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Posted by on in Education Leadership

turningbacktime

I still can't believe that I graduated Union High School 20 years ago this year. 1997 was a fun year–a senior in high school, not a care in the world. Then again, it was a different world.

My superintendent, Dr. Jakubowski (with whom I still speak), made two prominent points at our graduation.

1. Don't get into a stranger's car.

2. Don't use the internet.

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

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Most people in leadership positions I encounter are not leaders. They are managers. This is not to say they are bad at their job. Some are in fact quite good. Problem is that while they help sh*t run well, they don’t grow. They don’t grow themselves and they don’t grow their organization.

I’ve experienced this a lot as a public school teacher. Many principals, assistant principals, and school district level administrators focus on efficiency and productivity while talking about improvement. They fail to recognize that as leaders, their main focus should always be on constant improvement. Don’t get me wrong; they all talk about it. Few however, actually live the principle of growing themselves, the people they are meant to lead, and their organization.

So how do you become a leader? How do you ensure you grow as a result of your interactions with those you lead and how do you in turn help those around you grow?

welcome disagreement

This one’s hard, because it’s in our nature to get defensive when our views or decisions are challenged. Remember fight or flight? Defensiveness is one of the side effects.

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

disciplining kids

Then…

I (Brent) am a former student pastor turned public educator. Upon leaving vocational ministry, I moved into a position as a teacher and coach in southeast Texas. I taught science at the seventh and eighth grade levels for seven years and loved it. However fun my science classes were to teach, science was never my passion. My passion is in helping students learn from their choices (good and bad) and grow from one day to the next. During my time that I was in the classroom, I told my students on a regular basis, “My goal is for you to be a better person on the last day you walk out of my class than on the first day that you walked in. If you learn some science along the way, that’s awesome too!” Obviously, I wanted them to learn science and I wanted to do a great job of teaching it to them. After all, that’s what I was getting paid to do and I want to be great at my job. That doesn’t mean that science was my main goal for my students.

Like Brent, I (Jeff) spent 11 years as a student pastor before I transitioned into public education. I knew the call into the classroom was about relationships and helping kids to be better today than they were yesterday. Having taught both elementary and middle school students you come to find out that meeting the basic needs of students is universal. I can remember my first year teaching 4th grade, I had a parent of one young man indicate to me that it was the first year in his young school career that he had not been sent to the office. During that year we had several one on one conversations, where being 6’ 4’’ I would crouch down to eye level, and remind him what he could do. I always shared that  I expected more because he was capable. The power of high expectations seemed to resonate equally somewhere deep inside this little guy’s mind and heart. We developed a strong relationship by the time the school year finished. Though I was teaching english language arts we were all learning what it meant to live out the art of doing life together - what it means to become better with the help of another.

Now…

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

 

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There's nothing better than breakfast meetings in the summer! I get excited at the chance in meeting with colleagues over a cup of coffee and dialogue to brainstorm ways to better support our students and staff in the upcoming school year.

As part of our summer work, I have been been holding "check-in" meetings with our principals to reflect on our academic continuous improvement plans.  As the new principal at Worthington Kilbourne High School, Mr. Aric Thomas has been working to deeply understand the great work that has been done in the past and how to best continue leading the work in the future.  Talking with him during breakfast gave us both a chance to brainstorm plans for the upcoming year as well as get to know each other more.  As we got up to leave, we realized we weren't alone!


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Posted by on in Education Leadership

Recently, I had the chance to catch up with a colleague from a previous school district who I hadn’t seen for years.  While drinking coffee and catching up about our families and life, I asked him about his recent change in positions at a new school district last year.  Suddenly, his head lowered and his eyes scanned the inside of his empty coffee cup.  Barely opening his mouth, he quietly murmured, “My goal next year will be to stay under the radar”.

Although I could have asked him to disclose details on why he would have said that, I knew that wouldn’t have accomplished anything to help him.  Instead, I asked him what he thought that would accomplish.  This question allowed for a better, richer dialogue to see how I could help coach him up.

His eyes looked up, and placed his coffee cup on the table.  With a small smile peeking through his mouth, he admitted that he wasn’t truly sure.  He guessed that it would be better if he kept his head down low and stayed quiet around his peers due to some missteps from the year before and some negative feedback he received on his performance.  As he restated his initial plan to just “fly under the radar”, he began to doubt the merits to this idea.

“Flying under the radar” doesn’t work in leadership. 

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