mccoyderek

The Grey Area [Creating Options]

Several years ago, an assistant superintendent used this graphic in a talk with a room full of assistant principals to help explain some possible  motivations and actions in stakeholder decision making:

Her talk and this image made such an impression on me, I remember it vividly 10 years later.

The focus here is the grey area. The grey area represents many things. Pertinent to this talk, it represents the objectivity, point of view, and willingness of the involved parties to negotiate. When there is an issue on the table, school leaders are dealing with students and parents who want [or need] a particular outcome and that is the focus of the conversation. What can I do or say to get a particular outcome? What will it take to change from this outcome to another outcome?

The hierarchy in the graphic shows how perspectives typically change as the conversation moves up the ladder. Again, this is generally speaking. During this trainig, we were being instructed on a need to be willing to consider multiple options and not be limited to a few options. Increasing the number of options helps us with resolving conflicts.

Using this model can help us in our efforts in leading change in our schools. Change is difficult for some of our stakeholders and a ‘black/white’ viewpoint often accompanies a hesitance to change. Consider a recent conversation you may have had with a teacher about the need to change or adopt a different approach. Those conversations often involve not being able to see options or neither party really considering/creating different options. We’re more rigid when there are only two options ahead of us.

The school leader who can help the stakeholder realize that there are more options available that may be seen or discussed will be more successful in implementing change because he/she will do a better job with improving buy-in. We increase our buy-in and help build our vision more when others feel empowered to create choices.

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.

Edmodo for our Faculty Meeting

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This week a last minute inspiration led to a unique learning and sharing opportunity.

One of the topics I was finalizing for our Tuesday meeting was our discussion on Edmodo. Our district is an Edmodo district, we utilize it completely, from teacher-student instructional purposes, to communication efforts to curriculum planning and development.  My plan was to go over a couple of points:

  • making sure we are connected to Edmodo;
  • utilizing digital instrucitonal and curriculum benefits;
  • and connecting to our district and school curriculum departments efforts.

While planning this, I made had an inspiration/realization, ‘Why don’t I conduct the faculty meeting on Edmodo?’ What better way to let our teachers have digital learning experience and utilize the tool we need to get better at using.

I have only been using Edmodo for 3 months mainly to join groups and communities and post articles. In order to lead a discussion, I would have to utilize a lot features. My Math Coach gave me a crash course in some features. In a more perfect world, I would have thought of this and planned it out earlier. But given everything, I think we had a rich, innovative experience. For interactivity, I asked teachers to respond to posts and created pop quizzes and polls. At the end, I thanked my teachers for their participation and their understanding and patience with my experiment. They are a great group – with their participation I think we had a good learning experience.

 I didn’t realize how much fun this was going to be. I definitely plan on hosting another faculty meeting on Edmodo. Taking time to plan out the agenda for an online forum, tailored to Edmodo’s features is a learning experience everyone benefits from. This has also given me some urgency to follow through with utilizing a couple of other platforms, including flipping a meeting or two. This is a great way to break the monotony of the face-to-face and let teachers experience firsthand the importance of digitizing our efforts in reaching this digital generation.