All students will achieve their maximum potential by becoming responsible, productive citizens and life-long learners.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Blogging for the Purpose of Education…Who Benefits?

I have often been asked by friends and colleagues why I blog.  My kneejerk single response is always “to communicate.”  When reflecting on the multiple reasons why I blog however, it dawned on me that every reason came back to education.  Not just education of the surrounding community (teachers, students, parents, et.), but more importantly myself.  Soon to follow was the mental exercise of where communication with the community at large and education meet and how that is enhanced by blogging.

Number One: You

I find that blogging in general allows me to expand the opportunities for all those involved to learn.  For me, it serves as a mental sketchpad where I put down ideas, revisit them, and then put them out for other people to see.  For colleagues, parents, and students it is an opportunity for a glimpse into the inner workings of a school and a portion of who I am as an educator.

One of the biggest problems for both parents and students is that they are outsiders when it comes to how things work within a school.  As educators we preach about the positive impact for students when the parents and school partner to improve the educational experience, but how often do we reflect on this important issue from parents’ perspective?  How do we in education expect parents to work as partners if they do not understand a few basic things such as the; best way to communicate, reasoning behind policies, current efforts being made around initiatives, or vision of the school?

For a few examples (taken from my earlier blogs), topics such as:
·         important transition skills,
·         bullying issues,
·         new initiatives, or

Blogging about topics such as these can help parents and other community members understand something very important about the school in general; you are a credible institution/leader who wants to create relationships with the community through honest communication.

Building Credibility

It is important for community members to know that both the administrators and teachers are up to date not only with the most current research, but also the mediums through which they learn best.  Blogging helps parents get a glimpse into the thought processes, events in the classroom, and motivation behind instruction and decision making.  In essence, the community at large will find more credibility in a person or institution that practices complete transparency.

Number Two: The Community

Lately, there have been more articles appearing concerning the “branding” of schools.  Blogging (along with Twitter) affords the opportunity to do just that.  It gives me the chance to display what type of leader I am as well as what I believe the community needs to know about concerning the school.  In short, it gives a picture or description of not only what kind of school the community currently has, but also what type we could possibly have by working together for the continual improvement of the educational system (high school experience in this case).  After all, schools and the communities in which they reside both have the same vision; students becoming educated, productive citizens who make positive contributions to society.

Creating relationships

Overall, blogging is about engaging the reader.  As I have heard our Librarian/Media Specialist say over and over…”useful content is king.”  Therefore, it is important to understand what may be important to your audience.  A responsive blog that describes or explains any aspect of school life that the community is interested in will help build a relationship.  Blogs basically invite the reader to come in and peruse the thoughts behind action.  The possible clarity provided is priceless when it comes to building a trusting relationship that lasts.

Education is about relationships, engagement, credibility, community…and providing a clear, helpful voice through a blog is an easy way to make a positive impact in all these areas. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Character Challenge: Courageous

This week’s character trait is Courageous.

Quite often students confuse courageous with reckless and therefore, often approach this trait with the extreme of either shying away or “going overboard.”  The central aspect of this trait is what we all need to help students learn; acting courageously is doing what you believe to be right no matter the opponent and defending those who act in the same fashion.  Take the time and ask your students if they can remember the last time they stood up for something they believed in.  Ask yourself the same question and have a discussion.  I did this the other night and it led to a great conversation about beliefs.  Doing this with people will help build and strengthen relationships as well as your own skill set.

Courage is about pursuing your goals despite any obstacles. A courageous person solves problems rather than avoiding them.  Again, encourage your students to talk to you about the last time they failed and did not try again.  Have them share why that happened.  It is one thing to quote that success consists of falling down nine times and getting up ten, but the reality is different and a lot more difficult.  How many times have you experienced this personally?  That gnawing doubt that makes you hesitate before trying once again to succeed.  Think about it:

·         These students just don’t care about their grades…why should I keep trying?
·         I don’t like what is going on, but I am only one voice…why should I say anything?
·         I tried to integrate technology, but it just doesn’t work…why should I try it again?

Think about it…if you don’t act, try, or at least speak up…nothing changes.  We have to be vigilant in our efforts to continually improve rather than accepting either failure or success as a destination.  As Winston Churchill said; Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to succeed that counts.”

With the proper support, we can all learn to be more courageous, which inevitably leads to a better culture with more successful students.    

