I was working with an elementary principal. One of the school's 3rd grade classes had given him a list of responsibilities they assumed formed his job. He showed me the list and chuckled, until he got to an item that he said made him shudder far more than smile: "You fix everything." That overwhelming mandate contains a big piece of the truth: almost everything that happens in the school is ultimately the responsibility of the principal. What is equally valid is the reality that one person cannot know everything, be everywhere, prevent all problems, and fix everything.
There’s plenty of attributes that go into being the successful rallying point of a school – it’s a complex job, managing wildly different sets of expectations from parents, administrators, teachers and pupils (and not necessarily in that order), with (usually) very limited resources and (often) a tricky and ever-changing regulatory environment.
I have been a school leader, charged with responsibilities to lead and instruct. It is an awesome job with great rewards, challenges, and satisfaction. I have learned that the practices and behaviors of being an instructional leader need to unfold in a shared responsibility model of leadership. Principals should tap the collective wisdom and experience within the school community. The challenge for every school leader is to find the source to shape and redefine the lived reality of leadership.
The point was made in the chapter Addressing Concerns that the principal plays an important role in dealing with ineffective practices throughout their school. Think about that again, “If you permit it, you promote it.”
One of the most overlooked aspects of being a leader is the inherent need for personal courage. “Personal courage is the ability to act on the tough but necessary decisions guided by a moral compass that serves to benefit the team or stated goals.” ~ David Stricklin
It’s been a bad week for teachers unions — what with a California judge tossing out state statutes providing job protections for teachers and attendant publicity, including an article in Politico Pro with the headline, “The Fall of Teachers’ Unions‘. But let’s face it: Headlines have been screaming for years that teachers unions were “under siege.”
A 2013 Education Week commentary with the headline “The Plight of Teachers’ Unions” says:
'Teachers’ unions are under siege nationwide. Criticism by political leaders and education reformers has snowballed. In recent years, government and unions have battled over tenure, teacher assessment, testing, the length of the school day, class size, school closures, and pay for performance.'
A 2013 headline in the Hechinger Report said, “Under siege—and in bid to stay relevant—teacher unions evolve.”
A 2012 story in The New York Times about a teachers strike in Chicago (which, incidentally, didn’t turn out terribly for the teachers) says, “In Standoff, Latest Sign of Unions Under Siege.”
Indeed, teachers unions are facing unprecedented stress as the teaching profession has come under assault from those who want to take away their job protections and cast them as the biggest problems in student underachievement, but all unions in general face stresses for a variety of reasons. In fact, union membership in this country has been falling since 1947, when the Taft-Hartley Act, an anti-union law, was passed.
While it is certainly true that unions were very late in recognizing that they needed to make changes in their views on issues such as teacher evaluation, it would be simplistic to say that unions are doing themselves in all on their own. A shift in the base of the Democratic Party — traditionally a friend to the labor movement — toward Wall Street hasn’t helped.
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The notion of sharing and collaborating in a “networked classroom” empowers the whole learning environment. The BYOD provides a creative solution to create a participative model of teaching and learning. Teachers and students are side-by side in the learning process. BYOD programs promote student achievement and advance teachers’ technology skills.
These are a few initial responses you may experience when you announce an organizational change to employees. You will be better able to change employees' attitudes and turn their resistance into cooperation, once you understand why some are resisting change.
When a school leader refuses to remove internal policy and filtering barriers that get in the way of students and teachers actually using purchased technologies, that’s not poor technology leadership, that’s just poor leadership.
Despite the popularity of goal setting, there is compelling evidence that regardless of good intentions and effort, people and organizations consistently fall short of achieving their goals. More often than not, the fault is attributed to the goal setter. But the real problem may be in the efficacy of goal setting itself.
You know how they say that people come to look like their dogs? A parallel truism is that any organization comes to look like its leader. For some reason, though this idea is axiomatic in corporate life—who would attribute the success of Apple to its highly effective programmers?—when you get to schools, I rarely hear it said that every school embodies the values of its principal. But it’s meaningless to talk about teacher “effectiveness” outside of the context in which he or she works. One of the biggest lessons I learned this year is that a teacher cannot, repeat, cannot be effective for long in a dysfunctional community. And whether that school community is or is not functional is entirely dependent on the leadership of the principal.