Thursday, June 18, 2015

Why are we addicted to education?

As a school administrator you always try to find ways to motivate your staff and get them bought into the vision of the school.

Why are we trying to get them bought in? Do they really need buy in? Do they really need to be convinced that engaging and empowering students is important? Do they really need to be told to try and motivate and connect with students? Is asking those questions actually degrading to the profession and practice?

Education is an addiction, somewhat like some of the vices that many seek help to solve. Why question or challenge this addiction? Why question a teacher's motives to want to create that perfect lesson?

I taught 5th grade, and I know what it was like to have that perfect lesson, where all the student seemed engaged, empowered, and excited while having fun.  The work was hard.  It did not happen everyday, but when it did it was magical.  I tried to make lessons rigorous, still standards based, where the products were student created and chosen by them (students).

How do we as leaders foster this, and promote this?

I have asked a lot of questions so far... Let me give you some answers.

  1. Create a culture where risk taking is the norm.
  2. Create a culture where you are embedded in planning and can give real time feedback when possible
  3. Create a culture where teachers want to come to you with their ideas to flush them out and make them better through collaboration.
  4. Coach them constantly with specific feedback that address the real needs that they are seeking.
  5. Push them to make the lessons relevant and where pace and path for students are recognized and explicitly planned for. 
  6. Quite simple, be there for them, the teachers, to learn WITH them and try to experience the experiences WITH them as much as possible.
That last point is most important.  Our job is difficult as an instructional leader.  You want to be there all the time, but your time is also valuable.  There are many things that pull your attention away from this focus.  Don't lose focus!  Email, budget, management, processes, all these can be put on hold when a staff member has an idea they want to run by you.  That is most important, regardless of what is going on.  Make time for that, feed that addiction and the addiction of teachers wanting to be better will reward you each time.  

I don't make many promises, but I promise this will move mindset and school culture more than anything else you do!

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