while I lay on the rocks, reaching into the darkness, learning little by little to love our only world.
Watch this short video from Harvard Business Review to see an answer to this question! It reveals a way to think about strategy within the context of sustainable innovation in an organization. How is this relevant to schools given that most of us “look the same” or do the same thing? Thoughts?
You can’t be a good leader without self-awareness.
- Write down your plans and priorities
- Take psychometric tests
- Ask trusted friends
- Get regular feedback at work
His explanation for each of the five ways is short, interesting, and compelling. Seems simple enough to design a way to function at work that includes each of Tjan’s suggestions.
- What am I trying to achieve?
- What am I doing that is working?
- What am I doing that is slowing me down?
- What can I do to change?
Of course, asking the questions is one thing, being honest with myself as I reflect on each question is the hard task, but the important one to get right. The learning or insight comes from being open and honest about each question.
We have to rely on the feedback of our peers, friends, and mentors.
Building self-awareness is a life-long effort.
One of the salient needs of all human beings is to be in the company of other people. But it’s more than merely being in the presence of others. We crave to be in trusting relationships in which our needs and desires are recognized and appreciated. I think we crave this almost as much as we crave food and shelter. So when we are faced with resistance at work, in our families or with our friends, we should consider whether we have put enough energy into nurturing trusting relationships. Each of us carries that responsibility. It’s a two-way street. Here are some thoughts about what we can do to promote trust with others:
- Lead by example
- Open communication
- Empathize with others and get to know them
- Try not to place blame
- Be willing to confront trust issues
- Be willing to grant the benefit of the doubt
- Practice deep listening
- Suspend judgment and quiet the critical mind
There are probably other things you could add to this list. Nevertheless, the most important one would be to lead by example. If we believe that building trust in a community diminishes resistance, then it is our responsibility to model the characteristics of a trusting person. As a leader, if we want to build trust on our team then we have to model all the qualities of someone who is trustworthy. The time has come to look in the mirror and learn.
Evie Blad wrote a article in this week’s Education Week entitled, When School doesn’t seem fair, Students may suffer lasting effects. Her opening sentence…
When students believe schools are unfair places, their loss of trust can lead to a lack of engagement that affects them for years, researchers say.
…explains the challenge we face and the reason why schools, administrators and faculty, have to work diligently to build and maintain a trusting environment for their students. How does a trusting school culture get built? I would suggest it first starts with building trusting relationships among with the faculty. My experience has led me to believe that when faculty feel supported and respected by the administration that serves them, then it is very likely that classrooms will exhibit those same qualities. When faculty believe their administration has their best interests at heart and adult actions align to the beliefs and values, there is likely to be a trusting school culture and healthy classroom cultures.
Trust binds leaders to followers. Without that bond, a manager can enforce minimum compliance with contract specfications and job descriptions, but that will not lead a team of teachers to greatness. As “lubricant,” trust greases the machinery of an organization. (Page 16)
For me, those word sum up the importance of establishing a trust adult culture in schools, which then creates an atmosphere for trust and fairness in the classroom. Trust is not something that happens without a great deal of thought and effort. Tschannen-Moran shares this definition of trust.
Trust is one’s willingness to be vulnerable to another based on the confidence that the other is benevolent, honest, open, reliable, and competent.
That definition sets a very high bar for all of us in schools, especially teachers in their relationships to each of their students.
Evie Blad writes about the “trust gap” in schools. She reports on studies that show students from different racial and ethnic groups have different levels of trust as a result of their school’s response to their issues. With regard to disciplinary issues and how they are treated, Black and Hispanic students’ trust is more likely to erode over the course of their middle school years as a result of how they are treated in schools by administrators and teachers. The data would suggest that there is a structural bias in place as a result of how students are treated. The lack of fairness in the students’ minds definitely erodes the trust they have. Blad points out that the perception is reality. She writes:
And it wasn’t just a perception; there was real evidence of bias at the school, the study says, noting that only black students received discipline for broad, subjectively interpreted infractions like “defiance.”
