Quick! Name a long term, substantive, sustainable change that occurred in your organization without the active support of your leadership. I’ll wait…
That’s what I thought. Now why aren’t you paying more attention to the learning needs of your administrators?
Quite a lot of teachers wouldn’t be able to remember a lasting change that happened with the support of — and on the initiative of — their administrators, but I suspect that’s just bitter cynicism on their part.
Ok, I’ll bite.
I’d be willing to help my admins, and they are particularly nice and receptive people. What should I do to help them?
@Chris Craft: What are you trying to do? What do you want to make happen?
> Name a long term, substantive, sustainable change that occurred in your organization without the active support of your leadership.
8-hour work day, cost of living allowance, lunch break, health care insurance, telephones, female employees, email, parking spaces for staff, on-site daycare…
Need I continue?
Just about every innovation in the workplace has been introduced by staff, with management dragged along, kicking and screaming and caterwauling for all they’re worth, the very last to get on board with any change, defiant to the end (and to this day having their sectretary print out their emails and type their longhand replies).
It’s difficult to teach administrators who already know everything. Just ask them.
And if they do want to learn something, they look to the people in their peer group – other school administrators – as the experts. As a result, innovation is something that’s filtered through a very narrow lens.
I agree with Stephen. Long term change is something that’s come from the bottom up and is usually forced on the leadership, especially in education.
You won’t get much help from me, Scott.
You seem to be equating leadership and administration. Personally, I’ve found most substantive changes are made via task-force, Professional Learning Community, external pressures (ie: state and federal mandates, parental demands) and, yes, even committees.
Most administrators I’ve worked for and with are managers, not leaders – with only a few notable exceptions. Nice people, well-intentioned, too, but not change agents.
Is it REALLY because I have failed their learning needs?
Now I will feel guilty all day!
Baloney to all of you. Yes, innovative ideas bubble up from the bottom. But there’s no way long-term sustainable change occurs without the leadership getting on board. Because they control the money, the people, the resources, the time, etc.
Do they have to be dragged kicking and screaming? Sometimes. Are they reluctant learners? Often. Are they constrained by levels above them? Absolutely. Do they have the same time struggles as others. Of course. But the notion that organizations change for the better in substantial, meaningful ways without the leaders? I’m not buying it.
I do not want to deny that a great deal of change has come from all levels of an organization. I do want to comment on some of the changes cited by several of those who have responded. I wonder how Mr. Downes considers “8-hour work day, cost of living allowance, lunch break, health care insurance, telephones, female employees, email, parking spaces for staff, on-site daycare…” are considered substantive change.
This just goes to show that not everyone sees change in the same way. I wonder if the problem here lies in who the change is good for and how it impacts the organization. I see a number of staff who advocate for change so that things get better for themselves. It is easy to advocate for change to improve things for yourself and I would guess that there are at least some instances where the administration did fight against such change as these types of changes are not always in the best interest of students. They are not always in the best interest of younger teachers either. I have watched from both the classroom and the seat I now hold as a high school principal while teachers have literally eaten their young. They negotiate for salary increases that require that we cut staff, those just entering our profession and also fight to ensure that those most seniored staff are allowed to teacher the upper level classes filled with the easiest to work with kids and having the fewest number of students. This leaves the most difficult students, courses and largest number of students to those who are being paid the least in our organization.
I also see that a number of the respondents do not work for what I would consider good administrators.
I think that as a teacher I was fortunate to have worked for some very good administrators who were very supportive and who not only initiated but also supported unique and innovative programs suggested by staff.
I have tried to model my behavior after what I experienced. I know administrators that are like the ones described by the majority of the respondents, but I would suggest that I also know of a very large number of teachers who go kicking and screaming into any time of change initiative as well.
In our school, change comes from all levels of our organization, I feel that I do my job as the building leader to aid in supporting initiatives by finding and channeling resources to those which align with our collective vision.
I also feel as the building leader that it is my job to aid in the establishment of the collective vision and communicating this vision to not only our staff, but our community as well.
At Keokuk High School, I have played a significant part in making longterm, substantive, and sustainable change. I did not do it alone, but without my leadership and my commitment to continous learning, of not only myself but of our staff, it would not have occured.
