Monday, October 20, 2014

Fullan: Leading in a Culture of Change

This post is a recent assignment for a class I am taking from Arkansas Tech University. The class is Seminar in Systems Issues leading to superintendent's license.

Chapter Seven: The Hare and the Tortoise (Fullan)

1. Leaders that listen, see the big picture and not so decisive are qualities of an effective leader. They don’t panic in the early stages of making a big change. Would your colleagues say those are your qualities?

Listening. No. 
Not panicking. Yes. 
Not so decisive. Yes.

I am learning to listen. In the chapter Fullan described a situation when a person stopped listening as soon as he got the point. I tend to do that in the moment because I am looking for solutions analyzing each probable pathway discarding the really bad ideas and holding on to a few that might stick. I find myself coming back to listen later and bouncing my ideas off of the team again.

I see the big picture and I am not detrimentally decisive. I definitely do not panic, my wife would tell you that I procrastinate on decision making, I would argue that I am waiting on more information to make the best informed decision. I make small decisions and I always start with the ideal outcome and work backwards to exactly what I/we envision. In my leadership team, deliberate movements of decisiveness works best.

2. Conger and Benjamin suggest a “ten year rule of thumb” as the threshold for individuals to become experts. Do we rush to something else and not give the new initiative time or the support necessary?

The ten-year expert rule seems right in my experience. This is my 9th year in education, 9th week as principal. I have a long way to go. Before I read this chapter I discovered the concept of slow learning. In most of my career I devoured everything I could read and experience in the world of education. It was the family business M\mother superintendent, aunt principal/department of ed, uncle principal, uncle teacher/coach, wife teacher and my grandmother was the head of the cafeteria at my high school for 30 years. Thanksgiving dinner is a master’s class on school and leadership. I feel like these experiences have accelerated my knowledge base and my on the job learning has solidified them a little faster than some. This is not a display of hubris, but an acknowledgement of I finally know what I don’t know. Last week I wrote myself a note and placed it on my whiteboard in my office. It simply read “10 years.” I wrote it to remind me that the changes that I want to make and the learning it is going to take to get there will take a considerable amount of time. I have a name for it now since reading this chapter… slow learning. I can wait. But it will be difficult.

3. Learning in Context means what to you? Describe a situation you have dealt with that best describes what this means.

Learning in context is the most meaningful learning for me. This year we have ton of learning in context. We have three buildings. Elementary and High School principals are first year and relatively young, the middle school principal is a 10 year veteran. We have regular meetings and conversations that help the elementary principal and me do our work better. It is setup to be experienced teacher to inexperienced learner by our superintendent, but the elder says she is learning more from us (I doubt it).

I am constantly learning in context. It is like the teacher that learns more about their content when they teach for a while. Same for me as leader of instruction I am immersed with reading and practicing quality instruction and I am getting better at it. Sometimes the best way is to just jump in and learn on the fly. I recently wrote and published a book, Google Apps Meets Common Core (Corwin 2013) on instructional strategies and integrating them with technology. I had the content knowledge of Google (I am a Google Education Trainer) and pedagogy skills and immersion of CCSS, but I had no idea how to write a book. That 10 month process of writing, researching and revising was one of the greatest learning in context experiences. I can use that knowledge to do my job as instructional leader better.

4. The author described “Learning to Lead” practices and developing leaders at all levels who focus on instruction and learning. When you become superintendent what system will you have for your leaders to have a high quality experience?

It all starts with the culture of the school. Build it and offer the structure for it to blossom with the right incentives and the leaders will fill the spaces.
When I become superintendent I will work on a culture of positive empowerment. The teachers need more confidence in themselves. For example, teachers freak out in a culture of change because they think that they will fail, do not have the skills or don’t see the point of the changes and extra work (extra in their mind). The superintendent needs to remove the barriers and create a least restrictive environment for adult learning and student learning. Structurally it starts with creating teacher leaders that buy into the vision and mission. One idea I have is to create a teacher leader position. Most teachers don’t want to be principals and the only way for them to get a promotion is to become a principal (at least in rural districts with cash strapped budgets), there needs to be a hybrid position. Not administrative but teacher leader. This position could teach the most needy kids half the day, stay connected to the classroom have credibility with peers and coach teachers, lead directed PD in the other half of the day. Hybrid instructional facilitator. In addition I will create faculty leaning communities, leadership team trainings and support out of district PD.