Random thoughts of an ed admin lifer

Ed leadership and stuff like that there

Leadership – Graduation Address 2008

Posted in Blogroll on June 27, 2008 by Trev

Good Morning Everyone

First off, I would like to take this opportunity to say a few thank you’s!

Thank you to all the Central staff who have worked to make today such a classy occasion. In particular, the administrative assistants – Connie Bradley, Lydia Parker and Lorenda Bender need special mention for the countless hours they have spent printing and organizing certificates. Thanks to Barb Morrison, Brenda Dowling, Pat French, Lora Conners, Dustin Swanson and Kerry Johnson for all your help with the gowns, organization, rehearsal and MCing. Special thanks to Gerry Turcotte for all your work in getting the scholarships organized and awarded in very short order. Please join me in a round of applause to thank these people.

I have very much enjoyed my past nine years at Central – I was thinking the other day that if you add the 4 years I spent as a student at CCI to the time that I have worked there, I have spent just under one third of my life in that beautiful old building. Graduates, I hope you will be able to look back on your time at Central fondly and that you will always be filled with pride when you tell someone you graduated from CCI.

This morning I have the privilege of addressing you both as your principal and as the guest speaker. I have always tried to arrange a guest speaker who is a Central alumnus, who has made their life in Moose Jaw and has a special connection with our students. I have always been pretty comfortable with addressing the graduates as the principal but when we decided that I would also make the special address to the grads I got a little choked up. I think it was at that particular moment that the idea that I will not be returning to CCI next year, really hit home. I was thinking about this experience and realized that this must be a feeling that each of our grads has experienced over the last little while, too. It’s kind of exciting and sad at the same time, isn’t it?

This morning I want to talk to you about the leadership role that each and every one of you will necessarily assume as you transition into adulthood. You are aware that the world we inhabit is not in very good shape and while the condition of the world is not your fault, your generation will be called upon to address the conditions that have lead to global warming and the melting of the polar ice caps, global terrorism, extreme poverty and the aids pandemic (just to name a few little things calling out for your attention).

We are approaching a tipping point in our world—our complex system is on the edge of chaos. Many people talk about the catastrophic things that will happen when we actually reach the tipping point. I would like to paint a some what more optimistic picture of what the future may hold for us. Lets face it, no one really knows.

When complex systems, such as our world and all of its subsidiary systems, approach the edge of chaos, all sorts of possibilities, not previously apparent come to light. The imminent “tipping point” can be a time of wondrous change!

Each and every one of you have the capacity to influence changes that will contribute to the resolutions of the world’s problems. But, the solutions to these problems will not be solved by one wide sweeping change lead by a charismatic leader, those days are gone. The changes that need to be made can only come about as multitude of relatively small initiatives. It is through small, community specific projects that take into the account the uniqueness of each location and situation that real, sustainable changes can occur. Through work in organizations and companies, systems of self-organizing people can and will make a difference. It is no longer a matter of if this will happen; it is a matter of necessity.

This more optimistic picture of the world can only come to fruition through your participation and your leadership. The old hierarchical approach to leadership where there is one boss and a bunch of workers doing what they are told is no longer applicable to today’s world. Successful contemporary corporations and world organizations are now transitioning to a much “flatter” or level approach to leadership which requires each and every member of the organizations to take on leadership roles in their daily work. Furthermore, those people who obtain positional leadership roles, such as the CEO’s of companies, are changing their leadership posture from that of “the boss” to that of a “servant leader” Servant leaders spend their energies facilitating the work of others, rather than directing their work. Many of you, in time, will aspire to such positions of authority so I would like to talk to you about four abilities that I believe you will need to employ in your roles as leaders in this new millennium:

In order to be an effective leader, you will need to be people centered: Servant leaders value people, not because of the contribution that they can make to an organization, but because they are human beings. In short, we are people, not capital.

You will need to believe in the power of interpersonal relationships and recognize that the solutions to problems that arise through collaboration are far superior to the solutions dictated by an individual. This synergy can create energy and satisfaction for all members of an organization. When working with people the whole becomes much greater than the sum of the parts!

You will need to embrace change: we are living in complex and rapidly changing times. It has been said that the only certainty that exists is change. This has never been truer than now. The collective knowledge of humankind now doubles every 14 months. This stands in stark contrast to the 10 to 15 years that this process took when I was born and the 5 years that it took when you born.