I think the point Dr. McLeod was trying to make was that professional development needs to occur for administrators as well as staff or you will end up with a great many more administrators like the ones who have been referenced above.
By the way, I do my own typing and read my e-mail without any help from my secretary.
I would like to point out that in most states, teachers leaders tend to be the ones who enter administration. Administrators put in a great many hours(often making far less per hour than if they were still in the classroom) and at least in my district work alongside staff in efforts to meet the needs of students and the staff. At times we get a bad rap as there are not enough resources avaialble to ensure that all needs are adequately met. This is an issue which belongs on the legislature’s plate not ours.
I could tell you exactly how involved I am in each of the initiatives currently taking place in this building as well as those I am working on with outside entities. Some I am leading, while others I am in a supportive roll.
I understand the concept of going kicking and screaming, and as an administrator (throw sticks and stones here) I will say that has happened in the past. Note, please the list from Steven – he may be clearly accurate. Several of these I would fight to some degree, and none of them are systemic, purposeful, meaningful change. They are all “comforts” for people. Not that these aren’t necessary (and by the way, I have initiated a few of these an others in my school) and/or desireable, but Scott asked for, “long term, substantive, sustainable change,” which I interpret as learning-based, not employee-based. How about the initiation of on-line grading, Dagget’s Rigor Relevance Framework (now 3 R’s as we appropriately added Relationships), and Advisor-Advisee programs as something worth considering here? Try to get that off the ground without administration (and yes, leadership). By the way, also let me know how much kicking and screaming goes on along the way – “you mean we have to enter grades every day and let parents actually look at what their kid is doing in my class” – probably not from the administrator. Now here is the euphoria of reform – teacher ideas with administrative support. IT WORKS! Good people can get great things done together.
I agree the effective and lasting change needs strong leadership behind it, but for it to be sustained it has to become systematized and part of the school culture otherwise when leadership changes everything tends to shift based on the strongest personalities remaining.
As a curriculum specialist I find that I have to not only keep up on the latest and greatest research so that I can share it with teachers. I am also finding in even more necessary to share it with leaders/admin.
I think it is imperative that innovative teachers communicate to admin/school leadership what is effective in their classroom, and have the data to back it up.
I am looking forward to implementing Mike Schmoker’s suggestion (in his book Results Now)of teachers presenting effective lessons along with the sutdent results that show it’s effectiveness to their peers and SCHOOL LEADERS.
This is where the meaningul discussions around change can occur. Teachers may start it but school leadership needs to have a deep understanding to be able to take that spark and integrate it into school culture.
Whatever your opinion on the matter (and I’ll hold mine, here, for emphasis), it’s great to see some divergent points of view in one venue. It’s easy to pay attention only to news sources/blogs/texts with which you already agree.
When you say, “I agree the effective and lasting change needs strong leadership behind it, but for it to be sustained it has to become systematized and part of the school culture otherwise when leadership changes everything tends to shift based on the strongest personalities,” you have hit on why it is important for “sustainable” to be included. When I leave a position, I hope the good things that have been established (no matter whose idea) are able to continue, and when I enter a new position I look for the value in what is in existence already. The initiatives should be based on the need for the students, and a move of an administrator or even a group of teachers should not automatially lose that direction.
Also, please note just because an educator in the building isn’t the adminiatrator doesn’t mean that they can’t have a major leadershp impact – check out one of the most basic and easy reads that makes a difference – Mark Sanborn’s “You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader” – the name says a lot. He also wrote “The Fred Factor” which people in the general field of business will likely note. It is not really, however, a business book – it’s a people book. Educators, take a look and then LEAD from wherever you are!
How does something like this fit in?
Leadership is the second most important factor in whether students will learn at high levels. So, Stephen, Tim, et al, you can wait until NCLB legislation withers on the political vine, and you will still not find a long term, substantive and sustained change without highly effective leadership.
Let’s assume that the change we are seeking is focused on significant improvement in teaching and learning practices. How do organizations come to identify practices that impact learning? Here is a real life example (of the many I would enjoy discussing).