When it comes down to it, in school, work, or especially life; we all need to be more courageous if we are to improve the culture in which we reside.  This can be done by standing up for what we believe in; supporting those who are in need; and refusing to give up in any of our pursuits towards bettering our collective situation and environment.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Character Challenge: Ambitious

This week’s character trait at Seekonk High School is Ambitious.

Unfortunately this is one of those terms that has two perceived meanings depending on your perspective…one good and one, well, not so good.  It may be because of this that it is difficult to instill in many people.  For my purpose here, I am addressing the ambition we all hope to have that affords us the ability to be successful without consequently diminishing the same opportunity of those around us.

Carol Dweck touches on the idea of ambition driven effort when discussing mindsets.  It seems not too far a stretch to infer that a person in a growth mindset finds ambition good while those in a fixed mindset tend to scoff at the effort required to maintain a healthy level of ambition.  In simpler terms, we all know examples of those who use ambition for good and those who wind up on the other side of that spectrum.  This post is driven by two factors.  First, the idea that we as adults, children, educators, students, parents, and the educational system need to be acutely aware of our impact on society.  All of us affect the future.  To accomplish this in a positive manner requires change and progress according to the ever changing needs of our world.  More detail on this larger topic must be saved for a future post.  The second factor may be summed up in the following quote by Oscar Wilde: “Our ambition should be to rule ourselves, the true kingdom for each one of us; and true progress is to know more, and be more, and to do more.”

Know More
Education is not the learning of facts and figures per se.  Understanding how everything fits together through application is still the medium range goal.  Education, in the end, for all of us involved is about opening the doors to future possibility.  It is no secret that students today are learning skills they will need to apply when working in jobs that will be radically different from today.  There are multiple reports that discuss the idea of students being prepared for jobs that do not yet exist.  What is not discussed is that such events will demand everyone to change; from educators to current employees in both the private and public sectors.  The only way for anyone to keep current with progress and this required change is to continually educate themselves.  This requires ambition.  As the times change, all of us must continue to “know more” if we are to successfully progress in our lives.

Be More
All the knowledge in the world would be useless without the ambition to succeed, but that ambition must not be blind less we diminish who we are as people.  Allowing that to happen, as some have, fosters the negative side of ambition or a “winning at all costs” attitude.  The default position for ambition should be the continual push for personal success as measured by the quality of impact a person has on not only their lives, but those who they impact as well.

Do More
Salvador Dali said; “Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.”  This is possibly the most important aspect of ambition; the courage to act.  It does not matter how much you know, want to help others, or better yourself if you do not act.  We like to talk about education in terms of reform and change to the point that we tend to overlook gradual progress in an effort to satisfy our ambitions for immediate improvement.  Often, one small act will not help you attain your ultimate goal, but it is a start and therefore, progress.  It is a combination of repeated small steps and leaps that eventually complete the journey.  Whether it is Merriam-Webster defining it as, “the process of improving or developing something over time or Tony Blair saying that it “has never been shaped by commentators, complainers or cynics;” progress is achieved by deliberate and consistent action.  To do that, requires a certain amount of grit, but above all the ambition to start.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Character Challenge: Gracious

This week’s character trait at Seekonk High School is Gracious.

Each week as new traits are announced, I cannot help but wonder three things.  First, is this working? Second, how can I get it to work better?  Finally, if all these traits are connected, am I approaching it the wrong way by singling them out?  As I was looking through material to jog my mind for this post, I thought about the relationships between traits along with the idea that I have been telling students to try small things.  I have promised that these in turn will become larger.  What I haven’t promised is that they are not alone in this endeavor and that affects their poise.  Audrey Hepburn said it best when she explained that walking “with the knowledge that you are never alone” builds poise.  So now I believe I must change my focus to one of togetherness if this challenge is to make the difference of which it is capable.  So, without further ado…

Vocabulary.com defines gracious as, "kind, courteous, and compassionate."  The site goes on to explain that “Gracious descends from the Latin word for good will.”  I find that the definition or etymology of this word is not the issue.  The problem lies in the application of this trait in a socially contextualized high school setting.

