Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Leadership Code of Commitment

In Ed Leadership I recently read about Dr. William Skilling, Superintendent in Oxford, MI. The article, Creating a Culture of Innovation While Balancing the Budget, is running dialogue between Skilling and Harvard Professor (and recovering English teacher) Tony Wagner. A great article to say the least. While reading, I became more intrigued by what I was reading. Dug deeper into the Oxford school district website, a wealth of innovative ideas, leadership concepts and results, and discovered a Leadership Code of Commitment from Dr. Skilling.

It harkened me back to my graduate program and got me thinking about what I wrote 15 years ago - it really has been that long! My Leadership Theory was nearly identical. After updating it for the 21st Century and stealing the Code of Commitment verbage from Dr. Skilling I am unveiling what was a very personal theory and revealing Mark Hansen's Leadership Code of Commitment.
1. Maintain balance among the most important demands - a husband and father - with the professional demands - an educator and lifelong learner.
2. Decision making will be for the students first and foremost while also involving the use of data, process(es) and effective communication.
3. 24 hour follow up to all communication while maintaining regular intervals of newsletters.
4. Block, plow and pave the way for teachers and principals. Great teachers working with great principals literally change and save lives. Let's clear the way for those people.
5. Commit myself to the goals, vision and mission of the organization.

Schools need servant leadership during these challenging fiscal and political times. Any feedback would be appreciated especially on areas that I may not have considered. If you read this far, at least give one suggestion!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Influential Books in Education

Some months ago there was a post that was entitled "Read or Get Left Behind". As I reread the post and pondered read books in recent months it dawned on me that there are a few that will forever leave a mark on my teaching, leading and learning. Here are my top five:

Good to Great

Curriculum 21

The Art and Science of Teaching

Teach Like a Champion

How to Grade for Learning

The list is short and certainly misses some classics in our profession. These books guide the work that inspire our innovation. What books are you reading that keep you innovating?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Authentic Homework

What is it about the current status of homework that bothers people? Is it homework that is photocopied from a textbook provider that never moves beyond matching or true/false? Is it busy work such as word searches or crossword puzzles? The bottom line is homework in it's present state is a command and control experience for kids. It is uncommon that homework mirrors experiences that students will have later in adulthood.

I sit writing this after experiencing a maddening rush of homework with our 8th grade son. During the last 48 hours he created a movie poster for a short story that needed the name of the author, main characters, two critic quotes and multiple colors. The next assignment was multiple math problems from the online textbook. A third assignment was a photocopied matching and definition assignment. The fourth assignment was redoing an essay that had five green marks in pen from the teacher with a verbal recommendation to add details about the journal entry. The final assignment was a one page summary of an important Supreme Court case about the right to an attorney with a checklist for a five paragraph essay. Where in your adult life do you do things like this?

Overhauling our homework system is a topic receiving much attention. Asking teachers to abandon the current homework model is similar to the medical field abandoning charts and files. It takes time. If we tackle this situation with an approach Heidi Hayes-Jacobs calls remodeling we may make a difference and increase authentic homework. If we can create a system that supports current practitioners in their effort to remodel current homework to match what career-based work looks like we might just engage more kids in their own learning. It is time to stop running copier machines into the millions of copies per year and begin to embed life-based experiences into the work we ask all kids to do.

I live near and talk with career minded neighbors that skype, tweet, google and tiny chat to collaborate. They talk of working with a team to create and solve. They report to supervisors and managers that expect collaboration, communication and creativity at the highest level. It is apparent that this is a disconnect to the way we ask kids to play the school game. Can we change the game? What ideas do you have?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

