The Principal of Change George Couros

Stories of learning and leading
Updated: 20 weeks 5 days ago

The Push and Pull of Leadership

28 May, 2018 - 00:24

Ugh…I love this quote so much from “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People“:

Look at the weaknesses of others with compassion, not accusation. It’s not what they’re not doing or should be doing that’s the issue. The issue is your own chosen response to the situation and what you should be doing. If you start to think the problem is “out there,” stop yourself. That thought is the problem.

This reminded me of a conversation I had years ago with a principal who was complaining about their teachers not coming along. As he complained, I asked, “If you are the leader and they are not moving forward, could the issue be with you and not with them?”

The comment was not to lay blame but to remind the principal that leadership was about leading.  How good of a leader can one be if no one is ready to follow?

Instead of laying blame on others on why they won’t move forward, ask questions, get to know where they are coming from, and go to them.  Leadership is both push and pull.  It is not about getting someone to jump from A to Z, but finding out where the point A is, what that looks like, and sometimes walking beside them to help them build confidence and competence along the way to get to that point B.  After that, point C doesn’t seem so bad.

Of course, this is not to say the individual doesn’t have a responsibility for their growth either.  But understand, you cannot change anyone. You can only create the conditions where change is more likely to happen.

Just remember that the next time you get frustrated with someone seemingly not moving forward, don’t try to figure out what is wrong with them or their attitude. Figure out what you can do to support them on their journey.  Complaining about what is wrong will never make it right.

Categories: Planet

4 Reflection Questions for the End of the School Year

25 May, 2018 - 11:23

Recently, I wrote the post “3 Reminders for the End of the School Year“, and asked for suggestions from readers. Joann Merrick sent me the following thoughts via email:

Some thoughts about the end of the year…

To me this is a time to reflect…Whatever your position in education, think about your successes and areas that didn’t work out so well. This is also time to gather feedback from those you serve. Teachers could ask their students for ideas on their programs and their teaching. Principals could ask the same of their teachers…I have always found I gained so much valuable feedback by asking a few questions.

With her permission, I wanted to build on her ideas, especially on the importance of reflection.  We move forward not by only looking to the future, but learning from the past.

With that being said, here are four questions that I think would be helpful as you go into the summer break, but also as you start a new year.

  1. What did I do well this year? Too often when reflecting our work, we start with what went wrong as opposed to what went right.  I am a huge advocate of always starting with strengths, which doesn’t mean neglecting weaknesses but starting from a positive place. When asking went well, ensure you ask why it went well.  Take those lessons and apply them to the places where you need to grow.This leads to question two.
  2. Where do I need to grow? Although starting with strengths is crucial, we need to identify what are areas of growth and how you will address them. Instead of picking on several spaces that you can improve on, try to pick one, at most two, and think about ways you can adjust them.  If you focus on every weakness you have, none of your deficit areas will improve.  Find a point of emphasis and build on it.    For both questions, I would encourage you to look at the “8 Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset” image.  Many educators have used this as a space to focus on places where they would like to grow.
  3. What things will I challenge myself with next year? Setting some goals based on questions one and two are where looking back meets moving forward. If they see you taking risks in your learning, they will be more comfortable making their own. What are some of the things that you will try next year that will push you out of your comfort zone?  Not only would it be powerful to find those challenges yourself, but share how you are promoting your growth with colleagues, and more importantly, students.
  4. How will all of these answers impact the learners I serve? None of the previous questions matter if they have no impact on the learners you serve. Why I do not use the word “student” here is that these questions should not be reserved for teachers specifically, but administrators and central office people as well.  The importance of each person in education is that their growth should lead to the improvement and development of the learners around them.  If it doesn’t impact the learners you serve, we are spending time on doing things that do not give us anything in return.

Too often, teachers are asked to do something without watching administrators do the same.  If any school administrator is looking to use any of these questions or a modification of them, please be willing to share your answers as well to lead the process by example, not authority.

Categories: Planet

3 Reminders For the End of the School Year

23 May, 2018 - 10:54

The end of the year can be a stressful time for educators, both work wise and emotionally.  As a principal and teacher, there was always this “I forgot to pack something for my trip” anxiety that I had at the end of the year. What did I forget to do? What needs to be done?  What am I missing?  Add that to a million things teachers seemingly have to do during that time; it is a tough time of year.

As you go into the end of the year and have that break, here are a few little reminders:

  1. Not all students look forward to the summer break. Although many students celebrate summer vacation, some miss the routine of school and the relationships that school provides that they may not receive to the same extent elsewhere.  That time away from the routine can be daunting so try to check in with students to give them some extra attention before they get into the break.  This leads into the next suggestion.
  2. Find time to connect personally with each student you teach. For many schools, the end of the year means “awards season” (I have some strong thoughts about that), and although some students feel they get some special recognition, for many, this time leaves them dispirited.  Little conversations with students to let them know they are appreciated can make a huge difference. I still remember in grade 4, as a student, our teacher Miss Butler, wrote a personal note to every single student in her class, that I can still remember to this day.  I had won some awards as a student, but I have cherished nothing more than I did that genuine show of appreciation.  That was the only time I had received something like that as a student, but it shouldn’t be an anomaly.  Writing cards for every student, which would be especially hard in high school, is not necessarily the only way this can be done, so take the time to show that appreciation.  Some may see this as a waste of time, but I see it as an investment into your students. You might not see the payoff, but believe me, it will happen.
  3. It is okay for you to take a break. I always see tweets on Facebook posts getting on educators for looking forward to summer break.  Things like, “don’t look it as 20 days until the break, but 20 days to make a difference”, are fantastic in spirit, but they already add to the pile of teacher guilt that so many have.  I don’t see any profession guilt people for having a break more than I do in education.  People always need doctors, but rarely do I see Facebook posts guilting them about holidays.  Maybe we can see it as 20 days to make a difference AND until you have a break.Education is taxing emotionally, mentally, and even physically.  If you do not practice self-care, eventually, there will be nothing left for you or your students in the future.  Spend time with family, do fun things, or whatever. Just be okay with recharging batteries. I promise you that the students at the beginning of next school year will need you at 100%.