Mark Twain made an excellent point when he said; “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”  When you are kind to anyone in a high school setting (or at any level for that matter) everyone sees it and in at least some small way, reacts to it.  It gives pause.  The greater the act, the greater the pause.  No matter if it is a smile or inward thought by an uninvolved witness or a comment/helping hand by someone who wishes to be more involved; people notice and therefore share a moment.  The person responsible could never be alone in such a situation.  So take the time to build community by creating that connection.  If you question whether or not it is a good time to act, pay heed to the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson.  He said; “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”

Being courteous is usually referred to as having manners; however that sometimes gets lost in translation.  Many of us instantly think of those “old-fashioned” formal shows of politeness.  What is more meaningful and capable of being adopted is the idea of thoughtfulness.  The sincerity found in a quick thank you that expresses a certain level of gratitude that sets the stage for a successful, interpersonal interaction both at that moment and in the future is one such display.  We can all exercise this trait if we regularly considerate and responsive to people’s current situations.  It is important to acknowledge that people exist in their own, personal experience that is no more or less important than ours based upon how we perceive them at that moment.  Once we treat someone with respect and dignity, we are instantaneously part of a larger interaction that has an unknown lasting effect.

While compassion usually comes easy on the heels of kind and courteous behavior, it is not always automatic with students.  Based upon the idea of wanting to be part of a larger crowd and an inherent (developmentally speaking) uncertainty of who they are, students (according to Brene Brown) have difficulty practicing “compassion when they are struggling with their own authenticity.”  Therein lies the problem when it comes to consistently displaying compassion.  Karen Armstrong notes, “Compassion is a practically acquired knowledge….”  This part of the larger trait (gracious) may well be the most important and difficult.  For any of us to practice, it takes a moment of thought before responding in an attempt to assess the larger picture to determine how we may be a better version of ourselves; even if just for a moment.

Practically Speaking
This is all well and good theoretically speaking, but how do we begin?  Where do we start so that students:
·         notice they are not alone in attempting to improve the culture by working on their character;
·         understand that by recognizing other peoples perspectives they become to know themselves; and
·         start with small steps that truly make a difference?

To further develop the ability to be gracious, we should all try these:

  1. Put yourself in other peoples’ positions to help understand the foundations of their beliefs and actions.
  2. Do what you can to help others.  Everyone’s journey is different and we all need support from time to time.
  3. Do not make light or humor of other peoples misfortunes.
  4. Respond (do not react) to your own mistakes with humor.
Remember, it is usually difficult to be gracious.  It takes a certain level of comfort with oneself to consistently act in this manner.  That is why it is important to support and point out the act whenever we see it.  Students realizing that being gracious is the right way to act is only the first step.  Supporting it so that we all act in that manner should be the goal.  Even as adults we find it easier to act when in numbers, imagine the impact for students. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Character Challenge: Self-Motivated

This week’s character trait at Seekonk High School is self-motivation.

The difficulty with motivation, especially intrinsic, is that it often resembles more of a rollercoaster ride than anything remotely constant.  We all have times we can remember being incredibly excited about that project, assignment, or responsibility.  Unfortunately we also remember those times (we often cannot seem to break free from) when we become overwhelmed, distracted, or lazy.  Therein lies the issue for everyone.  How do we motivate ourselves on a more continuous basis that leads to improved performance at either school or work?

Self-motivation boils down to three major factors: starting, attitude, and self-awareness.

No one has ever finished who did not start.  All too often we attempt to begin new endeavors with the idea that there will be huge gains immediately.  Think about it.  How else would the magic diet pill, bodybuilding supplement, online essay, or any other quick fix industry even exist?  The fact of the matter is that those who start any task with the manageable aspects enjoy small (usually easy to attain) victories.  This in turn boosts self-confidence while increasing the drive (or motivation) to continue. There may be many factors that motivate us to start, but it is the lasting mark of that which is generated within ourselves that get us to finish.

Negative obstacles are one of the major reasons continued self-motivation is so difficult.  How we handle them is the difference between success and failure.  If we motivate ourselves to accomplish something, we must prepare for the many obstacles that will block the path.  Personally, I call these distractions and excuses.  The good news is that they can all be overcome.  First, do not make excuses.  Find out the real reason you experienced a setback, confront it by admitting the problem, and fix it.  Then start again.  Do this by prioritizing.    All too often we get distracted from what we really want to accomplish and take an easier path.  With the right attitude (positive and determined) a person can ignore the distractions by focusing on what is important and understanding that long term success does not come easy.  Rather, it is the dogged determination of individuals who pull the advantages (positive) out of disadvantages (negative) that arise.

We need to know who we are, what we want, and why to increase the consistency of our motivation.  We will lose sight of what keeps us going without these understandings. Intrinsic motivation by definition comes from within.  Therefore, it is what is important to us that causes us to move in any direction.  Being mentally and emotionally invested in our goals provides powerful motivation.  Essentially, no one can force us to believe what is important.  We must come to that realization ourselves.  In the end it is about what is a priority for us.  This is not easy and the road to sustained motivation is fraught with negatives.  Only through an understanding of ourselves and what motivates us will we achieved sustained self-motivation and success.