It shouldn’t be a surprise to us that many underrepresented students in the US feel disenfranchised from their schools because they feel they are treated unfairly. While it may not be the intended reality, it is the perceived reality.
In her interesting opinion piece on the Hechinger Report entitled, How can we show disenfranchised, black students that they matter when everything else is telling them otherwise?, Dena Simmons (@denasimmons), Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, writes:
In the end, we, all of us, must be compassionate. We must be open to other experiences, and we must learn to accept others and ourselves for everything we are —and everything we are not. We must fight for ourselves and for each other. And, we must begin to shift the violent course of history to one of peace, love, and mutual understanding. I have faith in us. My task is simple: it is for Black lives to be seen, to be human, to be treated with dignity. Our shared humanity depends on it.
Her words are powerful and indicate that we have to work extra hard to be sure we are building strong bonds of trust with all students in schools. Checking ourselves at the door as to whether we are treating all students equitably and fairly. If so, then we will be able to design learning environments that are safe, caring and engaging for all students. When teachers believe they are respected, valued and trusted, they will consciously and unconsciously create respectful, meaningful, and trusting learning environments for students.
Getting personalized right, the recent edition of Educational Leadership, has a number of interesting articles. I’ve been making my way through them and thought I would share short synopses that could use to decide on whether an article was worth exploring in more depth.
Carol Ann Tomlinson, generally a good bet for an interesting essay, wrote, Let’s Celebrate Personalization: But not too fast. She suggests that before a school jumps into the deep end of the personalization pool, first carefully explore a variety of questions:
- Why and why now?
- What will the match be between your curriculum and personalization?
- Who will experience personalization and when?
- What if the approach falls short for some students?
- How will old and new paradigms of teaching coexist?
- What support will teachers need?
- Who will help teachers retool and will you have sufficient support?
- What is the school leaders role?
- Where are parents in the change process?
- What aspects of the educational environment will have to change…grading practices, scheduling, etc.?
She sheds a little light on each question and walks a fine line between promoting personalization versus staying the course. Clearly, she is a strong proponent of differentiating for students interest, readiness and learning profile. Be informed and be reflective is her advice.
John Spencer wrote an interesting article about using design thinking in the classroom, The Genius of Design. Piloting a structure modeled after Google’s “20% time,” where students get about 20% of their weekly class time to work on projects that connect to their interest. His rationale for introducing this change is that “students should actively create their own learning rather than consume it.” He adopted design thinking as a strategy for structuring the Genius Hour because “it’s a creating thinking process that focuses on developing actual products that solve real problems.” He adapts the standard empathy, define, ideate, prototype and test cycle of design thinking into:
- Look, listen, learn
- Ask tons of questions
- Understand the process or problem
- Navigate ideas
- Create a prototype
- Highlight and fix
- The Launch
In the article he defines what happens in each stage with some examples from student work. Certainly, a clever adaptation to make design thinking work as the driver for projects in Genius Hour.
In One Size Doesn’t Fit All Homework, Cathy Vatterot profiles an elementary school in Massachusetts, Vinal Elementary School, that uses an individualized (personalized) homework model. She answers the question: Why personalize homework? The answer lies in the research that supports investment in “student empowerment and autonomy in learning.” Vinal went down the road of personalized homework because it fit another significant change, standards-based grading, that they launched.
In the article, Vatterot describes what personalized learning looks like at Vinal. How do teachers structure the environment so that students chose the type of homework assignment that matches their learning profile and interests while staying focused on mastering the standards. The article addresses the ways in which teachers assess and bring students into the assessment and grading process. She writes about the logistics and the parental concerns, which required an intentional education process so parents could function as a facilitator and not a doer of homework.
We learn from Vatterot’s article that there are huge benefits to creating a personalized homework culture. In addition, there is a different kind of teaching required of the teacher to make it work. She quotes Elliot Eisner’s 1991 article in Education Leadership:
Amidst the noise of standards and the merely measurable, we had somehow lost the idea that the essence of schooling should be to nurture curiosity, wonder and excitement of learning something new.
That is a great quote to end this post on! Enjoy your reading of these pieces. You will need a subscription to ASCD in order to read the full article or request it from your librarian.