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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in School Leadership
Posted by on in Education Leadership

Recently, the Center for Disease Control released a report stating there was a 300% spike in individuals getting infected with measles. You can read the full report at https://www.cdc.gov/measles/cases-outbreaks.html . As a parent and as a former Superintendent of Schools, I find this incredibly disturbing. It is my opinion that this 300% spike could have been 100% avoided.

As a Superintendent of Schools, I enforced the New Jersey law of “no shots, no school”. There was one significant exemption to the law; you can write a letter to the district stating you decline to have your child vaccinated (for any disease) for religious reasons. It has been my experience that a majority of the letters submitted were because parents could not afford the shots or did not have the time to get the student vaccinated. In both cases, we attempted to accommodate the issue. We distributed a myriad of information on where and when you can get free vaccinations in town or in the county. We arranged free vaccinations through the county health department. We even brought in our district physician (every NJ district has one) to the school to administer shots to students and staff. We would try to provide any reasonable means to ensure that students attending school in the district could have access to vaccinations. Yet, there were still parents who declined.

Being a parent, I fully understood the right to the parent’s primary objective in advocating for your child. Should religion truly be at the forefront of your concerns, I would never hold that against you. Yet upon speaking to scads of religious leaders, I have not come across any religious leader or representative who said getting a vaccination would be interfering with their faith.

Before parents would turn in the letter, I would remind them of the one caveat of submitting such; as the Superintendent of Schools, I am allowed to prohibit your child from attending school, at any time, for any amount of time should there be an illness “floating around the school” or an outbreak of anything. You read that right; if there is a cold that’s being passed around, I can keep your child at home for as long as I see fit. The reason for such is simple in that your child is much more likely to not only become ill but can experience more complications from the illness. I recall one instance in which I kept a student out for 3 weeks because half of the class had a virus. After the third week, the parent had their child vaccinated with no objections. We also had policies in place where if a parent was not vaccinated, they would not be permitted to volunteer in any school activity where there is interaction with others.

In sum, based on the aforementioned report and seeing first hand what can happen to your children if you don’t vaccinate, it is paramount that you have your child (and yourself) vaccinated. These are not random shots or an experiment; this is clinical medicine that has proven results that keep your child safe. This is a work of science, not a work of science fiction. Your child being unvaccinated puts your child and all those who interact with them at risk. As the Chief Education Officer for all those who attend and work in the district, it is my chief responsibility to keep all safe. No learning can or will take place if the basics (i.e. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) can’t be fulfilled. Enough of the fake news and superstition; it’s time to participate in our society in a safe manner for all so we can continue to grow, learn and move onward.

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Posted by on in Leadership

NEWSFLASH: There are people on the Internet that don't like each other. There are people that don't like each other in person too, but today's pitfall of technology has enabled a myriad of people to partake in voicing their opinions in a whole new* way (*new, being about 20 years at this point). Recently, a childhood friend of mine was sharing his thoughts on a recent experience he had while in the store and came across someone who talked a lot of trash online. He referred to them as "Keyboard Warriors" and "flexing their Facebook muscles". I literally laughed out loud. What a phrase. It's not new -- where was I not to hear this? Especially me... someone who is loved and loathed as a leader.

If you have followed my career or me online, you are well aware that people who don't care for me express their dismay, often frequently. 9 out of 10 instances, it's done so by a phony name. That's OK -- that's your First Amendment right to do so (as long as you're in the parameters of not threatening or causing any type of harm). What's different from the past 20? It went from the Letter to the Editor in the paper, to message boards, to social media. With a mere click, you can like, retweet, heart, share, snap, and comment on anything and everything. Fake names is nothing new; from Mrs. Silence Dogood to Deep Throat, false names have been used out of fear or breaking the law. History has depicted that these individuals were timing, calculated, and put great thought into their hiding. Today, it can be done in a matter of clicks.

Some keyboard warriors are entertaining, others are gadflies. Some have good intentions, other just try to stir the pot or throw gas onto a fire that they think exists. Other keyboard warriors are just obsessed, addicted, and will do anything to try to make someone else's life miserable. The epitome of cyber bullying and cyber harassment, the folks you find today doing such petty acts are often also classified as trolls.

Back to my keyboard warriors, while I think no act of harassment and bullying is acceptable to anyone of any age, mine are former or current educators. Licensed professionals from the state who are charged with protecting your children. Retirees who currently collecting a pension and receiving health benefits. How disgusting and pathetic is it that people who are / were responsible for 'educating' your children (and you're paying for them with your tax dollars) have such a sadistic side? Thankfully, such behaviors in New Jersey can be stopped under the auspices of the law. Under the criminal code in NJ, proving a displayed pattern of harassment can result in a loss of pension, benefits, and even could come with jail time.

