Archive for July, 2009

Are You Too Bossy?

The "Evil" Boss!

The "Evil" Boss!

I consider myself to be a caring leader.  I am the middle school principal in the same community I grew up, live in a neighborhood that I spent many summer days playing baseball and other childhood games, and work with some teachers that served me as a young boy.  These connections make leading and decision making difficult.

My mind has been on overload as I wrestle with decisions relating to hiring.  Prior to my position as principal, I had very little awareness of how each decision is connected to so many other decisions and other people.  My experience is also beginning to illustrate that each decision will have two distinct factions.  One person or group will win the job, be awarded the proposal, or gain favor in light of the decision. The other group is comprised of the people that need to regroup and try again.  The second group of people are the ones that I lose sleep over due to my tender heart, but should I?

Author and speaker Dave Rendall has a post in his blog under the same title as this post.  His ideas gave me confidence in my decisions I have made in the past and plan to make in the future.  I know I am a caring leader and in my heart I know that my decisions are not being swayed by popular opinion.  My decisions for hiring, curriculum, purchases, and procedures are all placed on an equal foundation:  What is best for the students within our school?

Obviously, what is best includes some of my opinion, but Mr. Rendall says that is okay, I’m the boss and I will continue to make tough decisions that will positively impact the learning of the students in our community.  Thanks Mr. Rendall for giving me permission to be “the boss” as well as a caring leader.


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My son turned five in May.  To my chagrin, he has not learned to ride his bike without training wheels.  There are many reasons (excuses) why I have been unable to teach him to ride his bike without training wheels.  Come on, I’m a full time principal and my job and students take all of my time.  Very poor excuse in the eyes of a five year old!

Two days ago, I decided to take time and teach him the basics of riding a two wheeler.  Reluctantly, he agreed to start the process.  He helped me take the training wheels off, found his helmet, and I laced up my running shoes.  Together we set off down the street.  I directed him to keep his weight centered and to peddle faster, but he continued to look back at me while I held on to his seat for support.  He was able to remain balanced during the first jog down the block, but faltered each time he looked over his shoulder.  We stopped to give me a break and to review his accomplishments.

I sat on his front tire facing him and his face showed apprehension.  He was afraid to fall.  My words of reassurance fell on deaf ears, but his fear was subdued when we took time to review the facts.  He needed evidence that I would be there to catch him.

I reminded him that he had lost his balance each time he looked over his shoulder.  Each time he tipped to one side or the other I reminded him that I was there to catch him.  The break was over and I continued to catch him as the bike leaned from side to side each time causing the breath to leave his lungs and each time I was there to catch him.

By the end of our short ride I was exhausted and he was able to ride for a short distance without the assistance of his father.

During the school year, teachers experience fears similar to my son.  Apprehension is the rust that causes the gears to seize.  While teaching my son to ride his bike, I got lathered in sweat.  Leaders need to lather up and guide their teachers the same way.  Teachers will look over their shoulders and good leaders will be right there encouraging them to continue and when they start to lean off course they will gently assist them as they regain their balance.

My work with my son’s riding isn’t done.  We have to practice this newly formed skill over and over until automaticity is accomplished.  In fact, I think he could have done it without my assistance, but he needed some affirmation and trust in his father.

As the new school year begins, don’t forget good teachers only need affirmation and the trust of their leaders to learn to ride.  Give them time to practice and develop benchmarks to check their own progress.

Teaching Cole to ride isn’t the end goal.  I want him to learn to ride so he can become a proficient rider and we can explore larger areas together.  Teaching teachers a new skill is never the end goal.  Walk along side of them as they practice and implement their new skill with their students and continue to give positive feedback for the progress attained.

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Do you Floss?

Recently, I attended a curriculum conference and heard Jane E. Pollock, education researcher and author, share some personal and enlightening information.Flossing?

Jane shared with our group that she hated going to the dentist.  During a dental checkup, the hygienist asked her how often she flosses

her teeth.  Before she could answer, the hygienist reminded her that the research showed that 9 out of 10 people lie to their hygienist when answering this question.  He conti

nued to share more research with her.  He pointed out that people who floss daily are significantly less sick than those who do not floss.  Jane decided to test his research and she has been illness free for 7 years despite being cooped up on airplanes and in many different schools around the world filled with little people and their dirty hands!

Will you accept the research and start flossing?

Better yet, will we accept the research in our profession as educators?  What would happen if we implemented Dr. Douglas Reeves research as it relates to grading in our schools?

As leaders, we may not change an entire system overnight, but we can improve student learning by impacting one principal, one teacher, and one student at a time.

During the summer months, take some time to read:

Classroom Instruction that Works By Robert J. Marzano, Debra Pickering, Jane E. Pollock

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