Leadership Day 2010 – A Letter

I’ve been attending the Reform Symposium today, and I must say that I wish I would have seen more administrators in attendance.  I was, however, very impressed by George Couros (@gcouros).  He really puts the kids first in every regard.  That session inspired this letter which, admittedly, voices a bit of the frustration of experience — not really good.

Here’s my leadership day response:

Dear Administrator,

I would like to take a second to thank you for all of the hard work that you put into making your school as successful as it is; however, considering the fact that there is always room to improve, I am writing to make a few suggestions on new ideas and good reads that apply to your school.

I’ll start with a few suggestions.  First, be a leader, not a boss.  Yes, there is a difference.  A leader does not just dominate the landscape by making every decision without the input of others.  A leader is one who collaborates and takes the time to gather input before making a decision.  Gandhi once said “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  Is the goal for teachers to rule over their classroom with an iron fist, or for real learning to take place in a comfortable (but controlled) environment?

Second, always put the kids first.  Don’t look upon community-building exercises as frivolous fluff, or a time-wasting exercise.  If test scores are the issue in this case, kids perform better if they have a sense of belonging.  Especially in districts where home lives may leave something to be desired, a community is what a school should represent – not a gathering of individuals for the sake of sitting together all day.

Third, never stop learning.  Almost every school district has something about creating/ raising/ fostering “life-long learners” in its mission statement.  If those who work in the school are not life-long learners, how is it expected that the students will miraculously transform into insatiable seekers of knowledge?  In fact, I find it necessary to recommend a few books in this case.  They are listed below:

1) The Art of Science and Teaching by Robert Marzano – A great book that addresses classroom issues, but also addresses the school-wide issues of discipline and culture.  A must-read.

2) Activating the Desire to Learn by Bob Sullo – Concentrates primarily on the weighty issues of building intrinsic motivation through internal control psychology.  Chapter 9 is the story of an incredibly successful building principal and chapter 8 tells the story of a successful guidance counselor.  Both stories give great ideas for any administrator, but the entire book is a great read.

3) The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner – Speaks of the shortcomings of the American education system and what needs to change to make it more effective.  Not exactly uplifting, but it has some great suggestions for making school more relevant and up-to-date.

4) 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times by Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel – Tells of the skills that students will need for life in this century (very different from the last century).  Eye-opening statistics and anecdotes are incredibly prevalent in this book, but real suggestions are as well.  The most important thing, in my opinion, from this book is the convincing way that the necessary changes are described in this book.

I encourage you, as a leader, to take the time to read these books, to take the time to start a google reader and subscribe to a few blogs, to start a twitter account and connect with other administrators, and to lead by example.  People respect those who do as they say instead of just saying it.

Thank you for your time,
me (knowledgegap21)

One thought on “Leadership Day 2010 – A Letter

  1. Your second point is key. This makes for difficult decisions and tough discussions, but this is why we are (should) be passionate about our professional path: students.

    How many decisions are made with out their best interest? How many discussions are avoided not because it is in the best interest of students but the best interest of adults?

    It is a simply yet vital point that, however, still need reinforcing.

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