Saturday, 31 May 2014

Is 21st century education obsolete?

Can you imagine using a cell phone that is 10 years old?  I have seen a few but not many.  Driving a 10-year- old car has become more possible since that is merely a 2004 model and cars haven’t radically changed all that much in terms of performance, especially as they enable you to get from one place to another.  And, if one is careful about maintenance (and sustainability) any good car can get 200,000 miles.  However, hybrids and other alternative fuel cars have come on the market within the past decade for the most part.  The world of consumption designs built-in obsolescence to make us believe we need the newer, better, much improved model and a lot of that is nothing more, or less, than slick marketing gimmicks.

I have several pairs of shoes and lots of clothes older than 10 years that still have a lot of wear left in them and I don’t care that much about style.  Tools in the barn?  They are pretty much the same ones as I have had for more than 10 years and still performing well.  And me?  Well, I am about to start my 78th year and I don’t think I am quite ready to be put into the obsolete pasture just yet.  That will come soon enough, thank you very much.

But education, being defined as 21st century, while well intentioned, and calling for reform, has yet to show widespread signs of significant change although we are past a decade into the 21st century.  There are certainly bright spots here and there and signs of hope in many places where people are investing in a different kind of delivery and outcome.  But we’re still bogged down by standardized test scores, obsolete measurement and assessments that do very little for kids, bureaucratic systems that thrive on top-down, heavy-handed management, and too much one size fits all mentality.  Kids are still primarily grouped by ages.  Ken Robinson refers to that as the only thing they really have in common is their date of manufacture.  His talk on changing the paradigm is a must see and hear.

We need another name and another concept for education that is truly reformed, truly catholic (little C, please!) and truly evangelical.  I remember that phrase from a long time ago, uttered by James I. McCord in a theological debate about reforming religion, still a big issue in my mind.  My point is that the terms could also be applied to education.  The operative word may, in fact, be truly.  Instead of tweaking the edges, adding a new course, hiring someone in charge of creative learning, etc. we need a radical re-design of the entire enterprise.  There is not much short of a revolution that will accomplish what I see is needed.  Evolution will take too long and leave too many children behind.

So, you ask, what is needed?  What can you do without “throwing out the baby with the bath water?”  For starters, ask yourself what you would do if you were starting over, what you might do if you were starting a “school” from scratch, a clean, blank slate and you can create whatever you believe will make a difference in the lives of kids, regardless of the age group you want to serve?  First, why would you do it? What would you do?  How would you do it?  Who would you like to join you in the effort?  And, finally where would you want to do that?  OK, have you gotten some answers to those questions?  Really?  Are you sure?  Maybe it’s not even a “school” as such places have been defined in the past.

Now, move to what the obstacles are that are preventing you from accomplishing reforming, reshaping and redesigning where you are.  How would you go about removing those obstacles?  Maybe it is not re-anything as that might be regression.  How about the concept of a new school within a school, not for everyone, but for those willing to take an intelligent risk on a new design for teaching and learning, emphasis on learning, not teaching?  How about that for starters?  Now come up with your own and go for it.  Need help?  Ask for it.

Monday, 26 May 2014

MEMORIAL DAY (in 55 words)

A day of remembering, set aside as a holy day (holiday)
“Set apart” from all the others.
Intended to honor the lives of those
Who made the ultimate sacrifice, gave their lives in service
To their country in time of war.
We also remember those who are gone and no longer here to help