Where do we start?

“If you have the courage to begin, you have the courage to succeed.” - David Viscott

·         Do not just identify, but begin by identifying with others who do what you want to do.
·         Complete as many homework assignments as possible each week.
·         Stay after for extra help one night this week.
·         Improve your study habits before your next test.

How to we sustain setbacks?

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of Hell, a hell of Heaven.” - John Milton

·         Be and stay positive.
·         Do not make excuses. Address the real issue.
·         Be sure to know what is important and make choices accordingly.
·         Avoid distractions by staying focused.

Why are we doing this?

“One of the most courageous things you can do is identify yourself, know who you are, what you believe in and where you want to go.” - Sheila Murray Bethel

·         Know who you are and what you want.
·         Set goals you are invested in and work to achieve them.
·         Work to understand why you need to be self-motivated.

In the end, our success or failure largely depends on what we do for ourselves.  To succeed, we must be motivated and the most powerful form of that is intrinsic.  We are all students of life and just as those of us in education attempt to motivate students, we must identify and use that inner drive to truly be successful; no matter the field in which we work, play, or live.  In the words of Henry David Thoreau; “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”


Friday, October 25, 2013

Character Project: Punctual

This is quite possibly one of the largest issues facing schools today with the exception of various state and federal initiatives.  No matter what conference or workshop I attend, talk concerning attendance and tardy issues eventually surfaces.  For example:

·         I personally stress to both parents and students that they need to be here and be on time to get the most out of their education.

·         The legislature has overhauled the CHINS process to focus on truancy prevention rather than forced compliance through consequences.

·         Our school policy concerning these two issues has grown to include parent conferences, office detentions, and social probation.

·         Research shows the importance of student attendance and punctuality and schools have large databases (including large amounts of paperwork) in place to track students on this very topic.

We all know these issues, parents acknowledge these issues and yet our students continue to come late and miss days.  Hence, the need to include punctuality as a character trait.  The truth is we can attempt to extrinsically motivate students to attend school regularly and on time, but most know that intrinsic motivation is the key.  Students have to want to be present and punctual.  This can be accomplished through programs and school offerings, but ultimately it must come from the character of the student involved.  The idea of being present or on time has to be ingrained to the point that students feel uncomfortable with the idea of being late.

The question remains:  How do we accomplish the creation of intrinsic motivation in our students?

The answer is simple to acknowledge, but often difficult to perform.  It is the same way we improve students’ character and as a result, the culture.  We must model the behavior we seek to achieve consistently and over a prolonged period.  In short, we must make the trait part of our character and then put it on display.

If I have made an appointment with you, I owe you punctuality, I have no right to throw away your time, if I do my own...” -Richard Cecil

 Here is the announcement read to the school for the fourth week of the challenge:

Good morning.  I wanted to start this week’s announcement by saying I was successful with the controlled trait, however a mid-week incident with the TV remote was almost my undoing.  I would have never thought I was that attached to it…anyways…enough of that…let’s move forward.

The rest of this announcement will be brief in an effort to help teachers be punctual and start their classes on time!

That’s right…punctual…or simply put, on time.

This is week four and our focus is being punctual.

Being Punctual means:

  • Being in your seat when class starts…not running through the door to beat the bell
  • Turning in assignments when they are due
  • Arriving to commitments on time or a little early
You know what else?  You are not only being responsible when you exercise self-control and are punctual, but respectful of other people’s time as well.  The reason all of these traits are connected is because they all contribute to good character.

So here is what to do today.  Make a list of events for which you need to be on time.  I mean everything like school, classes, your job, and yes, even handing in assignments!  Now set a goal to be on time (or punctual) for everything.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What adjustments can I make to my schedule that will help me be more punctual?
  • How does being punctual show responsibility?
  • Is it ever really ok to be late?
Strategies to use:

  • Use your agenda or any calendar
  • Plan ahead for scheduled events
  • Create routines

One way to really understand the importance of this trait is to remember how you feel when someone you are depending on is late.  That is how they feel when you do it to them.

