Sunday, June 29, 2008

Leaders need to share their HEART

I really enjoyed this post by Pete Reilly talking about one of the distinctions between administrators and leaders. For him it is all about heart. Those leaders, whether they have the title or not, that experience success are those that lead from the heart. I am completely aligned with this belief and share it with our administrators regularly.

Those of us that tell a story about our journey have learned that the story must come from the heart to have any influence on the listeners. In the absence of listeners knowing who we are, what we believe in, and what makes this work so important to us it is just words. They carry no meaning and do not create any emotions. It is the emotions that grab us, that allow us to "see" a vision emerge from the words, and that make us want to follow that vision.

Think about those "leaders", both formal and informal, that have had an influence on you and your work and I will guarantee you that they have shared their story and that you do not question their motivation because it comes from the heart.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Baseline data for our Classroom 10 journey

Earlier in the past school year we contracted with Metiri to do an audit of our school systems level of implementation of Classroom 10, our vision of 21st Century Learning. One of the purposes for this audit was to establish baseline data for measuring growth on this journey. On Tuesday, Cheryl Lemke shared their findings with our school board. Some of what we heard affirmed what we know about our system, but there was also much additional information that led to seven recommendations for focus as we continue our journey. You can see the Executive Summary on our web page under District News.

Using their Metiri Dimensions21 framework we are in the "exploration" or "scaling up" level on each of the seven dimensions. Though we have much room to grow, we also heard how the work we have done and continue to do has positioned us for future success. We began by identifying our District Outcomes and Indicators with a focus on Habits of Mind and thinking skills. Our curriculum has this focus, K-12. We now need to embed technology tools into this curriculum to provide opportunities for young people to become literate and fluent with the tools and with accessing and using information. Cheryl reinforced the way we have approached this work as opposed to purchasing technology and then trying to figure out what to do with it.

The recommendations from this audit, the NETS, our technology plan, and our curriculum development and review process are the road map for our journey that results in:

Quality Learning
Every day
Every classroom
Every child
It is exciting to have our efforts affirmed and praised and even more exciting to know that what we have built has the capacity to support our journey to 21st Century Learning.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A sense of satisfaction

I survived my adventure as a keynoter in our 10Tech Summer Conference. Feedback for this and for the blogger class was positive and I really enjoyed the enthusiasm of those in the blogger class. During that short period of time we added about fifteen people to the list of bloggers, many already with their first post. That was exciting to experience.
I can't believe that I would actually include a picture of myself during the conference. When I first started this blogging journey it would have never entered my mind. I am basically a pretty private person who keeps these kinds of thoughts to myself. Since becoming a blogger, I have experienced a change in my willingness to share these private thoughts. I don't know why or when, but gradually over time it has happened. Anyone else experienced this kind of change?
It was great to see over 100 of our staff give up one of the first real summer days we have had to share in this learning opportunity. We are blessed in our system to have committed, wonderful people to work with. It makes this difficult work possible.
Thank you Kimberly for challenging, encouraging, and supporting me as I continue my learning journey and for the wonderful job you have done with this first summer conference for us.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Still anxious - with time running out!

Its Sunday about 10:00 pm, I'm getting tired and I sit here trying to get ready for Tuesday's conference presentations. I have the basic outline for the "keynote", but I'm now struggling with what to do for my break out session on blogging. I know I want to tell my story, but that won't take 90 minutes and it won't help those in attendance. There is so much to share that the problem will be more of eliminating too much than finding enough to do and say over the allotted time. I'm surprised how time consuming it has become to narrow the focus. Presentation Zen is causing me headaches.

The keynote outline is less about the tools and more about the learning in 21st Century Classrooms because I see that as the focus of our work. We'll see if the attendees and planners agree.

My grandchildren spent the weekend with us so I wasn't able to spend as much time as I wanted to getting ready, but playing with them was more fun anyway. That's Ciara on her horse.
I guess I will really test my ability to produce quality in a short period of time with Tuesday looming and tomorrow a big day of meetings. I'll be right back here tomorrow night "cramming" for the presentation while trying to focus on Presentation Zen. It was a lot easier to fill the pages with bullets and talk from them.

I'll let you know how it goes from my perspective and then again after I'm given the session feedback sheets.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

About that KEYNOTE

Yes, I am scheduled to do the keynote at our 10Tech Summer Conference and I am feeling higher levels of anxiety than normal for me. Usually I respond well to creative tension and see it as a challenge to produce quality. Why is this so different?

