EduQuote of the Week | 4.15.19

If you look at your class as anything less than life or death, you do not deserve to be a teacher. If you walk into the classroom ten minutes late, week after week, you need to resign. You wouldn’t come in late on your job all the time, but I venture to guess that some of you do it on Sunday.

Bill Wilson

Teach & Serve IV, No. 35 | Dying is Easy; Living Is Harder

Teach & Serve IV, No. 35

Dying is Easy; Living Is Harder

April 3, 2019

Before we die on any hill – we should consider what living on the hill would mean.

There are moments in our careers which we believe force us to take stands. There are incidents that challenge us – our morality, our convictions, our constitutions. There are crucible moments which, when we recognize them, inspire us and galvanize us. When we confront these incidents, we can feel like this is the time, this is our time, this is when we say who we are and command respect from those around us. These are the moments when we can think we must define who we are.

These are the proverbial hills on which we choose to proverbially die.

And there are surely times when dying on hills is the absolute right thing to do.

Often when we die on a hill, we do so in spectacular fashion. Dying on a hill is frequently associated with burning bridges, with sowing salt in the land, with backing ourselves into certain and absolute corners. Dying for our causes is a last move. There is no coming back from it.

But we ought to be careful. When we are engaged so vitally as to die on a hill, our blinders can pop up.

Before we die on any hill – we should consider what living on the hill would mean.

Living on the hill, fighting the battle, continuing engagement, winning detractors to our side, these things are difficult. They are draining. They require humility and perseverance. But, in these circumstances, when we have determined that the issue at hand is so critical, dying for it seems the right thing to do. It is that important. We are willing to die for it.

Should we not, then, be equally willing to live for it?  

Dying for something is a powerful statement, but it is also a final one. You do not get to influence change and debate when you are dead.

In the brilliant Lin-Manuel Miranda musical Hamilton, George Washington tells Alexander Hamilton “dying is easy, son, living is harder.”

No doubt.

Teach & Serve IV, No. 34 | Our Burgeoning Toolbox

Teach & Serve IV, No. 34

Our Burgeoning Toolbox

March 27, 2019

Educators are many, many things but (and after over a quarter century in the field, I know this for certain) the good ones are builders.

Toolbox with tools. Skrewdriver, hammer, handsaw and wrench. 3d

Fair warning: I am an English teacher. I embrace metaphor.

For four years, I had the immense honor of working in a “district-level” position serving a network of Catholic schools. I worked from home and had an office in Washington, DC right near the White House. I got to travel the country (and out of it on one occasion) in association with this work and I was most privileged to be in the job. It was a terrific four years.

Part of my responsibilities was instructing in and, later, coordination of seminars, the curriculum of which was designed to assist educational professionals in recognizing and realizing their leadership in their schools. It was the intention of the program to provide people with a balance of the theoretical and the practical over the course of their time with us. The theoretical ranged from best leadership practice to self-reflection to deep dives in current research about topics such as gender in schools and the dynamics of change. The practical portions of the program, the faculty of these seminars summed up in one phrase:

We want you to build your toolbox.

Educators are many, many things but (and after over a quarter century in the field, I know this for certain) the good ones are builders. In order to build – to build our curriculum, to build our programs, to build up our students – we must have the right tools. We must have a toolbox and we should be putting new tools into it each-and-every year we remain in the profession.

Over the course of my instruction in these seminars, we would tell the participants to put the tools – the practical ways of proceeding to which we were introducing them – into their tool box. We would note that we wanted to accumulate more tools each session of the seminar. At some point I said “here’s another tool for your burgeoning toolbox.”

The participants in that session never let me live the term “burgeoning toolbox” down.

Thinking back, I believe “burgeoning toolbox” is an exact right metaphor for what we were doing (it must be, because I said it!) because it implies something very important about educational professionals: we should always be learning. We should always be growing. We should always be on the look out for the next tool which can make them a more effective educator and a better professional.

And, yes, our toolboxes should ever be burgeoning.

Be aware of the next tool you can use, the next tool that works in your context. Listen for it. Learn it. Grab it. Put it in your toolbox.

You can never have too many good tools to use.

 

EduQuote of the Week | 3.25.19

Teach people to fish, but first teach people to be fair. Take less, give more. Give more of yourself, take less from the world. Nobody owes you anything, you owe the world everything.

Suzy Kassem 

Teach & Serve IV, No. 33 | Where Are Your Feet?

Teach & Serve IV, No. 33

Where Are Your Feet?

March 20, 2019

Where do we center ourselves in our work? From where do we draw balance and power? From where do we operate? Where do we walk and with whom?

Awhile back, I heard a leader I respect very much speaking about being present to the educational communities we serve. He posed a question that was brilliant in its simplicity:

“Where are your feet?”

What an excellent metaphor for us.

Where do we center ourselves in our work? From where do we draw balance and power? From where do we operate? Where do we walk and with whom?