Try sharing what you are doing to improve your character with your teachers this week.  Better yet, show them…

We are all doing a good job, let’s keep up the good work…


Character Project: Optimistic

This week’s character trait at Seekonk High School is optimistic.  The difficulty inherent in describing this trait is condensing its expansive implications.  While it is easy to list the many outwardly traits and benefits of optimism, it is a little more difficult to explain (and at times deal with) the journey to that positive state.  The issue here is that optimists are not born, but created.

The transformation to optimism essentially requires the repetition of three experiences that must be taught, modeled, and experienced before being accepted.


Yes, failure.  To become an optimist, a person must experience one of the most negative events that exists; personal failure.  Usually this comes from a series of mistakes that go unchecked or examined and therefore, lead to what many consider the ultimate end.  Therein lays the difference between optimists and pessimists.  Optimists do not see failure as an end, but a way to improve.  This is extremely important to realize.  We all forget from time to time that learning is impossible without mistakes.  What is done with those mistakes is the key.  If they are discarded as an end to a process then they are just that.  Viewed positively as a chance to improve, mistakes and failures open a whole new opportunity to achieve greater success than originally believed possible.


Optimists have a deep underlying view that while bad things happen, overall the world is a positive place.  This helps create successful individuals because due to the exclusion of luck or finite dates for improvement and performance.  For example, optimists do not believe that they performed well because they worked hard on that single performance.  Rather, their belief is that they will do well as a result of continuous learning, practice, and application.  The consequence is a belief that falling short is not the result of a lack of skill or “just not being good enough,” but instead an opportunity to improve.


How a person views the genesis of events in their life has a major impact on their adaptation to and growth from them.  Optimists do not blame themselves for negative occurrences in their lives.  Instead, they analyze the possible causes and their role with an objective mind.  This assists them in overcoming the idea that one setback means all is lost.  They believe there will be eventual success because of that very fact.  Optimists believe that failure is temporary and localized because mistakes are to be learned from rather than seen as evidence of their own personal weaknesses.

There is a lot of research that shows a myriad of benefits from emotional to social to physical that optimists enjoy.  That being said, what more could we want than for our children and students to be optimists? 

To achieve this, we must remember that it begins with us.

We must first become optimists ourselves if we are to model and teach our children to see the world in a way that will help them experience less stress, stronger emotional resiliency, and greater success no matter the challenge.

This could be difficult if we are not already optimists, but think of the reward.  Whether you learn and explain it the way Martha Washington did when she said; “I’ve learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances.” or take the Dr. Seuss route by saying; “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” You need to take a step and start.  If you fall a little short, just remember…it isn’t the end.  Learn from it.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Character Project: Creative

This week’s character trait at Seekonk High School is creative.  I must admit that attaching creative (as generally defined) to the idea of good character was at first challenging.  Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defined creative as “having or showing an ability to make new things or think of new ideas.”  That coupled with Bloom’s Taxonomy is great if addressing this topic from a purely academic aspect. Every teacher, school, and district strives to help their students move to what many consider the upper echelon of higher order thinking skills.  The idea of creativity when discussing behavior however, is different.

Often in an institution comprised of specific rules and policies for everything from behavior to locker break to assignment formats, the idea of “marching to the beat of your own drummer” is not encouraged much less supported.  Left with these thoughts and attempting to attach how creativity helps create a better character, I came across the following quote by Joseph Chilton Pearce:

"To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong". Joseph Chilton Pearce.

That’s when the connection became clear.  If one addresses the idea of creativity from the perspective of individuality and knowing oneself, then it not only makes sense, but lends itself to the following statements.  A staff member or student who is creative:
·         resists negative peer pressure;
·         accepts the differences inherent in individuals;
·         avoids cliques by befriending all types of people; and
·         makes wise decisions based on his/her own morals and code of ethics.

What more could a school want than to help foster the development of staff and students who are not just secure, but comfortable and confident enough in their individuality to do what is right rather than what is popular?  Taken in this context, the notion of creative is deeply tied to what many in education deem the hidden curriculum, or those things other than academics that are taught through interaction and modeling.  The idea of creating a school culture that consistently supports creative students and staff who act individually is possible, but not and easy road to travel.  Take the words of Robert Frost when he said; “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” for the inspiration to make a difference.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Character Project: Reliable

This week’s character trait at Seekonk High School is reliable.  While reliable and reliability is usually associated with scientific measurement, its personally applied definition is often more important in the day to day operations of a school, classroom, and relationships. 
Dictionary.com defines it as:  that may be relied on; dependable in achievement, accuracy, honesty, etc.

