Posts Tagged ‘ Success ’

Education in Search of Relevance

My ancestors worked with their hands. They loved making things. For better or worse, I have inherited that gene. I have been a draftsman, a farmer, a carpenter and one day perhaps even a potter again.

My grandfather, Henry, worked at the Crane and Breed Company in Cincinnati, Ohio as a wood carver. This is the kind of work he used to do – hearses and caskets.

Image

After he retired, I remember him working daily at his tool bench in the basement making or improving one household item or another until he was satisfied. I often wonder what he would be improving, if he were still alive. I suspect he would be using an i-pad and a 3-D printer to do it.

The maker culture has finally made its way into education. Project-based learning is a logical gateway to transform the modern classroom into a makerspace. Stephanie West-Puckett in her blog on Edutopia provides a thorough explanation of how and why this should occur. read her post at http://www.edutopia.org/blog/classroom-makerspaces-transformative-learning-stephanie-west-puckett

Like you, students need to find nurturing places in real life and on the web to geek out with others who share their passion. They’ll thrive in spaces that perpetually rekindle their desire to make meaningful contributions toward personally relevant issues, ideas, people and interests.

Education in search of relevance to students. Now there’s a radical idea!

Teaching Failure

How many times have you heard fail fast and fail often to achieve success? Jason Seiken in his HBR blog talks about how he made it more than a slogan at his organization.

He writes, “Business-school literature has long stressed the importance of taking risks and encouraging rapid failure. In the real world of quarterly numbers, though, embracing failure mostly remains a throwaway line in CEO speeches.

At PBS Digital, we went beyond corporate lip service and demanded failure from each and every employee.”

Check it out…http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/09/how-i-got-my-team-to-fail-more/

I firmly believe that growth comes from failure, not success. I know “teaching failure” sounds like an oxymoron, but research shows that students who believe that failure is a temporary condition and are resilient are far more likely to be ultimately successful. Are you providing a safe space to fail in your classroom, in your school, in your district?

Have you made your quota of failures this week?

Mastering Meaningful Meetings

The start of the school year also means the beginning of that age-old institution, the weekly senior staff meeting. Whether it is a cabinet level or senior directors level, since it is the beginning of a new year, one cannot help but question the need for these sessions of senior level administrative over-think. Jeff Booker, now a deputy at Gaston County Schools in North Carolina, used to caution his staff about the relationship between the money that was sitting around the table and the work being done at the meeting. Peter Bregman makes a similar point in his recent HBR blog, http://blogs.hbr.org/bregman/2013/09/four-areas-where-senior-leader.html Both Booker and Bregman speak to making these meetings more meaningful. The alternative (if there is an unbalanced ratio of money at the table vs. the gravity of the topics) is to cancel the meeting. That’s leadership!

First Day of School: Planning 101

With the start of school everyone is looking at the demographic planner for enrollment information. A little advice for school leaders before you get to the podium:

  • Use a year-over-year comparison to get a sense of the volatility of the numbers. If your  planner didn’t hit projections at School A until day 10 last year, don’t expect to hit them until day 10 this year.
  • There is a lot of noise in the first day of school enrollment numbers. If the roles from the previous year have not been purged, the numbers will be high. If you just report the actuals, your numbers will be low on the first day. For this reason many states use the 20th day of instruction as the official enrollment, some wait even longer.
  • Enrollment also vary by demographics and grade level. Elementaries will equalize within the first week, middle schools a little later, and high schools may take up to a month to really settle. The enrollment at higher poverty schools will be more variable and more students will enroll during the first week of school.
  • Your planner should be able to guide you regarding the schools that will have big swings in the numbers. Attendance boundary adjustments, a new housing development or a new charter school in the attendance area are just a few of the reasons for volatility in a school’s enrollment numbers.
  • Make sure you know what you are reporting – total enrollment, average daily attendance, or another variation of attendance figures.
  • Always have your planner compare your school by school numbers with each school’s rated capacity (and know how that capacity is calculated). Often rated capacities are an “ideal” condition and schools that exceed that capacity by a small amount can operate that way until a solution is found.
  • The big concerns should be those schools that have exceeded their projections by the staffing ratio and are above classroom capacity. Work with your principals to reach an accommodation – team teaching in one of the larger classrooms, use of a smaller room (office and/or conference room) for a self-contained class that has just a few students, float an elective class, using the library/media center for pull-out classes, etc. Your school leaders should know their buildings and what may or may not be possible. Because of the logistics involved, moving a temporary classroom into place on short notice is usually not a timely answer.
  • A less than two percent variation between total enrollment projection and actual total enrollment is acceptable.
  • Concentrate on figuring out why some schools where you had to adjust the staffing were high or low. Ask your planner for an after-action report after the dust settles. You will want to concentrate on those schools in which the projected enrollment was one staffing ratio above or below the actuals. The goal would be to not repeat that scenario at that school next year.
  • Accurate projections are one of the tools of leadership. If you can’t trust the numbers, change the way they are developed.

Pause… and think long-term

Within educational organizations this is the final countdown until the start of school. Everyone is leaning in. The adrenaline is high. But remember your career is a marathon, not a sprint to the middle of next year. Take a few minutes to think long-term about your career and what you are building.

In his recent HBR blog Nathaniel Koloc shared some great advice: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2013/08/build_a_career_worth_having.html

“1 Your career is a set of stepping stones, not a linear trajectory.

2 Seek legacy, mastery and freedom – in that order.

3 Treat your career like a grand experiment…

So if you’re one of the many who find themselves on the path to meaningful work — remember to enjoy the journey, don’t give up, and don’t settle.”

I hope everyone has a great year!

Creating value or reducing costs?

In a recent article in the Business Insider, Editor Henry Blodget says that business obsession with short-term profits has led to the view that employees are costs, rather than value creators. http://www.businessinsider.com/business-and-the-economy-2013-7 Many of us who have participated in the annual school district budget reduction discussions are surely guilty of the same sin. Aren’t the short-term profits in education the annual test results? Don’t we at least consider applying more of our resources to those “costs” that provide higher short-term profits (better results) in lieu of those that might provide better long-term value (student success)?

If your district vision and mission statements call for long-term success for your students (career and college readiness), shouldn’t your resources be applied to value creation and not short-term profits? How are you measuring long-term student success?

Culture and Loss

In his recent guest post on Clarity, Jamie Notter talks about a company’s culture and his belief that it is the organizational culture that drives success. http://blog.clarity.fm/culture-that-drives-success/

“People leave the culture, not the company.” is one of the culture clichés he uses. It is clear that without effective cultural change why many districts are unable to address their consistently high turnover. One large district told me that one-third of their instructional workforce will leave within five years. I understand from superintendents all over the country that those statistics are not unusual. Could it be time to focus on cultural change within educational organizations? After all, it is one aspect of the education business that will be cost-effective. Every time an employee leaves, it costs the district roughly 20% of that employee’s salary to hire a replacement.

I know some of you have begun change management, but once the rest of you get Common Core and PowerSchool up and running, it is time to for us to talk about real cultural change. Measure your annual losses and calculate the cost.