Sustainable Leadership in Times of Great Change: A Summary of Day 3

June 25th, 2010 by Brian Leave a reply »

I am home and on my third set of McDoubles for the week. That can’t be good. The food at the conference was great and then for dinner each night I would maintain my artificial flavorings habit. Not sustainable in any definition of the word. This week shall entail celery for each meal.

I’d like to once again thank the AZ K-12 Center for a great conference. It is very refreshing to be surrounded by 138 of the best professionals in the state and to realize that I’m not crazy for wanting to improve my practice. If this is the first article you’ve seen from the conference, make sure to check out day one and day two for context.

Consistency. This is the word that kept running through my brain today. We heard from Ùrsula Casanova, author of Sí Se Puede. She brought us a case study of Cibola High School where 93% of the kids graduate and, of that number, 88% go on to a two- or four-year college/university. So, how do they do it?

Consistency. When the school started, Jon Walk was given the opportunity to travel and recruit teachers that adopted his high expectation – every student that graduates from Cibola should be able to go to college. He also was given time and resources to research how to make that happen.

One example of their consistency is their “35 minute rule”. If we truly value classroom instruction so much, why do we interrupt it so frequently? Jon Ward’s idea was to not have any interruptions to the first 35 minutes of a class period. That allowed the teacher to get into the flow of the lesson and for the students to retain focus.

Another big interrupter is the PA system. To me, it resembles the brain buzzer in Harrison Bergeron – I start to get a thought and then BLAM – I forget where I’m at. Cibola reserves it for the morning welcome and that’s it.

Consistency is something that we can control. We can’t always control what comes from higher-ranking government officials (although we can vote, right? Let’s not forget that option.) but we can control our consistency. Many of our students exist in flux and they need someone who can be their constant (to quote our principal and LOST).

We’re already doing many of the things Cibola does. Our counselors go the elementary schools and emphasize the high expectations we have for our students. We do have programs in place to keep students in class and discourage tardiness. Our counselors meet with small groups of our students. But, like anything, we as a campus need to still grow in our profession. What we can’t do, though, is adopt a school’s end product without looking at the twelve years worth of work that produced that end product.

We closed out the day with our stories. Our butterfly metaphor, where the tendency of visions is to flit off and avoid consistency, was well-received. Many of the other educators could relate. Instead of it just getting a “Oh, that’s nice” reaction, we received so much feedback to take to our campus. That’s a result of the sharing structure established by AZ K-12 during the event.

Next summer’s conference will hopefully feature Dennis Shirley and his co-author, Andy Hargreaves. They’ve been investigating social capital and have tons to share.

On the topic of networks, I’ve joined shelfari. My profile is , surprisingly enough. Check it out to see my bookshelf.

Well, my virtual bookshelf. I have tons of real bookshelves.

Also of note – Dennis Shirley will be addressing Capitol Hill on Tuesday to recommend the Fourth Way as a framework for reform.

The conference was emceed by Penny Kotterman. Normally I don’t voice my opinion for who people should vote for, yet knowing that Penny is an educator and is trusted by the AZ K-12 Center wins her my vote. The mind boggles to think what it would look like to have a skilled, experienced teacher as the Superintendent of Schools.


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