The possession and application of this trait is subtle.  While subconsciously expected from other people and items, individuals rarely find themselves giving a lot of thought to their own reliability.  For example:
·         They are either on time or not.
·         Students either complete the assignment or they don’t.
·         I either finish that paperwork or it waits until tomorrow.

Question:  How often, when faced with a similar situation as above stop and think; am I being reliable?  Would the second it takes to do so change your behavior?

Now think about students.  They expect everyone around them to be reliable.  This gives students a sense of security found in the routine of someone always being there for them.  If you think about how hard change and a feeling of not being connected is for adults (and we all know it is), imagine that feeling for many of those younger than us.  This is not a bad thing, but its value could increase with a little insight.

We all need to raise students’ awareness of their reliability and how that affects their academic and personal success.  For example:
·         How many times have students failed to hand in work on time even after they said they would?
·         How often have they promised to do a chore that went unfinished?

Would this be different if we as educators (parents, teachers, administrators, et.) taught students to take that second and think: am I being a reliable person right now?  Does it matter?  It is very easy to get caught in the trap of complaining about others actions (or lack thereof), but have we done anything to change the situation?  More importantly, should we complain about another person’s reliability before looking at our own?  Being able to model and use our own behavior as an example makes change much easier to teach and expect.

Students expect people to help them achieve, be honest, dependable, and reliable.  The first question is are we?  The second question is; are we teaching them to be in return?  As they grow older, students must bring more to the “table” and understand the life lesson of give and take.  If they are to exist in an atmosphere that collectively offers success and safety, they must contribute to those very things by being reliable individuals.

Explain it to them this way.  Reliability is the foundation of trust and who doesn’t want to be trusted?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Leaders Managing Schools is a Waste of Resources

The title for this post may seem a little abrasive or off-putting, but this stream of thought came to me through the various processes:

·         sitting in multiple meetings concerning the implementation of our new evaluation system,
·         considering the viability of DDMs as valid measures of student achievement,
·         reflecting on the sheer enormity of the task being required of both educators and administrators, and
·         realizing that there is no other job -anywhere- that requires employees to not only be evaluated on 33 separate indicators, but also be responsible for gathering them.

That is when it became clearer.  How can we expect education to move forward when we are telling and training our leadership to spend most of their time managing the current situation?  Education in general takes vision, effort, and time to change.  To use one of the newer words…grit.  How is that fostered by increasing restrictive regulations and demands on time?

Depending on your belief about the creation of leaders, it may be argued that they are one of the most finite resources in public education.  Unfortunately, in an effort to quantify the qualitative process of education; allocate dwindling funds; and turn education over to the political process, this resource is being at best underdeveloped and at worst squandered. 

How so you ask?  Make the comparison between leaders and managers and it becomes clear.

Whether you subscribe to Daniel Pink’s concept of “nature times nurture” or Susan Heathfield’s explanation that “the combination of skills, personality, and ambition essential to leadership are difficult to develop or exhibit,” it is clear that leaders are either born, emerge through a critical event, or they choose to develop into a leader through a combination of training, experience and determination.  The best case scenario is the focused acceptance and application of all three.

Managers on the other hand possess a skill set that while powerful, has a different focus and is easier to master.  They are focused on working in the present with infrequent change accomplished by extensive planning, solving problems through conflict management, and making quick decisions.  Successful managers also concentrate on building relationships by increasing their “people skills.”  Warren Bennis explained this further by saying; “Managers are people who do things right, while leaders are people who do the right thing.”

I would be remiss not to mention that there are some areas of overlap between the two terms.  While all leaders need a set of managerial skills to oversee the smooth operation of a classroom, school, or district; managers (by definition) lack the skill set to move a class, school, or district forward.

Now think about;
·         21st Century Skills
·         Common Core
·         College and Career Readiness Skills
·         New evaluation system
·         Literacy initiatives
·         New Science standards

That list contains nothing but future endeavors that need to be implemented through a keen understanding of and appreciation for student, teacher, and community needs.  It is a road fraught with potential pitfalls if it is not navigated by people who accept and respond to change based on their context.  Unfortunately, State and federal mandates are attempting to decontextualize the individual, locally impacted environment education has become.  It is because of this that we need positive pro-active individuals capable of moving districts and education forward in a continuous changing environment.

In short, while we need individuals capable of managing the paperwork tied to compliance; we are more in need of people capable of getting others to follow them or else there will be less people to keep paperwork on as the most valuable members (teachers) are either pushed out of or dissuaded from even entering this once noble profession.