leadership Behaviors and Support Structures. If you order it, let me know what you think!]

Excerpt 02

Innovation is iterative, of course. Leaders and schools don’t just launch new initiatives and then coast. One Stone is a prime example of iterative innovation, where each subsequent cycle broke away from the previous norm just a little bit more. One Stone started as an after-school, experiential service program that was serving around 200 students from 15 different schools. The leaders realized that kids were leaving school, coming to One Stone, and staying up until 10:00pm every night working on projects. During those early years, students would say things like, “Why can’t we just do this all day?” and “Why can’t this be learning? I do more learning here than I do at school.”

In true student-driven form, the leaders of One Stone kicked off a 24-hour ‘think challenge’ at an indoor arena at Boise State University. The event drew 150 students and also included a number of professionals from the worlds of education, research, and business entrepreneurship. The group spent 24 hours together focusing on how education could be reimagined. Smaller think tanks within the group each worked on the concept of “How might we reimagine education?” Through this process, everyone came to realize that the education students experienced in more traditional schools was not relevant to them, both in the present and in regard to where they wanted to go. Students struggled to connect their learning at their local high schools with what they needed out in the real world.

This notion of creating a new school based on relevance and purpose led to One Stone’s guiding principles, which the school affectionately calls ‘the Blob,’ or Bold Learning OBjectives. When discussing One Stone’s curriculum, the leaders described how they don’t necessarily have one. What they do have, however, are learning objectives that focus on mindset, creativity, knowledge, and skills. A crucial aspect of the Blob is the idea of failing forward. Chad, the director of research and design, talked to us about how getting students to fail forward is a huge challenge because students have been in the performance zone for the first eight or so years of their lives: “Everything students do [in traditional schools] counts as a score. Students are constantly being evaluated. Students are not necessarily challenged to take risks intellectually, academically, whatever it might be.”

Leadership for Deeper Learning, Chapter 2

 

Leadership for Deeper Learning: Excerpt 01

Leadership for Deeper Learning[To celebrate our upcoming book, Leadership for Deeper Learning, I am publishing an excerpt each day for a week before its release. We interviewed leaders at 30 different ‘deeper learning’ schools around the world in 2019 and 2020. We then followed up those interviews with site visits, observations, on-site photographs and videos, and additional conversations. Our goal was to try and parse out What do leaders at innovative schools do that is different from their counterparts in more traditional schools? As you might imagine, we saw some fantastic leading, teaching, and learning. We describe what we saw in detail in the new book and, in Chapter 7, articulate a Profile of a Deeper Learning Leader that’s based on empirical research, not just anecdotes. We think that this book makes a unique contribution to what we know about leadership in deeper learning schools. The book is written for a practitioner audience and is full of concrete, specific examples to get folks thinking about possibilities. Also, every main chapter concludes with Key Leadership Behaviors and Support Structures. If you order it, let me know what you think!]

Excerpt 01

Contemporary school innovators are proceeding along pathways that are simultaneously both new and familiar. As demands for standardization begin to recede and schools gradually recognize that the demands of a global innovation society are different from those of the previous century, they are beginning to embrace many of the progressive, constructivist, and personalized approaches long espoused by educational giants such as Jean Piaget, John Dewey, and Seymour Papert. While these well-known names serve as anchors for the shared philosophies that undergird the work, each school community iterates and implements in its own way. These contextual innovations and support structures lend local flavor and provide the details necessary to transform larger ideals into successful practices. Concurrent advances in communication and collaboration technologies also enhance school leaders’ ability to learn more quickly and easily from other innovators.

The details of these modern upgrades of schooling are not emerging by chance. They are purposeful responses to the incongruities that are inherent as we try to map a historical and analog model of learning and teaching to the challenges of today’s technology-suffused, global society. These school structures and leadership behaviors have emerged from thousands of community conversations and global dialogues about college- and career-readiness, enhanced life success, and more holistic understandings of desired learner outcomes. As schools shift toward new student and graduate profiles , they challenge and reform core structures of the traditional, standardized school model. They allocate time differently, pilot model classrooms, offer new choices to families, adjust underlying policies, and engage in a multitude of other changes that substantially transform schools.

The book that you are holding is about the brave souls who are at the heart of this innovative work. At the root of every one of these transforming schools are courageous individuals who are leading the change. They are discontent with the status quo and are willing to rethink fundamental concepts of schooling. They are remarkable school leaders who are attempting to navigate massively-complex challenges, implement more humanistic ideals of schooling, and chart a path out of the era of standardization. These leaders are working heroically to empower children and educators and secure a brighter future for schools and communities.

Leadership for Deeper Learning, Chapter 1

What I’ve been up to: 5Sigma EduCon scavenger hunt keynote

[I’ve been fairly quiet here during the pandemic. However, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been busy. I thought that I would share a little of what I’ve been doing for the past year…]

2020 5Sigma McLeod Keynote SlideMy very last face-to-face engagement with schools before the pandemic was for the 5Sigma EduCon at Anastasis Academy. Kelly Tenkely is the Founder and Executive Director of this very innovative private K-8 school in Centennial, Colorado. Michelle Baldwin teaches there, so I have two good friends at Anastasis and always love visiting the school. Their students are doing absolutely incredible work.

The conference was a blast. I told Kelly that I wanted to try something different for my ‘keynote’ on Saturday morning. Instead of standing and delivering, I put attendees into small groups and sent them on a scavenger hunt around the school. Each group was given a ‘mission packet’ with ‘top secret’ instructions. Inside the packet was:

  • a Team Directive document with instructions (“You are an elite team of code crackers and problem solvers…”) and warnings to beware misdirection from other groups,
  • a Mission Checklist on which they could mark their completion of each mission,
  • a Code Card for deciphering clues to their next mission,
  • a packet of stickers that designated their team (e.g., Team Zebra, Team Tiger), and
  • an initial coded clue that, when deciphered, sent them to their first destination within the school.

At each destination, there was an envelope with their team logo on it. Inside each team’s envelope was a Mission Document that explained the conversation station at that location (i.e., their ‘mission;’ an example is below), a sticker for their Mission Checklist, and a clue to their next destination. As you can see if you follow the link on the Mission Document below, the goals were to spark rich discussion and for each team to complete all six conversations. 

We had about 90 minutes total for the keynote session, and teams were created randomly to spark learning across different school systems. Instead of them sitting and listening to me for that time, they got a little exercise, laughed a lot, and had some amazing dialogues. I am appreciative of Kelly’s willingness to let me try something different. Our time together was super fun and everyone really enjoyed their six conversations. Thank you, Kelly!

2020 5Sigma McLeod Keynote Scavenger Hunt Example

Beyond subject-verb agreement

Kelisa Wing said:

What kind of world do you want to leave for those who come after us? Who cares if my students know how to make their subjects and verbs agree if they use language to promulgate hate? Who cares if my students know the Pythagorean Theorem if they use numbers and statistics to minimize others? Who cares if my students know the stories in their history books if they do not use the past to ensure that we create a new equitable future?

Is your school preparing students to help create an equitable future?