Saturday, April 2, 2011

Taking off the kid gloves... What do you think?

I am about to finish my third year at Belmont Hill School. It has been a great and productive three years. I do see that the glass is more than half full, but right now I'm also looking at the part that is empty. Belmont Hill is an amazing place with a motivated and talented faculty. I've spent the last three years getting to know everyone and building trust. I've worked with the most technology enthusiastic and even had success with some of my more resistant colleagues. But there is still so much to do.

The thing is, I've done three years in one place before. I've come in and shaken things up. I've won over the naysayers. But I've never stayed for the fourth year. The next steps are new to me. Today I've been thinking that this is the time for the kid gloves have to come off. I have to start pushing us just that much harder to the bigger changes, the places where we have to give some things up to move ahead.

At the end of the year I always give a presentation to the faculty. In the past my presentations have been in praise of all that we have done over the last year. I'm starting to think that this year I might do this differently. We have accomplished a lot this year, but I might need to throw down a challenge and force people to face up to where we need to go.

What do you all think? Is this too harsh? Should I save this for the fall? Or would it be better to get people thinking as they start their summer? I would love some advice on this one. Let me know what you think.

Thanks in advance!


paul bogush said...

There was once a man walking down the street. Wind said to the sun, "I bet you that I can get that man to take off his jacket." The sun was up for the challenge and agreed to the bet. The wind went first and was taking no risks, he unleashed the most terrific gale that he could directed at the man, it hit the man with a force so strong that it nearly knocked him over. The man grabbed at his jacket and pulled it tight around him to protect himself from the ferocity of the wind. Finally the wind gave up. It stopped blowing, and the man relaxed and went upon his way down the road. The sun smiled at the wind, and then proceeded to aim the most beautiful ray of sunshine down upon the man...
You can probably figure out the rest.

Sometime we take off the kid gloves because it makes us feel good, not our audience. Change is slow Liz. It took something like more than 50 years for chalkboards to be accepted. If you knew you were going to be there for ten more years, and each year you were able to make one small change so that in 1o years you be where you want to, what would that change be for next year? Just one small change? Maybe praise just that one single change that they made this year, and then focus on just one area of change--one single thing for next year. Imagine what would be happening if they made that one change, and then give the presentation as if they had. So not a presentation on please make the change, but here is what will happen if you make this one change.

BGorrill said...

I think you need to lay out what more is possible for the faculty. I would assume that the steps some have taken are viewed as major steps by them and you are viewing them as fairly small when viewed through what you know is possible. Don't let them be happy with how far they have come, show them how far you hope they will move and because of the steps they have taken how you know it is possible.

Do it this Spring some might sign up for a couple of the great conferences happening in Boston this summer.

Donna said...

Every school is different but most faculties, by this time of the year, are tired,overworked and trudging to the finish line. They are hard to inspire. And I find our faculty (and myself) very sensitive to criticism of any kind right now.

Better tactic might be to share professional development opportunities available for the summer, mobile technology available to borrow for the summer, books to read about 21st century skills and education. That's a more upbeat approach and puts tech on the teachers' radar.

Liz B Davis said...

O.K. I'm getting the message. Thanks for bringing me back to reality. I guess I'm just frustrated and need to concentrate more on the positive than on the negative. But I do want to try to push a little more than I have in the past.

I'm also thinking about encouraging my faculty to find a PLN this summer. I've done some work there, but not much. That might be a way to get them thinking bigger picture for when they return.

Paul - Too funny about my last post and this one. Great irony there. I'm not trying to beat people up, just push a little harder.

BGorril - Yes I think it is essential that I am specific about ways they can push themselves and what we might do to go further than we have.

Donna - Good point about being sensitive at this time of year.

Thanks everyone for your input. I greatly appreciate it.

SheilaCNJ said...

Summer is a great time to find a PLN. I think encouraging your teachers may be more effective than challenging them.

Unknown said...

Liz, I understand your wish to challenge folks a bit. I started a mini-course (5 sessions) with a group of teachers & administrators last month with the Ken Robinson RSA on Changing Paradigms and the silence in the room was a little scary. Later I had many comments of appreciation that I put such well-stated concerns out there. We are fortunate as we start the summer with a 3 day institute for 20-30 teachers planning for upleveling their teaching and learning with technology rolled in as a tool for differentiation, essential learning and engagement. That time frame seems to be a good one as we then follow up in the fall. I don't know what you have for options, but it has been helpful for us to get groups of teachers for a series of sessions and then they provide the impetus for others as they share what they have learned. Good luck! They're lucky to have you.

Chelsea said...

Hi again!

I think that you ought to push everyone further and try to achieve even better things, but like someone said above, perhaps at the end of the spring term isn't the best idea; teachers are tired and worn out by now. However, I think it's great you want the school to improve even more, but perhaps don't push for all of the change to happen at once. It might be easier for others to adjust and grasp it.

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Christine Archer said...

Hi Liz,
I'm intrigued by your "end of the year" presentation. Any chance you could share more specifics?

Liz B Davis said...

We have 4 days of faculty meetings at the end of the year and I usually have about 45 minutes to talk to the faculty. In the past I have recounted our accomplishments.

John Woodring said...

Last summer I did a digital portfolio workshop for our district. For the first time I expected teachers to have a basic understanding of how computers and the Internet worked. One teacher told me later that it was the first time she was pushed outside of her comfort zone and was angry at first. By the end of the day she realized if she did not get pushed she would never grow as a teacher. said...

Ask the teachers you trust the most what they would like to see happen next year. Spend time on identifying the one or two goals you want to work on for yourself. Develop a core group that can carry on if you are not there and build PLN group that can grow to a tipping point.

Dr. Stephen J. Krune III said...

Interesting post - what exactly are you responsibilities and day-to-day operations in your role as a Director of Academic Technology?

Really interested,

Dr. Stephen J. Krune III

Detroit Sports Dork said...

I'm guessing that after three years you have built up a strong reservoir of trust. I don't think you should take end of the year "tired" into account. When I laid down some challenges at the beginning of this school year it was deemed bad timing by many because they were so busy with the start of school. (We teachers as a rule act pretty put upon) I believe in the watering the flowers approach, but I also think you have to take a hard yank at the weeds from time to time. Change is hard and I think some tough love is warranted from time to time if you have the cred.

JeanTower said...

Perhaps you could combine your presentation with a faculty activity. In a NEASC accreditation report, there are commendations and recommendations in every category. Maybe you could format your presentation to have both elements - something like here are our wonderful accomplishments from 2010/2011, and then here are some ways we might push ourselves further in 2011/2012 - and here you could show the top 3 or 4 ways people might choose to push ahead.

Then, as an activity, you can ask everyone to reflect and name "two stars and a wish"- the stars are things they are proud of having accomplished this year and the wish is a challenge they would like to take on. You could have them share in small groups and then have a few people share out to the entire faculty. It may inspire some to take those next steps, and should work without a heavy hammer. Good luck.