Thursday, July 21, 2016

A more Global Perspective

Recently I had the opportunity to attend Discovery Education's Global Education Leaders Forum.  Leaders from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Egypt, and Antigua were in attendance.  I felt honored to be invited as enjoyed the day learning.

The day, however, didn't really go as planned.  Our facilitator tried to keep us on schedule, but the conversation and curiosity was so rich it was hard to move on to other topics or speakers.  It started right off the bat when questions started for a speaker from the United States Department of Education.  Those questions started a larger conversation of curiosity in how the different countries represented do things.

The conversations on teacher training, professional development, teacher evaluation, and the work in Egypt were ones the the Secretary of Education and state level leaders should hear.  Our colleagues from Mexico and Egypt seemed to understand the importance of implementation much more than the bureaucrats here in the US.

Thank you Discovery Education for the opportunity to be a part of this great event.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

What are your big rocks?

An internet search for leadership and/or keys to leadership will yield millions of hits with various lists, traits, points, qualities, etc.  Add a descriptor and the results change slightly.  School superintendents have probably read much of the work on leadership through graduate programs or casual reading.  Perhaps you refer to your collection of leadership books from time to time.
For me, the concept of leading yourself before leading others has always resonated.  Again, a search here yields more than a million hits with references to numerous authors and lots of lists with this-or-that many ways to lead yourself.  My fascination with the concept stems from the Boy Scouts and how to lead oneself.
In Boy Scout advanced leader training participants are taught that in order to lead yourself you must take care of your big rocks.  This is illustrated through an exercise with a bucket and a stack of materials -- container of water, sand, small rocks, larger rocks, and some big rocks.  It will all fit in the bucket, but how?  If you start with the water and add items from small to large, the materials will not fit.  Only when you insert the big rocks, then the larger rocks, small rocks, sand (be sure to shake it), and water will everything fit.  The only way to truly fill the bucket (your bucket) is by putting in the big rocks first.  In our roles as leaders, spouses, parents, grandparents, etc. we must lead ourselves by taking care of our big personal rocks in order to lead others well.  
The sand and water represent the noise and minutia in our daily lives that consumes time and resources.  When we spend time taking care of the sand and water first we can never fill our buckets.  Concentrating on these items might make one look busy, but probably not fulfilled and maximizing one’s leadership capacity.  To be at our best, and truly fill our buckets, we must take care of the big rocks first.  Only then will the small rocks, sand and water fit in our buckets.  
What are your big rocks?  What are those things that are most precious to you?  Your big rocks might be similar to those of your colleagues, but not entirely the same.  When we take care of and put our big rocks first we are better leaders for our families, schools, and districts.
The districts we serve are similar.  Across our systems there are numerous initiatives and things needing attention, but what are the big rocks for your district?  What are those things that the district is truly focused on doing?  What are the three or four things that drive the work of your district?  Are there things you know you must attend to first in order for your district to be successful?
Having spoken to many successful superintendents across the country over the past few years, it is clear that leaders are focused on their district’s big rocks.  Leaders know the difference between the big rocks, the pebbles, the sand and the water.  District’s big rocks do vary.  Our districts are unique, our communities are unique, and so our big rocks are different.  Many times they are similar, but context makes a difference.  
Regardless of your district’s big rocks, we know they must be sustained year after year.  Our personal big rocks remain relatively stable, and so must the district’s.  We must be agile to meet the challenges we face, but we cannot subject our districts to initiative fatigue either.  Whether it’s a digital conversion, move to personalized learning, work around the 4 C’s, learning communities, student engagement, continuous improvement, etc., successful districts around the country are focused.

By remaining focused on our big rocks and not chasing silver/magic bullets our chances of reaching our personal or district vision are more likely to be reached.  Take care of those big rocks and your buckets can be filled.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Return to the Ocoee

Eighteen days after kayaking the Ocoee and getting torn up I was back on the Ocoee -- but in a raft this time.

The raft perspective is a bit different.  Had my first experience on the Ocoee been in a raft I would have doubted my ability to run it in a kayak.  Thankfully I survived the kayak trip, and despite my trouble, did improve my skills by stretching myself.