These are just the suggestions that I have in my head, but I would love more reminders from educators around the world on how to make the most of the school year. If you have any suggestions that are positive and lift people up during this hard part, it would be greatly appreciated if you shared in the comments.

Again, to every educator out there, thank you for all that you do. You work is NEVER appreciated the way it should be, but your impact is immeasurable.

Thank you!

Categories: Planet

Controlling the Solution

21 May, 2018 - 00:46

In “Learner-Centred Innovation,” Katie Martin shares the following:

Just think how you might begin to make the changes and the impact you desire in school if instead of statements like, “If they would have, . . .” you started asking, “How might I…?” This is what is referred to by psychologists as the locus of control or the extent to which people believe they have power to influence events in their lives. A person with an internal locus of control believes that he or she can influence events and outcomes. These individuals might notice that students are not meeting the desired outcomes and decide to take some risks, try new strategies, or design an authentic project to meet the needs of learners. Someone with an external locus of control instead blames outside forces for everything.

I thought about this quote in a recent conversation I had with a few administrators. There were focused on some of the ideas being shared were things that would happen in larger organizations, not necessarily ones in divisions with smaller student populations.

If you want to find a problem, you can see a problem.  Solutions are findable as well.

Working with two school districts in the same day, one had shared that although there were “1 to 1” with devices for students, the teachers felt they needed more professional learning. The other had shared that they were ready to go, but that they didn’t have the devices.  Two opposite situations, both seen as issues.

Flip it around.

One organization could have seen that although they had devices for every student and more professional learning would be needed; this is an excellent opportunity to model learning alongside students and reshaping what the classroom could look like.  The other organization could have seen the opportunity to focus more on the learning of the staff before they provided devices so that they would feel ready to offer solutions to students from a place of experience in their learning.

Barriers and opportunities are around where you look at them, but the biggest barrier is often our own thinking. As Katie reminds us, we control a lot more than we give ourselves credit. We can be the problem but hopefully, the solution.

Categories: Planet

We All Need a Champion

18 May, 2018 - 11:42

My dear friend, Jimmy Casas, wrote a fantastic book titled, “Culturize: Every Student. Every Day. Whatever It Takes.“, meant for leading schools, not school leadership only. I haven’t read the book for awhile, but it reminded me of the leadership classic, “Good To Great,” because it acknowledges the excellent work already happening in schools, but helps to push them to become even better. I have written about Jimmy before and saw his work in practice. One of my favorite things from Jimmy’s work is that you could tell no difference in the position or role of any person in his school because he treated every single person amazingly well and understood their impact on the school community, both staff, and students.

Here is one of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Being a champion for all students means just that: all students. Not just ones who are likeable and want help but also the ones who might resist your efforts. Even then, your core values drive you to stay true to this belief. This unwavering hope and faith can be the model to inspire others to do the same for all students.”
Jimmy Casas, Culturize: Every Student. Every Day. Whatever It Takes.

Although I love this quote, I was reminded how important that the notion of having a “champion” is essential to staff, along with students, when I tweeted out the following Rita Pierson quote from one of my favorite Ted Talks ever:

Although I believe having one champion is not enough in our schools, I do think having at least one can change everything.  Looking back at my career, I know that I had a few administrators that both pushed and supported me to grow, while always making sure they knew they had my back. I was able to do so much more because of their support, and it is one of the reasons that I am so passionate about the influence of leadership in education.  Having one leader that believes in you and challenges you, from any position or role, can help you achieve things you couldn’t do without that support.  It is crucial to believe in yourself, but it is way easier when you know someone else believes in you as well.

While we focus on being “champions” for our kids, remember that “championing” the adults in education IS serving the students. The impact on one educator can influence thousands (if not more) of students over a lifetime.

Categories: Planet

What do we mean when we talk about “access”?

16 May, 2018 - 08:18

What do you think when you hear the word “access” when it comes to education and our students?

This was a question that I was recently asked at a panel at THE Ohio State University (I was told that I have to write THE before OSU and I am kind of scared not to now.).

At first, when you hear the term “access,” many people think about things like access to technology and the Internet.  Makes sense, and I agree. Kids who do not have access to the biggest library in the world will lose out on many opportunities that other kids do have.

But in my response, I wanted to challenge the term “access” to go beyond technology. What about access to high-quality learning opportunities in every classroom?

Put it this way. If you have access to the Internet in your school, but the quality of teaching and learning in your school is not excellent for all students, then how much does the technology matter?

I addressed the notion of equity in my book, “The Innovator’s Mindset,” and how it has to be not just equitable, but at the highest level:

Another concern often voiced in response to innovative initiatives is that the new program or approach might create superior learning opportunities—opportunities that aren’t offered in another learning environment. If what’s best for learners is our primary concern, equity of opportunities will be created at the highest of levels, not the lowest.

I am not saying that every teacher has to be the same. That is impossible. I am saying that access goes beyond technology and that every student should have access to high-quality learning opportunities.  When talking about students, the “access” conversation has to go far beyond technology.

Categories: Planet
ACCE Partners
ACCE Partners
ACCE Partners
ACCE Partners