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Administration, Education, Leadership, Professional Development, Teaching

Think you have arrived? Think again.

Dodgers vs. Nationals - 5-31-07

cc flickr photo by dizzy-eyed

This past week was a challenging one.  I left campus on Friday feeling beaten-up, stressed-out and discouraged.  Don’t worry too much about me…I’ll get over it, but it has led me to spend a significant amount of time reflecting on what I am doing, and if, in fact, I need to do some things differently.

It is not an epiphany to recognize that prioritization, and timing, are critical aspects of effective leadership — not only in the classroom, but in our day-to-day activities.  As I reflect on my first year as principal, I have come to realize that there are many days when I arrive home exhausted, but with little conviction that my day was productive.  Time eaten away by disconnected tasks, random “fire” extinguishing, and a plethora of e-mail.  Busy, but not necessarily productive.

complete - 3

cc flickr photo by oskay

Effective teaching requires the careful identification and elaboration of specific learning goals, followed by the design of activities that allow students to process information and frequent formative assessment to monitor student progress toward goals and guide instruction.  Likewise, to be effective as a school leader, one must carefully consider “the big picture,”  identify desired outcomes and prioritize activities accordingly – choosing to complete tasks that move the organization toward the achievement of identified goals.  I am finding that this is much easier said, than done.  There are many days that I feel like I am playing a frantic game of asteroids – trying to knock out hurtling objects and avoid catastrophic collisions, with little thought to the impact to our campus as a whole.

About a year ago, I had the opportunity to visit the School of One in New York City’s Chinatown.  This specialized program, focusing on mathematics, provides an exciting glimpse of the degree of individualization that technology offers for the future of education.  When students arrive in class, they check large flat screen televisions to determine their assigned learning modality for the day.  The modality is determined with input from a complex algorithm developed by Wireless Generation and is based on specific student needs.  While the technology itself is not a panacea for classroom instruction (teachers still drive the process and provide significant input), it does serve to improve efficiency and speed the formative assessment process.  The algorithm helps teachers ensure that they are providing the right instruction, for each student, at the right time.

I often joke, with my wife (an electrical engineer), that I need an algorithm.  Something that will tell me what I am supposed to be doing, and when — a means of assuring that my actions are purposeful and productive.  If only it were that easy, but life doesn’t work that way.  As enticing as the School of One’s algorithm is, there is still a pressing need to account for the human element in education, and as helpful as the algorithm might be, success still hinges upon how we (teachers, students, and administrators) handle our failures.  Do we learn and adjust, or just keeping making the same mistakes over and over again?

I think we sometimes make the mistake that at some point we will “arrive” and that this job of educating kids will become easy…natural…an after-thought.  Truth is, if we ever feel like we have arrived, we would be well advised to think again.  This week, during a discussion about a new teacher evaluation instrument our district is adopting, a staff member drew the analogy of a teacher (or administrator) as a hitter in baseball.  Even the best hitters strike out, fly out and get thrown out at first.  No one hits a home run every time at bat.  As educators, we should not expect to be home run hitters with every activity, lesson, or strategy.  The key is in the averages…sticking with it…trying new approaches…not being afraid to fail…getting back up…expecting to get better.

In spite of a rough week at school, I am determined to get better.  I will refocus on what matters.  I will work diligently to do the right things at the right times.  This week, I will be a .300 hitter.

Swing away.

About azjd

Junior high principal by day, aspiring difference maker, and Jedi in my own mind. Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.


6 thoughts on “Think you have arrived? Think again.

  1. “The key is in the averages…sticking with it…trying new approaches…not being afraid to fail This week, I will be a .300 hitter.”

    Love the analogy. You won’t get on base every time, but you’ll never get there if you don’t step up to the plate.

    Posted by twothingsilearnedtoday | February 26, 2012, 6:40 pm
  2. Great analogy for teaching. In Ohio, where I teach, 50% of our evaluations are to be based on achievement test scores. I hope folks in leadership positions will have the same kind of mindset if the data ever shows I have a “full count”.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Posted by Herb Higginbotham | February 26, 2012, 7:03 pm
  3. Love the astroids analogy! As a second year principal, I am right there with you. It is a daily struggle between being the instructional leader I know I need to be, and the “manager” aspects of the job. Let’s make sure we are productive today and not just busy, our students are aging at a remarkable 24 hrs per day!

    Posted by Amanda Sauer (@ErieElemPrin) | February 28, 2012, 6:07 am
  4. I’m no stranger to the feelings and frustrations you describe. And as more and more gets piled on the plate of the building administrator, I fear our managerial tasks are only going to become more suffocating. When you find the perfect algorithm, please let me know. 🙂 Otherwise, I’ll continue stepping up to the plate, striking out, and taking my hits where I can get them. And hopefully score some runs along the way….

    Posted by Lyn Hilt (@L_Hilt) | March 4, 2012, 5:47 am
  5. Thanks for your ideas here. I think all of us feel we’re stuck in “the thick of thin things” at times. But as you say, what’s important is to keep perspective, vision, and a focus on the best interest of the children. If it weren’t for them we wouldn’t be doing this. And like baseball, you’re doing amazingly well if you fail to reach base only 70% of the time! How humbling is that!

    Posted by Ron Sherman | March 4, 2012, 6:48 am
  6. Thank you for sharing. I’m at a new school this year and determination and diligence and the hope of getting better each day are true keys to success. Keep striving and reflecting your thoughts are making a difference.

    Posted by Nikki Myers | March 4, 2012, 7:48 am

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Jeff Delp

Junior high principal by day, sports enthusiast, technology fanatic and jedi in my own mind. Striving to be a difference maker!
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