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Posted by on in Education Leadership

Screen-Shot-2017-08-10-at-9.51.37-AM_20170810-145429_1.png

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

Board of Education

While Presidents’ Day is reserved for honoring and celebrating our American presidents, I can’t help but think about local board of education presidents today as well. Like any elected officials, some you love, some you loathe, but most deserve credit for the time they put in to make sure the best is being done for students. Most have great working relationships with their superintendent, and most know the role that they play. I do keep saying  most, because, well, there are some that do not. I’ll focus on that a little later. Below are three boards that deserve some credit this Presidents’ Day.

Walt Sheets is a proud member of the Lower Alloways Creek community–a retired worker from the PSEG power plant, an active community member, and most importantly to me, a father of four.  Patriotic, witty, and possessing an infectious laugh, Mr. Sheets always had my back. No doubt we had our disagreements and clashes in certain arenas, but he always acknowledged that the superintendent was in charge and listened to my recommendations. What I still admire about Mr. Sheets was his mantra, “You take care of you first, then us (LAC) second.” I learned so much during my time in the crick and owe much of it to him.

Kevin Blondina is a board president that I ran into (literally) by accident. Both of us were enjoying a cigar, and I asked if I could use his lighter because mine kicked. From that point on, we have had one of the most cordial, real friendships around. Mr. Blondina is a financial planner in Sussex County, NJ, and I was working in Salem County. While geographically far apart, we couldn’t  have more commonalities if we tried to. We always make time to catch up over convention dinners and text on a daily basis about educational issues and how they affect us. Kevin is another who wears his heart on his sleeve and wants nothing but the best for students and staff. His passion is admirable, and his leadership style is envious. I owe much of my newly learned diplomacy to him.

Fran DiRocco is now a retired board member. Spending over 20 years on a  board, a decade of them as the president, Mr. DiRocco has navigated through a sea of educational issues ranging from collective bargaining to switching a sending school district. Mr. DiRocco’s professionalism, despite any internal board conflict, has been nothing but top-notch. I was hired under Mr. DiRocco’s term as president and chose to join the district even when the vote was 5 yes and 4 no. Was I crazy for doing so? Yep. Was it worth it?  Absolutely. Besides being 10 miles from home, I was able to work with a board president who knew what needed to be done and backed me when I needed it most. DiRocco didn’t have some underlying agenda, had nothing to prove to the town, and wasn’t bitter or vindictive when things didn’t go his way. He stayed classy until his term expired in December and now thoroughly enjoys his time volunteering at his church and on the local OEM committee.

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

“I always wanted to be honest with myself and to those who had faith in me.”
– Rafael Nadal 


Have you ever had to “unlearn” something? Do you think Yield Signs are still yellow (as you may have learned), or do you know that they are red?

yieldsignyello

What about the planets? Do you still remember the mnemonic device “My Very Elegant Mother Just Sat Upon Nine Porcupines (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Pluto)”? Or do you know that Pluto is no longer a planet (due to scientific discoveries between 1992-2000).

Have you ever had to unlearn a concept like leadership or professional learning? Well, Nick Polyak and I have a book coming out in March 2017 with the following title: The Unlearning Leader: Leading for Tomorrow’s Schools Today, with the following chapter titles:

Chapter 1: Unlearning Connection
Chapter 2: Unlearning Planning and the Change Process
Chapter 3: Unlearning “That’s the Way We Have Always Done it”
Chapter 4: Unlearning Fear of Social Media
Chapter 5: Unlearning Professional Development
Chapter 6: Unlearning Leadership

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Posted by on in School Culture

numbers time watch whiteThe strategic use of time supports good teaching? 

How is time used where you teach and learn? 

Who has ample time for planning and collaboration, and who has insufficient time in that regard? 

Does the use of time match professional expectations? 

To better efforts, is it advantageous to audit the use of time in school systems? 

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Posted by on in Leadership

WE

Leaders such as a teachers, administrators, coaches, and supervisors are tasked with developing effective and efficient practices to increase the performance of the individuals they lead and their organization's prestige. While there are many practices that lead to improvement, there is one that is vital to the very survival of any group or organization: Collaboration.

Collaboration is so important that it, along with Critical Thinking, Communication, and Creativity, has been slapped with the "21st Century Skill" tag, and rightfully so as research cites effective team building and collaboration as game changers to the health and performance of organizations. Moreover, Collaboration improves Critical Thinking, Communication, and Creativity in individuals as they benefit from others' wisdom and experience, continually look for effective ways to present ideas and influence other team member's decisions, and combine their skill sets with those of others.

Efficient and effective teamwork however, is not automatic. At any level, elementary to executive, successful collaboration doesn't just happen. In fact, much like an NBA team may be built around a young up-and-coming leader, a "floor general", classroom groups or business task forces are a sum of their complementary pieces with the leader at the helm. The teacher is the floor general (or captain awesome) in his/her classroom and it is up to him/her to lead the troops into battle. And, this ain't just any battle. This is the battle for our future, the future of our kids, and the future of their children. This one's big and it must be won.

And it will be.

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