Saturday, February 27, 2016

As a principal, I have a lot more in common with entrepreneurs than I thought

A friend of mine passed along some notes he took while he was doing some research. He is an entrepreneur.  A business owner.  His notes were a collection of things he was reading about success among other entrepreneurs.  There are several points highlighting things that successful entrepreneurs have in common.  As I've read them a number of times, I can't help but think that several of his points apply to education (in particular school leaders).

1. Consistency - perhaps the toughest of all of these points.  It's easy to get distracted by "things" in a day, month, year.  The management side of an administrator's role often forces us to redirect away from the things we should be doing.  The key is that we have to schedule the important things and not allow the necessary to disrupt us.

2.  Productivity - make it a point to be productive EVERY day.  There is a difference between productive and busy. things; productive...get things done.  There is no badge of honor for being busy.  No award for being early or staying late.  Being productive, simply put, means that we are accomplishing meaningful tasks, not just crossing things off the to do list.
3.  Curiosity - maintain an attitude of curiosity.  Successful entrepreneurs are avidly seeking the "next thing."  How are we in education seeking the "next thing" as well.  It's vital that the leader is on top of the trends and issues in education.  Lead from the front in education.  I've heard a number of colleagues in my PLN refer to themselves as "lead learners."  I'll be honest...I really don't like to be involved in conversations about our craft and not be at least familiar with the terms being discussed.  It makes me uncomfortable.  Do all leaders feel the same way?
4.  "Failure" is part of the process.  How often are we putting ourselves out their to make a difference, change something?  Why don't we do that more?  Is it a fear of failure?  We ask teachers to take risks.  We certainly ask our students to as well.  If we are going to continue to learn, what better way to create a culture in which success is attained through failing first.
5.  Believe - don't attach your belief to the results.  The success will come.  Be confident, build relationships, figure things out (with colleagues or even more importantly a mentor), push forward.  Know that you are meant for great things...not just the status-quo or mediocrity.
6.  Seek optionality - for an entrepreneur, investment with possible significant upside and a very limited downside.  For education leaders, it's important to seek wins.  Covering a class rather than having another staff member rearrange their schedule.  Cleaning the snow off of windshields.  Listening to concerns. Allowing someone to leave a few minutes early to get to their kid's ball game. Throwing the football with a student for 5 minutes in the gym. The best way we can seek optionality in education is to build strong relationships.
As school leaders, we are lot more similar to entrepreneurs than different.  We invest in our students, staff, and community.  How are we going to invest to get the best return?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Thank goodness I've changed

Again I had the honor to attend PETE & C this week.  I was challenged by a number of things I heard or saw over the course of a few days.  The Tuesday morning keynote speaker, George Couros (@gcouros), who I've read via blogs and seen speak via video a number of times, asked a question I've asked teachers plenty of times.  I had never asked myself.

Reflecting back on my career as a teacher, I now ask...would I want to be in my own classroom, subjected to me?  The answer is no.  I haven't left a legacy throughout my career as someone that has inspired students.  That's not why I was there early in my career.  Admittedly, I was there to coach after school and have summers off.  Then something changed.  I became passionate.  I found something that I enjoyed.  I was able to take that passion, build upon it, and openly share it with others.  I learned how to use technology in the classroom.  I changed.

Nearly 18 years after I started my career I've realized that I was not an educator during the early years...I was a placeholder.  I was an "adult" that put tape on the floor, around the desk, and said students weren't allowed inside the zone!  Thank goodness I've changed.

Today, in my 6th year as a building administrator I...give high fives and hugs, take selfies with students (and staff), play in the cornhole tournament at lunch, share student and staff success via Instagram & Twitter, keep parents up to date with Remind and Facebook, build a PLN and encourage others to do the same.  I have found ways to make technology work for me.  I tell the story of me as a learner, as a leader.  

I'm proof that people can change.  People must change.  Teachers must change.  As educators, we have to continue to develop ourselves and remain relevant in an ever changing world.

Now, I ask myself the question...Would you want to spend the whole day teaching in my school?Would you want to be subjected to me?  I'm working to make sure that the answer is yes, every day.