Friday, March 24, 2017

Eliminating The Excuse of Enough.

I had the pleasure of learning at the Future Ready Superintendent Leadership Network where a panel of 5 innovative superintendents reflected on their vision of public schools in the coming 20 years as well as the change that must be made to transform that vision into a reality. Steve Waddell and Jeff Turner reflected on their work and shared a powerful thought that leaders must always remember if they truly want to create schools that lead kids to the future they deserve.   

If we want to create the kinds of schools that truly prepare kids for the future, it is high time that we eliminate the excuse of "Enough".

If you think about it, they're right.   This barrier of scarcity is something that we too readily claim as the reason we can't move forward when in fact it is merely a figment of our imagination.  Here are just few "Enough" statements that prevent schools, leaders and educators from moving forward, and some of my thoughts on these obstacles to organizational improvement.

We don't have enough time.
The fact is you have the exact same amount of time as high performers. Identify where you are wasting time, and you'll find enough time. 

We don't have enough money.
There are countless examples of high performers who had less money and resources. How are you optimizing what you currently have?  Answer that question before making the decision to  spend more. 

We don't have enough personnel. 
This is the same as money. Schools with fewer personnel achieve high performance through synergy of professional growth through ongoing collaboration. Are you truly working as a professional learning community at work that is focused with laserlike precision on improving the adults in the building?   

We don't have enough parent support. 
Educators control 90% of the factors that impact student learning, so blaming parents means that you don't own the potential of your own impact. What are you doing to build the optimal relationships with your parents before you need to access them to help with their children?

We don't have enough information.
Lack of information is a real thing, but the stalwarts of the status quo use this as their main reason to say, "we can't abandon the comforts of today to create the classrooms of tomorrow because we need more information".

Enough is Enough!
The fact of the matter is that we have enough if not way too many excuses that stop us from reaching our goals for school improvement. The question is not if we're going to say enough is enough. The question is whether we will be so focused on guaranteeing that every kid learns that you won't even allow these excuses a seat at your table of continuous improvement. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Answer is Always in YOU!

Leadership is influence. It is guidance. It is empowerment.

The only way to determine if your leadership is truly transformational is by defining your YOU. How do you answer these simple questions:

1. What do YOU believe is essential to lead your organization to excellence?
2. What are YOUR expectations for making that happen?
3. How do YOU know if the expectation is being met?
4. How do YOU hold others accountable for not meeting those expectations?
5. How do YOU empower those who are meeting and even exceeding expectations?
6. How do YOU create a culture of continuous improvement?
7. How do YOU celebrate accomplishments along the way?

Do you see the opportunity in YOU?
Transactional leaders miss the opportunity to capitalize on YOU because they believe YOU means "I", and YOUR means "My".  Transformational leaders, on the other hand, see YOU as a powerful opportunity. To them YOU means "We" and YOUR means "Our".

YOU consists of everyone in the organization, as well as supporters who have a vested interest in seeing it grow. The question is never what will YOU do. The challenge before you is how will YOU specifically create a system where YOU all get the job done.  

The challenge is yours. Will you accept it?

Friday, March 3, 2017

4 Questions for Building an Excellence Support System

Who believes this statement?

No intervention can replace poor instruction.

Then if you agree that no intervention can replace poor instruction then raise your hand if you have an intervention system for students.

Now keep your hand up if you have an intervention system for your teachers that is as targeted and focused as it is for students.

This is what inspired me to write the book, A Leader's Guide to Excellence in Every Classroom.  We have focused on supporting kids, but we, leaders, haven't put the same laser-like focus on helping our teachers reach excellence.  The fact is this.  If we want to have successful students, it starts with making teachers successful first.

The 4 Questions for Building an Excellence Support System
Everyone is familiar with the 4 questions of a Professional Learning Community at Work.

  1. What do we expect all kids to learn?
  2. How will we know if they learned it?
  3. How will we respond if they haven't learned it?
  4. How will we enrich them when they do learn it?
I essentially took those 4 powerful guiding questions and applied it to the components of a teacher of excellence.

  1. What components of highly effective teaching do we expect from teachers to guarantee learning for all students?
  2. How will we know when teachers are successful in ensuring learning for all students?
  3. How will we respond when a teacher fails to meet the learning needs of all students?
  4. How will we embrace teachers who are successful in meeting the learning needs of all kids?

The 4 Questions that Strengthens "The 4 Questions"
I know one thing.  The 4 questions of a PLC at Work are powerful when and only when the focus is on adult learning and informing educators how they can improve at guaranteeing Learning for All.  The 4 questions of an Excellence Support System drives leaders to anticipate when and how teachers struggle at meeting the needs of all kids and then these questions guide them to respond in a systematic way that involves 3 steps:  
  • Step 1 - School-wide Excellence System (Professional Learning):  How can we provide on-going professional learning that is available to all educators at any time?
  • Step 2 - Teacher Team Excellence Supports (Collaboration):  How can we provide job-embedded collaboration for all teachers?
  • Step 3 - Individualized Excellence Plan (Differentiated Leadership):  How leaders develop meaningful relationships that are focused on helping teachers with their next steps in professional growth?
This systematic philosophy of teacher support is what teachers desire.  More time to learn, more time to collaborate, and more time to reflect with their peers, administrators and instructional coaches.  The Excellence in Every Classroom mindset is not about pushing every teacher to reach some utopian idea of instructional excellence.  It's about creating the conditions that foster a deep-rooted belief that chasing continuous improvement is what makes all educators excellent.