One of the struggles that I have encountered as a connected educator is the constant comparison of what my actual leadership/position entails and what twitter and blog posts make me think it should look like.
Homework is bad! Everyone should do PBL! What do you mean your staff isn’t on Twitter? Who cares about standardized test scores? Never be in your office!
Etc, etc, etc…
When you have conversations about innovation, sometimes the first assumption is that no one else is struggling with the balance of all. the . things. The reality is as a leader, just like our teachers, our role encompasses way more than what the memes tell us it does. In addition to all of the trendy & all of the innovative, we all still have to watch the same blood borne pathogen videos at the beginning of the year. We still have to meet our students academic and personal needs, as well as move our teachers along their own professional growth path. Oh, and be data informed, have crucial conversations, and develop relationships.
The upside is that as a connected educator the odds of you finding ways to meet all those needs is much greater. You make connections to incredible people who show you a little glimpse of that balance. George and I have talked about this a lot, and he references Yong Zhao’s quote that basic academic expectations should be the floor, not the ceiling.
Here’s the thing..you CAN do both. You can create a culture that allows your teachers to take risks. Your students can collaborate and create, and be successful within standardized measures. Technology allows you to combine personalized learning opportunities, while maintaining high academic expectations. It requires an innovative mindset and a willing to go beyond your basic curriculum guide, but it can be done.
Last year we piloted ipads in each classroom for our district. As a campus that hadn’t historically chosen to spend their funds in that manner, there was a huge learning curve. I was very clear that I wasn’t going to mandate a level of use, just that our expectation was to find a way they could be integrated within our core content areas, seamlessly. They could crawl or they could run, they just couldn’t stand still. We had scaffolded trainings each month, we allowed students to teach us, and we shared our successes and failures, publically. The lessons we learned and risks that were taken were organic. If I had mandated a minimum expectation of use, that’s exactly what I would have gotten. By giving them the freedom to try and to fail, there were huge gains seen across the campus. Even my most resistent, my most hesitant, was emboldened to TRY. Just last week, one of my rockstars had her students create a guide BY students, for students and parents detailing what the STAAR expository expectations look like. Another veteran teacher? Created flipped lessons using seesaw to help parents understand how her 2nd graders were learning about fractions. If you as the administrator set the tone and allow the risks, they will happen.
Don’t be confused by what you think you HAVE to do…get excited about all that you CAN do.
PS: Can we discuss the awesomeness that is our 2017? I am on a road trip, in a loud and crazy snack filled car…and can still share these thoughts?? Amazing.