Innovative leadership — paying it forward

Scott McLeod at Dangerously Irrelevant designated July 4 as School Leadership Day, and has invited bloggers to write about how to support innovative school leadership.

I’d like to share some ideas but also compliment the leadership in our district and at our high school, because there have been some great strides towards innovative leadership both at our campus and at the district level.

One of the most transformative elements of that has been our campus Vision committee.


Our principal established it upon arriving a year ago, and gathered together parents, students and staff who were interested in future planning.   But our mission wasn’t addressing current problems or putting out fires, as is so often the case in schools–our  mission was to look at what we needed to be thinking about to plan for the graduate of 2020.   What would be required of our high school when today’s kindergardener’s get here?   This mission created the incentive to look ahead, instead of looking back, and to have  a much broader and more philosophical discussion about education, and that has been enlightening.

Four subcommittees have studied the research, taken a site visit to California schools, planned a technology initiative for our campus, and created a bureau of speakers to extend our connection to the community.   But all of this has grown out of our conversations about 21st century learning, out of reading Whole New Mind, World Is Flat, Marc Prensky articles, etc.    And all of that happened because our principal allowed the committee to grow organically, to follow leads that were interesting, and also to implement some of the things that we discussed.

One of the issues with schools and change has often been that change occurs slowly, and as things in our culture begin to change more rapidly, school entities have a hard time keeping up.     Part of the change at our campus is that things have begun to alter more rapidly, which can be very disconcerting at times.   But in balance, it also feels that if we do valuable work on a committee or project,  it will see fruition, and see fruition very quickly.  

Adapting our institution to that model will be an interesting process.   Can we learn to problem solve on the fly better?   Can we be more solution oriented?  Are there areas where we need to take things more slowly or troubleshoot more ahead of time?  What staff supports do we need to move more quickly?  Are there “sacred cows” or should nothing be sacred?  

One way that our principal has really assisted in this area is by being inclusive of many players, and by supporting professional development beyond our campus.  When a group attends a conference like Model Schools, she asks for different participants than have attended before.   Inviting more people into the conversation builds a team that shares a similar mission.

As I’ve followed Scott McLeod’s discussions over the last year, I’ve also realized we all have a role to play in helping support administrators regarding “School 2.0.”   Many school districts have trouble with access to blogging, wikis, Ning, etc., because there is concern at the administrative level.

If you are interested in moving the web 2.0/school reform conversation forward, then each of us has to help make that happen.  We can’t only “preach to the choir.”


So one thing I decided that I could do since I’m a total web 2.0 geek ;), was to offer to present a few sessions either for administrators or about administrators and web 2.0 tools.   So I’m happy to say I’m presenting a session at Internet School Librarian West in October on how librarians can support their administrator’s understanding and use of web 2.0 tools.   

I also presented recently at the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals conference on technology that could be helpful to principals.  What I discovered in that session is that almost every administrator there was eager to learn about these tools and how they could save them time, improve instruction on their campus, or help keep them informed.   They just weren’t aware of them yet.  That convinced me further that opening up the conversation and sharing what we know with administrators is vitally important.

Like librarians and counselors, principals hold a unique and sometimes isolated position on a campus.  No one else on campus has their exact job.   There may be 100 teachers whose jobs are somewhat similar, but one principal.    So trying to be empathetic to their role and see the larger picture behind decision making, whether you are a teacher, librarian, or counselor, is an important part of community.  

I think that is why blogging can be an important support for a principal in the community
–because then all the players involved in “school” can see the thinking process, efforts,  and sincerity of the campus leadership.   G-Town Talks and Educational Discourse are good examples of that transparency.

Ways each of us could help further the conversation with our own principals or at other administrative levels:

1.  Share something specific, rather than something general.   Show how a particular project at another school which uses web 2.0 tools has provided benefits for students and could provide benefits for your campus.

2.  Pass along articles of interest to your administrator.   Email them when you read something that they might be interested in or inspired by.   Same with books.  They may not have time to read the book, but it is helpful to them to be aware of the title and its premise.

3.  Invite your administrator to see you using a web 2.0 tool in the classroom or library.  All of us find it easier to support something that we understand.

4.  Show your administrators how to use RSS feeds or better yet, set up one on Pageflakes for them.   Select feeds that deal with web 2.0, technology leadership, their own school in the news, etc.

5.  If you are a librarian, order books on leadership, innovation, or web 2.0 as you find them.   Share them with your principal as soon as they arrive.

6.  Help troubleshoot problems.  Rather than get frustrated by them or cynical, try to help your administrators find solutions to problems like filtering issues, or technology issues.  Take a broader perspective than your own needs, and support seeing the needs of the entire campus, while voicing your own needs as well.   Every teacher has valuable input into problem solving, but too often we share the input only in the lounge, not with our campus leadership.

7.  If you think a particular tool will help solve a leadership issue or problem, set up an account, and model for your administrator how it could help. 

8. Share your enthusiasm.  It’s infectious.

Scott McLeod has an excellent list of philosophical strategies for professional development for administrators at Dangerously Irrelevant, some of which I am sure I have repeated. (which I think actually have a lot of application for any kind of staff development.)

I think as we begin to approach problems in education as a collaborative team, we will get much more accomplished.  We all have our roles to play, yes.  But how can we support each other’s roles better? 

Technorati Tags: , Technorati Tags:


Images: ;

3 thoughts on “Innovative leadership — paying it forward

  1. Great suggestions. I’m just starting to talk to a very reluctant administistration, and as a beginner at both the web and at proposing “dangerous” moves, reading your experience is helpful.

  2. Glad it was helpful. Be sure to check out all the links that Scott McLeod has posted at–he’s collected a lot of the posts on this topic there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *