Is it still just a dream?

In my younger years, before I was a teacher, but knew I was going to become a teacher, I used to dream about my drive to work, which included a quiet countryside, the leaves turning in the fall, and arriving at a nice school.

I distinctly remember, after I had been hired as a middle school teacher in 1984, at some point thereafter, realizing that my drive to work wound through a quiet countryside, with the leaves turning in the fall, and that I arrived at a nice school.  

I was living my dream, and I was able to see it.  Reminds me of a great line…


“And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point,
‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

― Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

An actual picture captured from my drive to work.

I wonder how many of us take the time to recognize, among the hustle and bustle of the day, that we may, in fact, be living what we dreamed?

Just finished reading…

I kind of wonder if, when I start a sentence with, “I just finished reading…” colleagues want to run away.  I get it if they do.  I know more now because of my professional learning via twitter than I ever did as a teacher and principal.  That’s just a fact.  And I’m not shy about sharing and modeling my failures, learning, reading, and growth.  Two steps forward, one back.  The sharing falls under what I used to think when attending a wrestling clinic as a coach.  If I get one good thing out of this clinic, it’s a good use of my time.  If, via sharing and modeling,  I can convince one leader to take a good hard look at his/her own learning and growth, it’s worth my time.  And I know it will be worth hers/his.

In the last 48 hours I’ve read two books by Baruti Kafele.  Prior to 48 hours ago, I had not heard of Principal Kafele.  I read The Principal 50: Critical Leadership Questions for Inspiring Schoolwide Excellence and Is My School a Better School Because I Lead It?

One could certainly wonder, “Geez dude, do you ever work?  How do you have time to read two books over the last 48 hours?  Must be nice.”

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Well it is nice, and it’s helpful that the books are 95 and 62 pages respectively.  Don’t let the small page numbers make you think the books don’t pack a punch.  They do. When Principal Kafele says, “Though I have been called a ‘motivational speaker’–my objective is to create discomfort toward inspiring leadership excellence.”  He is not kidding.

Try these ideas on for size.

  • Is your school a better school because you are there?
  • Would your school be a better school if someone else were leading it instead of you? (Wow!)
  • Do staff members feel they have grown in their practice thanks to your instructional leadership? (I LOVE this one)
  • Just because principals don’t work in the classroom doesn’t mean they shouldn’t teach!  Leadership itself is a series of lessons that you provide to students, staff, and even parents on how to approach matters big and small.
  • Your leadership presence conveys a message to students, staff, parents whether you want it to or not; the question is whether you are in control of that message.
  • What’s the one thing over all of my responsibilities that I deem I simply must accomplish?
  • Your school cannot afford for you to be the same person next year on this date that you are today.

And this.

  • Leaders are readers, and they learn from other leaders. Effective school leaders read regularly despite–or more precisely, to help guide–the long hours that they invest every day toward ensuring student excellence.  They have such an obsession with growth as leaders that they carve out the necessary time.

 

Here’s my morning so far. I’ve met with our assistant director about some professional learning we’re leading with two groups soon, I’ve spoken with two principals, worked on some of our bond related items, and read a 62 page book, Is My School a Better School Because I Lead It?  And now I’m writing about it.  And I have a meeting in about 10 minutes.  I have an obsession with growth and learning.  I carve out the necessary time to make both happen.  And I share.

Because I just finished reading…..

 

Context.

Our students deserve better.

Just finished reading The Pitfalls of Reform: Its Incompatibility with Actual Improvement by John Tanner.  He concluded his thinking with that line.  “Our students deserve better.”

As with all good books that impact learners, his book has impacted me.  And that line really hit home.  I have been having that specific thought a lot lately.  But the context in which I have been having it has been a little unusual.

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Our wonderful communities recently supported a significant capital projects bond so we could build, update, and replace aging and overcrowded facilities.  Last week, during one of our leadership walkthroughs at our middle school, I was walking with our new high school principal.  He had spent little to no time in our middle school.  Our middle school is very old and it shows.  It’s the first building project we’re tackling with our communities’ support.  I said to him, as we were looking at the condition of the building, “Our students deserve better.”

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I’m wondering and thinking about what other contexts might produce that idea in one’s head?  Our students deserve better?  Beyond the context of facilities.

Contexts like the kids I had in my math classes so many years ago?  Where my teaching consisted of kids in rows, taking notes, then silently working on assignments?  Students deserve better.

Contexts like classroom management techniques focused on quiet?  Students deserve better.

Contexts like that last time some educators read anything was in college.  Students deserve better.

Contexts like building leaders simply managing buildings rather than being open learners, willing to try things and fail publicly.  Students deserve better.

One could keep going, but here’s the suggestion, for all of us in the education world.  As you go through your day,  as you do your work with teachers and/or kids, does that work, action, interaction, comment, idea, practice, or whatever compel you think, “Student deserve better”?

You might be surprised at the impact of the answer.  The impact can be pretty moving and poignant.  What one does next is the big question.

Context matters.  Students deserve better.