I suggest that if are feet are out the door at the earliest opportunity each day, if they are planted firmly in faculty rooms and main offices, if they are in places that keep us away from the groups we should be serving and with whom we should be walking, we ought to re-assess our path.

Where are your feet?

Consider that. It is a simple and great question.

 

EduQuote of the Week | 3.18.19

When we did art with the kids, the demons would lie down.

Anne Lamott

EduQuote of the Week | 3.11.19

… be radical about grace and relentless about truth and resolute about holiness…

Ann Voskamp

Teach & Serve IV, No. 31 | The Power of “I Don’t Know”

Teach & Serve IV, No. 31

The Power of “I Don’t Know”

March 6, 2019

Excellent leaders know much.

But they do not have to know everything.

I am unsure when it was decided that a leader had to be the smartest person in any room, had to have each-and-every fact at her command, had to know more than everyone else. I do not know when that became “a thing.”

In less accomplished leaders with whom I have worked, I have observed that there is an inverse proportion of expressed knowledge and actual skill . Those leaders I considered not terrific were often the ones who had to be the keepers of all knowledge. They were the ones who purported to be the authorities on every subject.

In my opinion, that is not a good look for a leader.

Leaders who acknowledge when they do not know something and who ask for help are doing more than acting from a place of humility, they are empowering others who know more than they do. They are opening dialogue. They are leaving space for creativity. They are, in their admission of needing assistance, illustrating that everyone need not be perfect and that a they are part of a team wherein each person’s knowledge and opinion is valued.

There is a lot of power in admitting “I don’t know.”

Do not misunderstand: educational leaders should be lifelong learners and should strive to continue amassing knowledge of how their school functions, of the latest educational trends, of the people with whom they work. Excellent leaders know much.

But they do not have to know everything.

 

EduQuote of the Week | 3.4.19

Once she knows how to read there’s only one thing you can teach her to believe in and that is herself.

Virginia Woolf

Teach & Serve IV, No. 30 | I Know Two Things…

Teach & Serve IV, No. 30

I Know Two Things…

February 27, 2019

I know two things: Some meetings are good; some meetings are bad, and the responsibility falls on the organizer of the meeting.

In the Barry Levinson film Wag the Dog, the wonderful William H. Macy has a number of bon mots which he delivers perfectly. Perhaps the best of these is this:  “I know two things: There is no difference between good flan and bad flan and there is no war.”

For the context of the comment, do watch the movie. It is a very good satire of media and politics and features a great cast.

I mention this quote because it reminds me I also know two things: Some meetings are good; some meetings are bad, and the responsibility falls on the organizer of the meeting.

I have written previously about meetings and their importance and I am very much in support of holding any and every meeting that needs to happen. However, the success or failure of a meeting rests, largely, upon the manner in which it is executed.

Good meetings do not just happen. They have to be planned for and they need to be run. Therefore, good meetings have chairs (not always the formal leader of the school or the department, etc.) who prepare in advance and pull the meeting together. They run the process during the meeting. They ensure all things that must happen after the meeting are handled.

In my experience, meetings go far better when participants are supplied agenda for the meeting which they must attend. It actually shocks me when I am asked to go to meeting with no agenda. In fact, I have said to those with whom I work that, except in some case of standing meetings, if I invite them to a meeting without an agenda, they should refuse to come. I am not kidding about this. Effective meetings have agenda, and those agenda are published and distributed to participants well in advance of said meeting.

The agenda lists the topics to be addressed, for sure, and also lists the people who will be engaged in each topic. Further, the agenda indicates what action will be taken in the meeting concerning each topic. Is this a topic for discussion? For decision? For brainstorming? Why is it on the agenda in the first place? Also, solid agenda list what outcome is anticipated for each issue and the amount of time allotted to them.

Finally, the meeting has published start and end times. The end time is the most critical. Good meetings end when they are scheduled to end. If items must be pushed to the next meeting, so be it. People have schedules to which they need to attend. Meetings that do not end when they are supposed to infringe on schedules and force difficult choices on participants: are they to be late to their next port-of-call or will they lose out on what happens in the portion of the meeting they miss? Putting people in position to make that kind of choice is avoided by a well-run meeting.

Once the meeting has concluded, minutes of the proceedings should be distributed as widely as possible. Everyone in the meeting should receive them and it may well be appropriate to share them with the broader community. Minutes should accurately reflect what has been said in the meeting and, likely, cannot be compiled in real time by the chair of the meeting but by a recorder. Memorializing what has been taken up in a meeting is an important part of the total process of running a good one.

Certainly, one must be flexible when creating agenda and when running a meeting. There will be exceptions to each-and-every item listed above. But, when people know in advance what they are doing in a meeting, what will be discussed, what role they play and when the meeting will wrap up and these things are adhered to more often than not, they are far more likely to come to meetings in a positive frame of mind.

I know two things: Some meetings are good; some meetings are bad, and the responsibility falls on the organizer of the meeting.