How did I let myself get in this situation? Well, I was asked by Kimberly months ago. I am sure she probably used the word keynote when she asked me to speak, but it didn't hit me until recently when I realized that it was scheduled for an hour and that it was KEYNOTE, you know set the stage for the conference sessions, energize everyone, and come across as if you know something. This will be difficult because I don't know if I know enough to pull this off. If only I didn't have such respect for Kimberly I might have been able to say no.

It feels like when I sometimes schedule attendance at a conference months in advance and as the time approaches and my in basket is full I wonder why I ever thought it would be good to attend. Only I think in this situation the feeling is the same to the third or fourth power. Too late to exit with grace so I better get going. Where do you find a crash course on keynoting?

Guess what, I also get to do a session the same day on blogging. So many opportunities to share learning and open oneself up to constructive criticism. Maybe they won't include feedback forms on the presenters. One can only hope. If I survive next Tuesday, I'll share my fate.

The Unknown!

I decided that I should register my blog today with technorati. Technorati Profile

I know I see it referenced on all the blogs that Scott Mcleod would label as hubs and superhubs. I also am aware of some ranking that technorati does. Don't really know where this will go if anywhere, but they told me to do a post and refer to the link so I am simply following directions.

Stay tuned for my next post on my debut as a keynote for our local 10Tech Summer Conference.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Summer Book Club

Though it's not yet summer, I've joined a summer book club on the Influencer, a book I believe has the capacity to support our work at creating change that influences learning and instruction and that sustains over time.

This is my first online book club. I enjoy reading the entries from those on my team, but I am feeling a little guilty with my lack of contribution. Oh well, I always have tomorrow as one of you shared with me from Mark Twain.

Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.

Feeling better already!

Friday, June 13, 2008

The end . . .

It was a bittersweet evening. We celebrated the 21st graduation class from Maple Valley High School, our alternative program. At the same time we saw tonight the last class that will ever graduate from MVHS because we are closing the school. Tonight was the end of a program that has provided hundreds of young people with that piece of paper that provides them with so many more options than does not graduating. Unfortunately, our model did not provide for many of our students the opportunity to meet standard on the WASL, a requirement for graduation.

We will put in place next year a model that we believe is better positioned to meet the needs of these young people. That did not, however, make this last graduation feel any better. For me, seeing those kids on the stage and knowing we will not see it again was difficult to accept, but tonight truly was the end.

Thank you to Anne, Linda, Jennifer, Marcia, Abby, Mike, Leanne, and those that preceded them for the love and support that you and they have given these young people. Special thanks to Arlene for her leadership and commitment to the program, to the staff, and to the students.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Why the need for deadlines?

I just finished going through my RSS feeds and realized it didn't take as long as normal. Posts seem to have slowed down as we approach the end of the year and all that comes with it. I know I welcome this slow down as it seems like there is more and more to accomplish and less time to do it. Of course, that doesn't mean I will now use the time saved by fewer blogs to read to focus on one of the three books I would like to finish that are behind my computer. I wonder why?

I find myself struggling with being able to effectively plan workload over time. For example, one of the books in front of me I should be reading for a presentation in about two weeks, another will influence the work we are doing with our leadership training, but those classes don't start again until next school year. So, I choose to blog and wait until deadlines get closer when I then seem to find it easier to focus. For some in the Teaching and Learning Department it is almost a joke, my waiting to plan for presentations that are jointly delivered with them. They worry about the over all quality of the presentation if I end up as a weak link.

I find myself worrying about this behavior more than ever. As I reflect I wonder:
  • If I am perceived as a weak link. That would not be good.
  • If I see this as a badge of honor, you know, I don't need to spend the amount of time that you do, stop stressing about it. That would not be good.
  • If my behavior is influencing the quality of my work, how much better and how much more could I do if I could change this behavior? That would not be good.
  • If this has always been how I approach my work or has it changed with changing job responsibilities or maturation (aging) over time.

I know that there are some big deadlines in the near future with plans that need to be presented for board approval, architects to hire, presentations at our summer tech conference to plan for (more on this later), retreat planning, evaluation conferences to plan for and schedule, and . . .

Yet, here I am blogging and it feels good. Must be something about this blogging stuff or maybe it's more about the other stuff. Can you help? What do you think? Are you deadline driven because that is simply the nature of our work? Do you work from priority lists that identify time commitments for each project or do you jump from one to another? Should I worry about it?

I think I will work on that book for the presentation in about two weeks, it just seems like the right thing to do after this post. It may be the first step in changing behavior because one vital behavior that would influence the change is actually picking up the book. Here goes.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The First WASL Graduates: What to Say?

