mccoyderek

The Balance

‘Do we focus on fine tuning past traditions or work implementing new innovations/processes?’

This was the sum up of a conversation I was part of with my assistant principals.  As a fairly new administrative team we have pretty frequent conversations covering a variety of topics. My two APs are both in their second year and highly competent, productive administrators. They were already in place when I started. I’m very fortunate that we have parallel priorities and we all share the same top priorities: high expectations for staff and students and a focus on instruction that will be relevant and beneficial for all students.

Benefits of fine tuning past traditions
Part of our conversation focused on some recent conversations we all have had with several staff members about ‘how things have been done.’ We all can relate to these talks. As school leaders, we have to critically evaluate the value of maintaining a practice or determine is it time to abandon. With this we run the risk of alienating some stakeholders, staff, community, students, who are very invested in a tradition. On the flip side, it is a great opportunity to solidify relations with stakeholders and show everyone the value we, as school leaders, place in their feelings, concerns and past work.

Diving into innovation
Particular to this conversation, the topic of innovation not only involved instructional practice but how  methods in internal processes are conducted. This includes weekly newsletters, staff call outs, lesson plan submission and a several other school functions. Changing our approach to these things will definitely be serious adjustments for several stakeholders but it makes what we do relevant. There is inherent value in bringing practices and operations into the 21st century.

My sum up involved one of my favorite takeaways from Jim Collins. I think school leaders have to maintain a widened perspective. The ‘either/or’ approach to solutions is where we marginalize stakeholders and minimize opportunities for improvement. The ‘and’ solution allows us to respect the work that has been done and needs doing. The thing that makes us uncomfortable about the ‘and’ solution is that we can’t be formulaic about implementing it. For this situation, how do we know when to put tradition above innovation or vice versa? Knowing ourselves [as leaders], knowing our schools and staff and community all play apart. Being new to my building, I try to wrap in different viewpoints that I think have unique and significant value add potential.

Balancing the approach is what helps schools move forward and ensuring we are really serving kids. It truly is my desire that everyone believe I am vested in moving forward and honoring tradition.

Connecting with Community – 21st Resources

I’ve been an administrator in several districts. One of the many resources used to connect and share information with our parents and community is the call out system. Call out systems are standard protocol in school districts. Its a great way to make sure our stakeholders are kept current on school happenings using a popular medium.

My current district uses a connection system called ParentLink. I expected this to be like most of the other systems I’ve used before with a lot of similar features. During the training, that’s how it started to look but there is one great feature ParentLink has that has made a world of difference in use and implementation – an app!

I use this app on my Droid phone and iPad regularly. The app makes a world of difference. For other call out systems, I’ve had to use a computer in tandem with a phone to send a message out. These were simple combinations – use the computer to select the delivery time and audience and the phone to record the message. The app makes is this a lot easier by making this a one stop shop. From my phone or iPad, I can record a message, select and audience and delivery time. The interface makes this an easy process as well.

Digital Divide Experience

I love this app! Compared to earlier systems, the apps really make our job easy. I communicate this to my APs regularly. Its funny to see our different approaches and enthusiasm about this tool though. They are both beginning their great careers and haven’t had years of experience with the previous systems so their appreciation of these new features is not as full as mine. To them, its just another app or tool they have on their phone or iPad to use. They have learned it and know how to use it and make call outs when they have to.  I almost view this as a liberating tool and enjoy the new freedom it provides.

Despite our different enthusiasm levels, its exciting to see that companies are responsive to the needs of school systems.  I applaud efforts companies make to be provide 21st solutions and resources to reflect changing needs. And .., its fun to play with apps ; )