Finally, you will need to see difficult problems as complex, rather than complicated. These two words are often used interchangeably; however they do not mean the same things. Something that is complicated can be broken down into pieces or steps and can be re-assembled without impact on the end product. When something that is complicated no longer works, you disassemble it and replace the broken part or change the order in which the steps are carried out. This approach to problem solving assumes that all situations can be rectified much in the same way any machine can be repaired. By looking at problems as complex issues, however, is to take into account that most situations involving people can not be broken down into constituent parts because humanness cannot be quantified. This approach realizes that there are no absolute truths, but rather limitless possibilities. People who effectively deal with complex problems ask “what if” and answer “maybe” rather than no when others make suggestions.

These four points are by no means an exhaustive list of the abilities required by the leaders of tomorrow, but I do believe they are a good start.

I would like to conclude with a quote from Dee Hock – the founder and former CEO of VISA Credit Card Association one of the most successful companies on earth.

Hock states:

“We are at the very point in time when a 400 year-old age is rattling on its deathbed and another is struggling to be born – a shifting of consciousness, culture, science, society, and institutions incomprehensibly greater and swifter than the world has ever experienced. The great unanswered question is whether we are going to get there through massive institutional failure, enormous social and environment carnage and regression into ever more dictorial pyramids of power that will inevitably collapse, causing even more carnage, before new ways of interacting emerge. Or have we at long, long last evolved to the point of sufficient intelligence and will to create the conditions by which new organizations can come into being? Are our institutions and people capable of their own continuous learning and transformation in order to harmoniously coevolve with all other institutions, with all people and with all other living things, to the highest potential of each and all?”

Graduates of 2008, all of human kind is relying on you to meet this call. I am confident that you will not let us down.

Thank you.

Resolving hierarchy in a flattening world

Posted in Blogroll on June 11, 2008 by Trev

Today’s educational leaders are required, out of necessity, to operate in with a distributed, shared leadership style. I believe this is an appropriate leadership approach because we cannot and should not have to do our work alone. This is also in line with current educational research which indicates that the two factors that have the most profound effect on student learning are teacher instruction and principal leadership. The thing that I am wrestling with is how do we expand this flatter, less hierarchical approach to leadership to the division office and beyond that to the ministry? Accountability contracts/continuous improvement frameworks . . . these top-down rather inflexible means for “ensuring” accountability are the reality of the environment in which we work. Can the two approaches live together harmoniously? Does anyone have experience with implementing distributed approaches to supporting accountability frameworks? What have you done? What doesn’t? What would you like to try, but have not? Thoughts?

Times they are a changing . . . duh!

Posted in Blogroll on April 21, 2008 by Trev

Everyone knows the saying about the only thing being constant is change. Have a look at this vid – it takes a postmodern look at the changes in our world. What do these changes mean to us a educational leaders and the work we do? I am presently in the mode of thinking that we can’t solve problems by the same thought processes that caused the problems in the first place (thank you very much Mr. Einstein). 300+ year-old Cartesian philosophy and Newtonian science are still very much prevalent in the way we conduct our business as leaders and particularly educational leaders . . . I have my ideas about what can take their place, but am interested in your thoughts! Got some?

[kml_flashembed movie="http://pop.youtube.com/v/dJZ9ce97Zks" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Nobody wanted to play my game . . .

Posted in Blogroll, Ed Admin, High School Reform on April 10, 2008 by Trev

Okay, so maybe the Pink Floyd was a little “edgy”. What I wanted to do is start a discussion about the imagery and hopefully get into some deeper meaning about the role education has played, is playing, and will play in our world. Here are some images and thoughts that I get when I watch the clip. (I sure am glad I don’t teach with that guy!)

  • Faceless students being hauled off (to become another brick in the wall?)
  • The crushing of creativity & individuality.
  • Rote memorization.
  • Corporal Punishment.
  • Students entering the school (box) in assembly line fashion.
  • Individual identities going in and exiting as faceless beings.
  • A maze, a big clock, a “teacher”.
  • A lot of focus on feet – modernity marching on relentlessly?
  • Egg carton like classrooms.
  • The “machine” . . . gears and hammers pound & grinding kids into a common mass.
  • Chaos ensues.
  • Breaking down the wall – the wall of what though? Is it a symbol or a barrier?
  • Is the resulting rebellion a form of self organization?

Anyone brave enough to chime-in?

