Another school year is upon us. I hope you have recharged your batteries and are ready to shape the leaders of tomorrow. Since the inception of Core 4 All in 2010, we have dedicated our mission to helping you not only see the value in the Common Core State Standards and how it can increase student achievement, but also provide you with a framework to develop curriculum at the classroom, department and school levels. But how do we as educators take the next step and truly implement the Common Core and make it the driving force in curriculum?
I am fortunate to work for a principal who values change. Change to improve student achievement. Change to help teachers teach better. Change to help administrators lead better. Two months ago she handed out two books for us to read over the summer as we work towards building a professional learning community: Getting Started, by Eaker, DuFour and DuFour, and The Collaborative Administrator, published by Solution Tree. Each of these books provided me with a better grasp of creating professional learning teams for my own department. But, she recently handed us a third book, Change is Good…You Go First, by Mac Anderson and Tom Feltenstein, that has inspired me to reflect upon how I lead my staff. It is a quick read, but packed with information. As the authors write,
…this book is about ideas to inspire, to motivate, and to
Forget for Success
Forget for Success is a chapter that has stuck with me. This chapter is a synthesis of a book with the same title by Eric Harvey and Steve Ventura. They talk about how our brains are like closets and over time they fill up. How true! As educators, we like to accumulate stuff; old lesson plans, supplemental materials, overheads. How many file cabinets do you have that are filled with stuff that you haven’t used in years? “You never know if I need this down the road”, is the teacher battle cry. This year, it is time to throw away those lesson plans on yellow-tinted paper. No you will not need anything from your 3 1/2 floppy discs and you are not going to show any transparencies.
Here is my rule of thumb: If you haven’t used it in 2 years, get rid of it!
In order for the Common Core to make the positive impact on student achievement, we must clean out the file cabinets. Better yet, not only clean out the cabinets, downsize as well. A 21st century educator does not have old, out-dated materials. A 21st educator focuses on skills, measures those skills with sound assessments, engages students with relevant content, and uses instructional activities that promote achievement.
An Interview With A Principal
As a mentioned, I have a great boss. So, I wanted to pick her brain about change. Change does not come easy, working with over 200 staff members in a suburban high school setting. But she knows that we all can do better. Both our students and staff have the capacity to improve. It is through systemic change that this can come to realization. So I asked her some questions.
What’s the most important factor a principal should consider when trying to make school-wide change?
The most important thing to consider is what kind of impact the change is going to have on the students. Change needs to benefit learning, teaching and the school community. Time is the second most important factor. You cannot expect to make rapid change in a school. The faster you go, the less likely the change will be lasting.
What’s the most common mistake a principal makes trying to initiate a school-wide change?
One of the biggest mistakes is trying to go too fast. It takes a considerable amount of time to research what is best, to inform staff and students to get them to understand and embrace the change, and it takes time to implement change effectively. Pushing change from the “top down” is also a common mistake. Telling people what changes to they need to make without their input is a huge mistake. They need to “discover” what needs to change and have a part in making the changes.
Any last words of advice for principals who want to initiate change?
Make sure you have key players involved in making change. Get the administrative staff to understand the need for change, and get teacher leaders involved right from the start with planning and brainstorming the changes. Set some non-negotiables in terms of student and teacher learning, but then step back and let others create the changes to fit their ideas as well as your ideas in terms of what is best for the students and the school as a whole. Have a timeline in mind, but do not hold fast and hard to that timeline. If it takes longer than you thought (and it will), be patient! Expect some roadblocks to be in the way, and help others get over those hurdles. Celebrate successes along the way and reward people for their hard work and diligence. Be prepared to provide training for any new initiative, and make sure that training is an effective use of teacher time. The longer you take to plan and create the changes, the more lasting they will be.
I thank Dr. Audrey Haugan for her time. Over the last two years, our school has been involved with a major change in restructuring curriculum around standards and skills. We have experienced growing pains over these last two years, but have also seen great gains in teacher-leadership and collaboration. These are exciting times in education. With positive change, we can help develop our leaders of tomorrow.
Homework assignment (I hear the groans already):
What will you do to help make change happen this school year ?
How is your school making change?
Share our blog with your colleagues.
Core 4 All wishes you a great 2011-2012 school year.