I am the Principal (Chief Academic Officer) of the largest middle school in Iowa with 1200 student in grades 6 and 7. Pulling together data and leading a conversation with our math department, it became clear that our students experience an academic dip as they leave the seven elementary feeder schools and enter Parkview.
• We evaluated the math transitions, curriculum, and performance expectations from three high performing middle schools across the country. Here we found a gap in our opportunities for learning and what best practice would suggest.
• We evaluated the content of our math standards and benchmarks between our 6-7 middle school and 8-9 middle school. We used content standards from other high performing middle schools, NCTM, etc. When elevating our expectations, we had to concurrently increase the rigor in our content, perhaps another internal pressure to change.
• I work in a district that is rapidly growing in which many of the new residents come from out-of-state districts where children are provided with opportunities for math acceleration that we did not provide. This feedback from parents matched our observations from high performing districts we visited. We were tradition rich – and opportunity poor.
• Finally (whew!), we matched our teaching practices with the sort of best practices in teaching research that emanated from such resources as Marzano, Wormeli, Jacobs, Tomlinson, and Imbeau. Student learn best when we differentiate instruction (and all that the process of differentiating instruction with integrity requires).
We have embarked in long term, substantive and sustained change to improve teaching and learning. And (here is the punch line), this change could only occur with highly effective and impactful leadership. Here is a brief list of leadership attributes required to date:
1. Leading staff to develop the vision for change
2. Capturing and shaping that vision into clear focus over time
3. Gathering resources needed to change
4. Creating and expending political capital to implement change
5. Supporting staff working in their small learning communities to refine
6. Attracting, hiring and retaining staff who demonstrate the capacity to
deliver in this environment
Last I checked, NCLB is still alive and well and in our faces daily. Leadership is still the second most important factor in impacting student achievement. Without effective leadership demonstrating many of the leadership attributes above, the single most important factor in impacting student achievement (successful educators!) diminish in their ability to impact the fuller community of children throughout the building and across the district.
You are correct in saying that the person of authority “controls the money, the people, the resources, the time, etc.” But a person of authority does not necessarily make them a leader. I think that may be Doug’s thinking above.
In my situation (past 12 years) the “leaders” are given an amount they have to spend within the fiscal year. If they do not spend it, they lose it. If they forfeit the money, they do not look good in the eyes of their superiors. In order to appear as if they are leading, they spend much of it at the end of the year with an “all call” for needs. The teachers then provide ideas for what they can use. Not sure that is leadership as much as it is a management/administrative task. However, if I worked for someone who made poor decisions with the money, I would opt for the former.
As an aside, I find it a bit oxymoronic to describe “change” as long-term. A change may be substantive at the outset (from slate to chalkboards to whiteboards to SmartBoards to 3-D holographs to…), but if a change becomes a norm, it will soon need changing again, right?
Many of our problems today are present because changes that were made a generation (or more) ago are still hovering as a dark cloud over our education system. I’m done for now…let the conversation continue.
Good stuff Dr. McLeod.
I like your response regarding management vs. leadership, and I believe most people view good management as leadership. I think that they are different, but if you can’t manage, you surely can’t lead. Like you state, poor money decisions probably indicate poor decisions overall. The key may be who is defining “poor” in this case. If the administrator is able to meet the needs of students (and maybe even staff) effectively and have money remaining at the end of the year, that seems positive to me. The way finances work in schools, however, the “all call” you note may actually be a very good approach to maintaining the funding stream. I have not had to say “no” all that often over the past few years, mostly due to a shared vision of frugality in combination with effective use of the “all call” in my building. Now I would ask, is that leadership? Management? By Whom? I would gladly share the credit with my staff as we are making due with very little to meet great needs because of this SHARED belief that if we are frugal, there may be a “bonus” in the end.
I would also agree that change can become stagnant, but change that is reflective and philosophical can live on and breathe new life into its own dying technology.
Thanks for using the word “impactful” as that is a great picture of what good leadership should be. Not politically correct, not enabling, not comforting, but IMPACTFUL – making a difference for kids. Great job of impacting my thought process throughout the whole comment.