Sunday, 25 May 2014

The Spirit of Effective Leadership - Ten Characteristics

The “spirit” of outstanding leaders I have known can be seen, heard and felt in at least the following ten ways.  These are not in any order of priority.  What do you think of these descriptions?
1 - Enthusiastic and energetic - There are many different ways of expressing one’s spirit of enthusiasm, whether overtly or more quietly, but we most often characterize this contagious quality as passion, thus strong feelings that are shared.
2.  Positive and optimistic - While best balanced with a heavy dose of realism, the expression of hope in the present and for the future is a quality of spirit that any good leader is well-advised to have in his or her repertoire of attitudes.
3.  Caring and compassionate - A spirit of genuine concern for others and their well-being goes a long way toward helping a community to develop an ethos of mutual support and collegiality.
4.  Inquiring and curious - The leader who asks thoughtful questions and demonstrates the spirit of an inquiring mind helps to further the conversations to a deeper level of understanding.
5.  Conscientious and intentional – Designing change requires a spirit that is transparent so that others may see how seriousness of purpose pervades the leader.
6.  Pleasant, friendly and joyful  - As one friend and colleague puts it, “be kind, tell the truth and say thank you.”   Good manners, social grace and comfort in a crowd contribute significantly to the perception of one who is “at home” easily and genuinely.
7.  Confident and courageous – Unafraid to make hard decisions, even unpopular at times, the leader is able to take a stand, express convictions and move forward, even in the face of opposition.  It helps to take others along on this often perilous journey.
8.   Humble and modest – Without any need to be boastful, arrogant or prideful, the leader allows his or her deeds to speak for themselves.  Such a spirit speaks volumes without having to say a word.
9.  Creative and open - The leader exhibits a mind that seeks and welcomes new ideas.  This is the mind that works like the proverbial parachute, best when open.   However it is not change for the sake of something new.
10.  Fair and firm -  These qualities speak of a balanced response, an attitude that knows how to assess and when to draw the line.   This works with both individuals and groups and the leader’s spirit sets the stage, the tone and the process.
Many of these qualities of spirit overlap and are part of a larger dimension of one’s personality, having to do with attitudes and behaviors, as defined earlier.  It's E.Q. trumping I.Q. one more time. The  point of all of this is that being aware of how these play in the environment in which one works can really make a big difference in the outcomes of so much that you want to accomplish and these make it easier to get a lot done without caring who gets the credit.  Most importantly, these are qualities for good mental and physical well-being.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014


Most effective and successful leadership includes dimensions and degrees of change whether change in strategies, goals, programs or personnel.  If change is inevitable, then the question is what kinds of change does your organization need and what resources do you need to move forward?
Charts and graphs based on gathered data can illustrate past and current activity as well as projections for the future.  It is good to know where you are before setting out to continue your journey or to shift gears to go in a different direction. And, perhaps more importantly, being sure that you have enough people and the right people on board before implementing the change is a good idea.  Good leaders look behind frequently to see who is following.

The dynamics of planned change include a number of features worth serious consideration as you design a blueprint for the future.  Here are just a few questions, not meant to be an exhaustive or an exhausting list, but some to keep in mind to make your work both efficient and effective.
 Who is the key, go to person for the project? 
·      What kind of process do you have for keeping on track and on budget?
·      What is the overall purpose of the change and how does it fit into the mission and existing programs of the organization?
·      Is the timeline reasonable and realistic?
·      How is progress going to be measured and reported out?
·      Is the change adding to or taking away and what are the consequences?
·      Is there adequate support, both financially and organizationally, to insure the best possible result?
·      Have you devoted sufficient time and resources to preparation before launching the change?
·      Are there any additional needs that have not surfaced previously?
·      Do you have plans to celebrate the success upon completion?

Sometimes, an outside change agent can help facilitate the change, either by bringing a different perspective into the discussion or by providing guidance, support and external resources based on the experiences of others who have already implemented a similar change.

Your situation requires its own specific design that will work in your environment and at this time in the history of your organization.  While there may be similarities between and among different organizations, each has its own peculiarities worth taking into account as you plan and effect the change that will help you reach your goals and determine your success.

As the one who is charged with leading your organization, it is incumbent on you, in concert with your Board, to set the goals as well as what you need to achieve success in reaching those goals. 
 Best wishes and Godspeed!

Saturday, 3 May 2014

TREES- (another 55 word exercise)

They are tall, short, thick and thin, branches outstretched.

Some are deciduous, some are coniferous,

Buds and blooms, setting fruit.

Many varieties, growing in clusters and alone.

Providing shade, lumber and beauty.

Many growing old, others not lasting as long.

Very much like people, planted on the earth.

Swaying in the wind, steadfast and waiting.