Leadership Day 2010

leadership_badgeScott McLeod, co-creator of the “Did You Know? (Shift Happens)” video, has made a call for people to blog today for what he calls Leadership Day 2010 (Click here to view the entire post).

In his post, McLeod states, “Many of our school leaders (principals, superintendents, central office administrators) need help when it comes to digital technologies.” So the purpose of Leadership Day 2010 is to create a collection of blog posts to help leaders in their learning journey. McLeod will sort through and post some of the submissions in an effort to share stories of success, offer suggestions and chart courses of action.

As any good teacher does, McLeod gives us plenty of questions to ponder and discussion starters and prompts to help us organize our thoughts. As he often says, “If the leaders don’t get it, it isn’t going to happen.”

I used to buy into that thought completely. I was convinced that if the leaders were not on board with how the whole learning landscape has changed, that our schools would not be able to shift our focus and practices. Now I view this premise more as an excuse. I have come to believe that “it” is so big, so complex, so multidimensional that “it” is nearly impossible to define. Basically what I am saying is that “it” simply means different things to different people.

There are leaders who truly believe they understand “it.” The problem comes when we try to define and articulate “it.” I have seen this over and over again and I am sure you have, too. One leader confidently states that “we are a model of 21st century teaching and learning” as someone else in the organization shakes their head in disbelief. I believe this discrepancy arises because the leader’s definition is very limited – defined by what he has viewed or learned so far. It is not that this leader is necessarily wrong, it is just that his view is limited – again simply limited by what he knows and understands.

Think of this like an analogy to the blinders on a racehorse. The complete visual spectrum is really out there (all that can happen with teaching and learning in our schools) but because of the blinders the horse (leader) can only see a slice, or narrow view of the complete landscape. But you say, “Just turn your head and you can see more!” This is true, but just as the horse is trained and guided to keep his focus on what is front of him, the leader is often programmed to “stay the course.”

McLeod also reminds us that it is not all their fault. Like many of us who were schooled in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, school leaders were not taught to teach, learn or administrate with the tools and networking capabilities we have today. It is moving fast, we are all overwhelmed and it is a constant struggle to keep up with all the information that is coming our way. I know it is an easy cliché, but we have an obligation as teachers to do what is best for our students and a big part of this involves helping our leaders understand that our schools need to change. And they need to change now!

When I think about how much really does need to change, I often suffer a form of paralysis through analysis. I am not naive enough to think that I can completely transform the way our school district and community views educational practices all by myself.

So my focus has to be on helping one teacher at a time realize the new and exciting possibilities of a digitally networked classroom. My focus has to be on helping one parent at a time understand how they can support teachers and be an active partner as we begin to transform our schools for the 21st century. My focus has to be on helping one administrator at a time know that when they lead by doing (by becoming tech-savvy themselves) they will become more effective leaders in their organization. And most importantly, I will continue to focus on my elementary students and help them learn early on that blinders are only for horses.

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