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Half the Leadership Picture

Fitzgerald.001Recently I stumbled on a blog that told only half the truth about school leadership. I’m not going to link to it—it wasn’t a bad blog, but when we over-focus on some aspects of leadership we ignore equally important responsibilities that end up undermining what we were trying to accomplish in the first place. Let me show you what I mean.

  • Of course leaders need to be visionary, but not at the expense of reality checks. There are limits to time, dollars, the cognitive load involved in juggling various initiatives, and to energy available for different efforts.
  • Of course leaders need to be flexible, but not at the expense of planning. In fact, great leaders build checkpoints into plans to ensure they are remembering to evaluate whether the plan needs to change!
  • Of course leaders need to communicate, but they also need to listen. The latter is so uncommon in school leaders that a principal who is also Native American told me his new staff didn’t believe him when he said at the start of his first year, “My goal is to listen and learn from you this year—what is working, what the students need, what you need. Then we’ll plan our strategies together.” His staff accused him of hidden agendas, sure he had his big initiatives waiting in the wings like every other principal they’d worked for.
  • Of course leaders need to use their strengths, but they also need to manage related weaknesses so they don’t undermine their own good works.
  • Of course leaders need to give clear-cut directives and make decisions, yet allowing room for individual pathways to the same goals and for creativity is essential for innovation.
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3 Key Mindshifts for REALLY Leading Change

“Get the resisters on board–that’s why we’re bringing you in” is what I often hear from leaders when change processes aren’tBerlin ped signals.001 going smoothly. In most cases, though, a few simple yet profound changes in leadership attitudes and practices are what is really needed. Here are three mind shifts I’ve seen in effective leaders:

1. Instead of Leading, Think Leading and Listening

As a school leader I know stepped into a new principalship, he told the staff, “I’ll be spending this first year listening, watching and dialoguing with you to understand the strengths and needs of this particular community of learners.”

No one believed him.

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Is Our “Gold Standard” for Education Research the Right Standard?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFirst grade students show improved performance with a reading intervention. But what about their enthusiasm for reading? And, have they improved on isolated skills or on being able to comprehend, analyze and use/appreciate the information?

Fifth grade students taught with a new mathematics curriculum show better ability to multiply and divide fractions. But do they understand the concepts? Can they come up with real-world illustrations of what  3 1/2 / 4/5 really means?

Eighth grade students show mastery of more science concepts when online teaching modules are used to supplement curriculum. But are they developing curiosity, a necessity for great scientists? Are they learning the lab techniques necessary for meaningful research? What about measures of their creativity? Are they increasing or decreasing?

Right now I’m seeing a great deal of research showing improvements that are:

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My Top Five Books That Made Me Think This Year

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAccording to goodreads.com (join me there—it’s great for keeping track of what you’ve read) I finished 117 books in 2013. I read just about anything, for if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that ideas, and new knowledge, and “aha’s”, and creativity, and laughter, and profound insights, can come from the strangest places. Here are five books that kept me thinking long after I closed the covers.

The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal. The author, a pottery artist, traces the history of Chinese figurines he inherited from an uncle, and thus learns of his Jewish ancestors’ rise to the very top of Parisian and Viennese society, their fates during World War II, and how they rebuilt their lives. I constantly found myself thinking, “How would I have handled both the triumphs and the tragedies? How would my family talk about it all?” If you decide to read it, I’d suggest

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Tools to End the Time, Money and Energy Wasted on Polarization

Now AvailableI’m so excited about my newest book that I’m breaking from my usual blog content to include the press release here. 

How should mathematics be taught? What must students learn? Who should teach? What is the proper role of arts education or physical education in schools? Educators, politicians, parents and business people often take polarized positions, yet these issues involve interdependent “answers,” not right/wrong solutions.

Now a new book, Unleashing the Positive Power of Differences: Polarity Thinking for Our Schools, by Jane Kise, Ed.D., introduces a powerful set of tools for ending polarization by bridging differences. Polarity thinking allows individuals and groups to work together and acknowledge the wisdom of each other’s viewpoints. Jane points out, “The alternative—and we see it everywhere—is wasting time and money on partial solutions that are doomed to be replaced when leadership changes or when results fail to meet expectations.”

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Are You a Wild Reader? If Not, Read This!

RIW

Do you worry about reading emergencies–getting caught waiting somewhere without a good book in hand?

Do you have to-read lists, piles, shelves, and/or book cases?

Do you have a reading plan–what you’ll be reading next, what title you’re saving for vacation, how you’ll proceed when your favorite list of award winners is announced?

You do? Oh, can we share title recommendations? Please???

[quote align=”center” color=”#1f9876″]You don’t? You think you don’t have time to read? Or that reading simply shouldn’t be a priority right now?[/quote]

Then Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller and Susan Kelly is for you. Really. Yes it was written for educators, but its message is for all of us: Reading opens doors. Reading improves our brain power. Learning to love reading means cultivating key habits. It’s never too late.

Chances are your local library has a copy of this brand-new book that most members of my professional learning network devoured the instant it came out this month. If any of the following reasons are keeping you from going wild over reading, know that its pages contain solid advice,

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