There are some positives about keyboard warriors and those who flex their social media muscles. Takeaways include: no credibility due to no real name; a showing of obsession by cyber-stalking an individual, showing lack of credibility (and showing mental illness), and that you're effective at what you do. If you have people following your every click online, chances are you're doing something effective and meaningful. I am somewhat old-fashioned; I do prefer people say something to my face, and not their keyboard. These people won't - they are too scared to do so.

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

I recently participated in a seminar on “student engagement” with new and experienced teachers, principals, vice-principals, and district-level educational leaders. We started with a basic icebreaker activity. We were asked to introduce ourselves by giving our names and sharing one word that reflects a central aspect of our educational philosophy.

My chosen word led to a lot of blank stares and more than a few confused looks.

“Hi, I’m Gillian Judson. My word is perfinker.”

Most people nodded hesitantly, taking on a quizzical look that said …Rrrriiight. And that means? One person I met looked at me skeptically and said, “That’s not a real word, Gillian.”

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Posted by on in Leadership

Mention the word, “leader,” and many people conjure up an image of a larger-than-life character who seemingly single-handedly transforms their organization for the better. A leader, as many also erroneously believe, is determined by having a title or position of importance. John Maxwell said, “Leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less.” Teachers all over the world, regularly lead positive changes in their classrooms, schools, districts, and beyond without fanfare, recognition and often without a formal title or position. They lead because their colleagues respect and trust them. Their leadership begins from the heart. Their passion for reaching and teaching young people and love for what they do is evident. Extraordinary teachers are leaders because they inspire and motivate others to be and do their best. How they lead is multifaceted and is only limited by their creativity.

Unfortunately, too many teachers fail to identify themselves as leaders. Many educators share the mindset that leadership is for a “talented” few. This limiting belief stifles the potential of teachers that could otherwise make a larger impact on student learning and achievement. The inclination to think about “my class, my students” or even “my team”  prevents teachers from developing a greater vision. Instead of viewing themselves as leaders that accept not only the responsibility of their class but also the responsibility of all students; they see themselves as “just teachers” and limit their potential impact. Their talents and abilities largely remain an untapped resource that could enrich the lives of many more people.

The paradigm shift from “my” to “our” is subtle but powerful. When this shift happens, when teachers start to view themselves as leaders who are empowered to inspire positive changes not only in the lives of “their students” but in “all students,” they are motivated by an even higher purpose. “Every child, every day” takes on a whole new significance.

Every teacher can and must lead if they care about kids. Not all will become outstanding leaders, but everyone can improve. Leadership skills can be learned. What teachers will soon realize is that they are already leading! They need only to expand their circle of influence beyond their classroom walls.

There are as many ways that teachers can lead as there are teachers. Here are eight ways that teachers can make an even more significant impact on student learning and success. 

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Posted by on in Leadership

 

Frustrated

Over the span of my career, I’ve worked with outstanding principals, very poor principals, and all of those in between. Leadership in a school makes a difference! Arne Duncan, the former U.S. Secretary of Education, said, “There are no good schools without good principals. It just doesn’t exist. And where you have great principals, good teachers come, and they stay, they work hard, and they grow.” With the wrong leader, good teachers leave, mediocre ones stay and gradually (or not so gradually) the school declines. The Wallace Foundation and other researchers have found that principal leadership impacts student learning and the impact is much larger than previously thought. Leaders shape a vision of academic success for all students based on high expectations, create a positive, safe climate, cultivate leadership in others, improve instruction, and have organizational management skills. Effective instructional leaders influence others to keep the focus on students and student learning. 

The task of creating and maintaining a high-quality school that students deserve is a large one. Effective principals leverage teacher leaders but ultimately acknowledge that the responsibility of the school climate rests with the principal. Less effective principals are unaware or dismissive of their overall responsibility as an instructional leader. They also often lack interpersonal intelligence skills and are unable to discern how they come across to people. As a result, teacher leaders are often left shaking their heads in disbelief about the actions and decisions of the principal. Gradually, the school climate begins to decline because of hiring choices and lack of leadership. The philosophy of the principal is to stay below the radar, and he does “just enough” to get by, “just enough” not to draw the attention of superiors, or “just enough” not to anger too many parents. Good teachers leave the school out of frustration. Student learning is at risk. 

How can teacher leaders, who for a variety of reasons can’t or choose not to leave the school, still grow as a leader, provide a quality education for the students that attend there, and influence others to keep the focus on student learning? What can teacher leaders do if they feel like they’re leading with their hands tied behind their back? 

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