Monday, 21 July 2014

Leadership or followship?

Leadership or followship?

One of the provisions of our new contract creates new department roles within each building. These positions have responsibilities that are different from department leaders, but they are paid a stipend comprable to department leaders, in that the people focus on curriculum alignment, while department leaders deal with the budget stuff. I am writing about these curriculum leadership positions, of course, because I have issues. I've been grappling with the rightness or wrongness of my thinking for several weeks now, and am still at odds. Maybe I simply have a bad case of sour grapes, but I'm going to write about it anyway.

First, I don't think that our district needs more management-type positions, even if they are within the building. We are already too top-heavy. One of the big problems with the district is that quite often the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. One department will tell teachers to do one thing, while another department will tell us to do another. Perhaps the positions are intended to catch these inconsistencies, but it would seem to me that streamlining the administration would be a better strategy.

Another thing that irks me is that during contract negotiations, Superintendent often made negative reference to the enormous budget dedicated to teacher salaries. So I cannot help but ask, if our district is in a crisis, why are we adding to that cost with more management stipends? Perhaps I'm just stupid, but I cannot fathom exactly how these new roles are going to benefit those of us in the classroom. Perhaps these leaders are supposed to serve as vessels of content-area growth and development. Perhaps the intention is for them to lead in moments of collaboration. Perhaps they will enhance our knowledge of our content areas.

Perhaps I would have more buy in were it not for one other observation that smacks me in the face.

Do these leaders in fact support teachers in the classroom or serve as watchdogs for principals? One would think that the qualifications for these new leadership positions would include maybe an advanced degree, many years of classroom experience or exemplary classroom management style. Did Principal look at any of those things to help her decide who were the best teachers for the position? Not exactly. Out of the five new leaders in my building, only one of these teachers has an advanced degree. Only one teacher has more than ten years experience, and two have less than four years experience. I'm not certain with how the other teachers sort within their departments, but I know that the teacher from my department not only has discipline problems in her classroom, but with regards to the district and area assessments, her kids consistently score lowest among teachers in the department --they do, however, walk away with the highest grades.

While I am skeptical, I will say something positive about all five curriculum leaders: They are very nice people, and I hate to criticize them at all.

There is one other detail that I cannot help noticing. Only two of these teachers pay union dues.

When I think about it, this is my big beef: While the union negotiated this contract that created these positions, it sure seems like the fruits of this contract are being doled out to individuals who never seemed to support the negotiations process to begin with.

But like I started out saying, I don't really agree with this provision of the contract to begin with.

You tell me, am I chewing on beef or sour grapes?

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Imagine an Education Nation: Six Leading Edges

The most important step in making an Education Nation a reality is not a greater investment of dollars, but a greater understanding of what this new educational system should look like. It will require bringing the many "islands of excellence" featured on to the center of this nation, moving the edges of change to the middle.

So this book is my effort to "curate" the marvelous collection of films, articles, and multimedia features from the past few years. I've organized this collection according to what I see as the six "edges" of innovations redefining schools, teaching, and learning. They are:
1. The Thinking Edge Changing our thinking about teaching and learning and calling a truce to the wasteful education wars that pit one school of thought against another -- from the reading wars of phonics skills vs. "whole language" and children's literature, to the debate over 21st Century skills vs. "core curriculum." Just as hybrid vehicles are an important solution for our environment, hybrid thinking -- taking the best of differing approaches -- will improve our schools.

2. The Edge of Curriculum All around the country, schools and districts, as well as afterschool programs, are redefining what is taught and how it's assessed. Importantly, through project-based learning, creative educators are relating curricula to students' lives, so their students never ask the most frequently asked question in most schools: "Why do we need to learn this?"

3. The Technology Edge From the Internet to mobile devices, online curricula and courses, technology-based content, platforms, and experiences are enabling students to learn more, earlier. And helping teachers make the learning process more visible to themselves, their students, and parents.

4. The Edge of Time and Place Learning can now truly be 24/7/365 rather than limited to what happens in a classroom 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, 31 weeks a year. As my last blog post described, in many places around the country, the summer months are becoming the "third semester," advancing, rather than delaying, student learning, especially for lower-income families who cannot afford the camps, travel, and enrichment activities other parents can.

5. The Co-Teaching Edge Rather than the traditional model of one teacher in a room with 30 students, smart teachers are involving a team of "co-educators" in the learning of students, from parents -- a child's first and most important teacher -- to other teachers and content experts in the community and online.

6. The Youth Edge Today's youth are becoming the first generation to carry powerful mobile devices wherever they go. They are used to instant access to information and their entire social network. They learn in a fundamentally different way than we over-40s did (and certainly those of us way-over-40) and they are teaching us how to restructure this new educational system.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012


Education in its broadest, general sense is the means through which the aims and habits of a group of people lives on from one generation to the next. Generally, it occurs through any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts. In its narrow, technical sense, education is the formal process by which society deliberately transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills, customs and values from one generation to another, e.g. instruction in schools.

A right to education has been created and recognized by some jurisdictions: Since 1952, Article 2 of the first Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights obliges all signatory parties to guarantee the right to education. At the global level, the United Nations' International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966 guarantees this right under its Article 13.

Thursday, 18 August 2011


Adansonias reach heights of 5 to 30 metres (16 to 98 ft) and have trunk diameters of 7 to 11 metres (23 to 36 ft). Glencoe Baobab - an African Baobab specimen in Limpopo Province, South Africa, often considered the largest example alive, up to recent times had a circumference of 47 metres (154 ft). Its diameter is estimated at about 15.9 metres (52 ft). Recently the tree split up into two parts and it is possible that the stoutest tree now is Sunland Baobab, also in South Africa. Diameter of this tree is 10.64 m, approximate circumference - 33.4 metres.

Some baobabs are reputed to be many thousands of years old, which is difficult to verify as the wood does not produce annual growth rings, though radiocarbon dating may be able to provide age data.