College/Career Readiness Index

In a recent activity with our leadership team we started a process to identify college readiness indicators that help our system predict college and career readiness. Much of our work comes from the realization that we are sending our best on to the next phase in their life very well prepared but we are also sending a chunk of students off to the next phase without secure skills. It began with the development of our Core Competencies. We evolved that to grade level indicators and benchmarks that now include:
1. Reading at Advanced Levels in K-6 as measured by MAP and Fountas and Pinnell.
2. Read at Advanced Levels in 7-12 as measured by Wisconsin's WKCE test and the EXPLORE, PLAN, and ACT for reading.
3. Complete Advanced Math K-6 as measured by MAP and WKCE
4. Complete Advanced Math in 7-11 as measured by grades of "C" or higher in 8TH grade Algebra for all and Algebra 2 by 11TH grade.
5. AP score of 3 or better on at least one AP exam.
6. ACT composite score of 24 or higher.

Would love to have some feedback from folks regarding our College/Career Readiness Index. What do you agree with, propose adding or recommend changing?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Read or Get Left Behind

In a recent post from Manager Tools, a newsletter article described the dilemma facing professionals in all sectors. Finding the time to stay on top of the growing literature. Bottom line, "If you are not reading regularly, significantly, virtually every day for at least an hour, your development is lagging. Professionals interested in their own self-development read voraciously. Their posting was titled, "Read or Die"

The article goes on to recognize the busy pace executives and leaders live. We hear it regularly in our profession - I just don't have time. Get this: In 2008, the President of the United States read 40 books. Might he be busier than you?

So, what should we read as educational leaders? Sorting through the cornucopia of reading options can be overwhelming. Here is a quick list to guide your reading:

Education Week: This is the Wall Street Journal of our sector. If you are not reading it you are falling behind. It is research, journalism, and editorials from the front line of this great profession. Read it.

Business Leadership Genre: Review non-fiction bestseller lists such as New York Times Bestseller Lists and commit to one book a month. Don't forget some of the online options like Fast Company

Professional Books: Visit publishing sources like ASCD, Corwin Press or others for the latest literature impacting our profession.

Finally, set a goal of reading 25 books in the next 12 months while maintaining the pulse of Ed Week, Ed Leadership and one business journal. Track weekly progress in your PDA notes section or in a system that fits your learning style.

Read or die!

Our profession, the most influential in the world, needs to be well-informed and versed in research, pop culture and political winds. We can make a difference. Reading increases our tool box to be more successful with the precious commodity parents give us every day...our students!

In the words of Dick Vitale, "Read, baby, Read"

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Commitments to work by....

This post was inspired by one read through Twitter, my newly found PLN! Mrs. Ripp, aka 4thGrdTeach, posted a letter to herself about changes she would make in her classroom. Very inspiring! A curriculum guys take on it follows...

Dear me,
The changes in education continue to appear at a faster and faster pace. I commit to avoiding the blame game. Federal and state mandated tests are a fact of life and complaining about them is more like a rocking chair. It gives me something to do but gets me no where. Also, forget about building curriculum documents that everyone will abide by. The only way to cover our current curriculum documents is to sit on them. Pay attention to the day to day teaching and learning activities. This is where it all happens, in the classroom. Don't forget to get out of the office and collaborate with the teachers and principals that make schools work. Stay in touch with the true heroes in our profession! Finally, always remember it is about the kids. Filter every decision through the lense of what is right for kids.

Any ideas you wish to add?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Our Promise

We the people of the education system promise to make certain all children are successful in school. We understand that we are the only place in society where every child must attend. Church is optional, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts is not mandatory, playing youth sports is an option but not mandatory. School is mandatory for all. What is not mandatory is learning. We promise to shift from a culture of teaching to a culture of learning. We understand that this will be hard work but our kids deserve the best. Excellence without equity is a hallowed prize but so is equity with mediocrity. We promise to educate all kids regardless of the challenges each student faces in and out of school. We will view kids no longer as victims but as survivors and will deliver the type of educational quality that will help all kids flourish. We will need to shift from a mind stuffing to a mind building mentality. Sometimes our brightest kids in our schools are the ones we have lost because they don't want to just learn stuff. They are the creative minds that have gone stale. This is our promise - schools for all!