Another brick in the wall

Posted in Blogroll, Ed Admin, High School Reform with tags , , , on March 4, 2008 by Trev

Hey teachers, leave those kids alone! I love the tune, hate the lyrics.

Sit back, crank the volume, and take a look at this video.

Be warned, the vivid, thought provoking imagery may be disturbing to some.

See what symbolism stands out for you and drop me a few lines about it.

I’ve always wanted to use this as a conversation starter for a professional development day on instructional improvement – but haven’t gotten up the nerve . . . the ground “beef” just doesn’t seem appropriate.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/M_bvT-DGcWw" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Spirit, Passion & Creativity

Posted in Blogroll, Ed Admin on February 6, 2008 by Trev

Hi Everyone (Anyone):  I’ve not made a post for a while – started taking some classes and every spare minute seems to find me with my nose in a book!  Anyway, I came across this quote in an article on the philosophy of educational leadership.  The article contemplated modernist and postmodernist applications to education and more specifically ed leadership.  The quote really struck a chord with me - lots of implications about how we do business . . . give it a read and see if it means anything to you:

 “Order, predictability, structure, rationality, and control have not freed the human spirit, ignited human passions or promoted human creativity, and this failure is taking a toll on personal lives as well as on organizational activity, social relationships and global conditions” (Sackney & Mitchell, 2002).

Percentage Grades

Posted in Assessment, Ed Admin, High School Reform on December 13, 2007 by Trev

I’ve been working with a committee from our school division on developing an assessment protocol. I am wrestling with the following thoughts:

Why do we continue to try to provide assessment information to students with percentage grades? The easy answer is because our “Ministry of Education” requires the school to provide a percentage grade for credit classes in grades 10, 11 and 12 so they can be reported on the students’ official transcripts. However, the more disturbing answer is that the percentage grade is required to provide a sorting service for society. This really became apparent to me during several discussions with other educators over the past few weeks. Some of the arguments about proposed changes to our grading practices were couched in not impacting the chances of some students getting into university or impacting how scholarships are distributed. I may be cynical, but I don’t think it really maters, in the big picture, what the criterion for the sorting process is. As long as the sorting happens! Obviously this is contrary to what we strive to do in our classrooms—to provide rich assessment information to students to help them improve. How do we resolve this very strong conflict between providing sound assessment for learning information to students and parents vs. providing information for which gate-keeping decisions are based?

The plagiarism plague . . .

Posted in Blogroll on October 9, 2007 by Trev

With the ease of cutting and pasting material from the internet, we are continuously dealing with incidents of plagiarism.  Sometimes it is so blatant that it can be proven by  simply entering the suspected phrase into a search engine.  The more difficult to deal with scenario is that which cannot be proven.  We have built processes into the writing/research process aimed at educating students about the issue and proper citation methods.  We have even gone so far as creating steps that make it difficult for students to cut and paste info (including jot notes, first drafts etc.) and pass it off as their own.  In spite of these efforts, some students still insist on plagiarizing.  A couple of questions come to mind . . . 1.  What more can we do to curtail this sort of behaviour? & 2.  If this truly is a behaviour issue, is it appropriate to grade a plagiarized paper with a mark of 0?  Thoughts???

Guess when . . .

Posted in Blogroll, High School Reform on September 26, 2007 by Trev

I am helping to plan a reunion for the high school where I work (and attended).  As I was thumbing through some things from yesteryear I came across this cartoon, drawn by a student, once published in our student newspaper.  In what year do you think this picture was drawn and why?  Feel free to add any commentary about the deep educational implications of this work : ) Check back next week for the answer.

Education never changes . . .

Posted in Ed Admin on September 23, 2007 by Trev

I’ve heard people say that schools are the only places that a person from 100 years ago could be dropped into and still be able to recognize.  I have even caught myself nodding to this statement.  I had some time to reflect on this today and yes, I do believe that a person from 100 years ago would be able to figure out where they were if they were to suddenly appear in our schools, just as they would if they were to pop into a bank, police station or restaurant.  I know that the people, usually presenters at conferences, who make such statements, are well meaning and the intent of their message is that we need to continue to improve the way we help kids learn.  As educational professionals I believe we have an ethical responsibility to do so!  It is easy to make sweeping statements like education hasn’t changed in 100 years.  It takes more energy to observe how education has changed in 100 years.  What are the ways in which you believe education has changed and improved since the turn of the 20th centruy?