I know the year is coming to an end when we enter the graduation week. This week is it, with Tahoma High School on Tuesday and Maple Valley High School on Friday. At each ceremony I have the honor of accepting the class as having met the graduation requirements and I also have a short time to share a message. Considering that this is the first class facing the WASL as a graduation requirement, what would you say? What point(s) would you want to make on this special occasion?

It appears that we have only one student that will not be able to walk because of not meeting standard on a WASL assessment. A second student did not meet standard, but does not have enough credits to graduate. We, like most districts, have more students not graduating because of credit deficiencies than we do because of not meeting WASL requirements. This was not what many anticipated when the requirements were first adopted or even a few years ago. Does this change your mind about the WASL?

We all know that if the math requirement had not been altered from the assessment to a class or other alternative the situation would be very different. It also does not speak to the large difference between the number of students starting this class as ninth graders and the number graduating. Across the state 91% have met the standard. Does this make all the effort at creating standards and all the time and money spent on assessments good for education and for students?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Power of Collective Commitments

In the current issue of the Journal of Staff Development there is an article by Robert Eaker and Janel Keating titled A Shift In School Culture. Eaker is a coauthor with the Dufours on books and articles on professional learning communities. In the article they identify three cultural shifts that are necessary for schools to function as PLC's.
  1. A shift in fundamental purpose from teaching to learning
  2. A shift in the work of teachers - isolation to collaboration
  3. A shift in focus - a fixation on outcomes and results
The focus of the article is on the need for changing people's behavior and the importance of collective commitments in this work . . ."Engaging staff in a collaborative process to develop shared values, or "collective commitments," is one of the most powerful tools for changing behaviors that can, ultimately, transform the culture of a school or district."

This focus affirms what we teach in our leadership classes about the importance of what we call core commitments, those statements that we hold ourselves accountable to as individuals and as a staff. They speak of them as if then statements; if we commit to x related to students then we must do y as adults to ensure that it happens. These statements provide that third point that is sometimes necessary when we need to confront the behavior of colleagues that is not aligned with our stated commitments. I have seen these commitments used effectively in buildings to assist staff in reflecting on practice at the individual and team level.

In the absence of these commitments what can you point to when witnessing behavior you believe is not supportive of students and other adults in the building? That third point can be very valuable and can result in reflection while the absence of that point can more often result in debate and bad feelings. Unfortunately, in the absence of collaboratively developed core commitments the behavior is usually not confronted resulting in no change in behavior. Having them doesn't guarantee monitoring of behavior, but the absence of them makes it more unlikely.

Change is an interesting dynamic, difficult to understand, and even more difficult to experience as a leader responsible for supporting those engaged in the change initiative. We need all the help we can get. Core commitments can be a significant contributor to our ability to refocus during difficult times and to assist us in monitoring our own behavior and that of our colleagues.

The bad news is that not all schools on this PLC journey have seen the need for core commitments. They are often ignored or treated like mission and vision statements that trigger the "gag" sensation. We think we don't need them because we are all committed adults who care about kids. That is true, but what are we each willing to do to demonstrate that commitment with our individual and collective behavior? That is the essence of these commitments and they require time and commitment to reach. If only it were easy.

Is behavior in your building driven by a set of collaboratively developed core commitments or is each person driven by what he/she believes is important? Is the norm in your building to hold each other accountable to a set of commonly held behaviors or is the norm to avert one's eyes and ears when witnessing questionable behavior by colleagues toward students or other adults? The answers to questions such as these go a long way towards measuring a building's placement on the PLC development continuum. Where are you?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

A sport that is hard to watch . . .

I could possibly be the only superintendent in the country blogging while watching a WEC feather weight title fight between Uriah Faber and Jens Pulver. It is brutal. They fight five minute rounds with punches, kicks, elbows, and knees. They just finished round three.

Why watch? Because Jens Pulver is a Tahoma graduate who has overcome adversity to become a star in his chosen profession. I remember him as a state champion wrestler on our state championship team. I don't think he is winning at this time, but he is in round four with a guy who is 20 and 1 and hasn't been past round one in a number of fights.

Though it may not be in a profession that many of us would recommend or desire for our graduates, he is certainly a self-directed learner and quality producer. Risk taking, persisting, and creating would also accurately describe who he is. He has set goals in his life after struggling growing up and attained most.

Well, the fight is over and Jens lost, but he did take the champ through five rounds; the first time he has been forced to go the distance. He made all of us BEARS proud!