Do I have the passion?

First off, let me congratulate Chris Lehmann for a very successful conference at SLA. From all that I have seen and heard, the Educon2.0 was an incredible success. It is obvious that Chris had done a tremendous job of facilitating this learning experience for all who attended.  As Tim, 0ver at Assorted Stuff  posts,

I’ve never seen a school, where there is such a sense of community and collaboration. Students and staff at SLA really seem to be equal partners in the learning.

Indeed, this is a goal that schools all over are trying to achieve. With the focus on improving student learning being at the core of what schools are about, it seems that Chris and the teachers at SLA are on to something. It is obvious from the various reading that I’ve done, that those who attended were swept away. I mean, even ijohnpedersen commented that Once a year I get serious on my blog. Today felt right. Reflections on Educon Philly. http://snipurl.com/1yk4b 

As someone who couldn’t attend the conference, I am grateful to all those people who are sharing their notes and their links to the different sessions. It will take me time to sift through all these and digest the information. I agree with Tim about

However, more than anything else we need to continue and expand the discussions that began this weekend.

Improving education from the outside has never worked, not in my lifetime. The only way anything is going to change is by working from the inside.

We need to continue to expand the community of educators that was in Philadelphia this past weekend.

Exactly. We need to reach out to teachers and help them to begin using the tools.

However, this post is not about that. This post is about one administrator, who has for the last 15 years or so, has been working to bring technology into schools. This post is about how one administrator wants to reach out to other administrators and help them to understand how education can change, needs to change, as technology becomes a part of everyday life. It is about how one administrator continues to look for ways to network and make connections but, living the life of an administrator, doesn’t have the hours needed to do much more. You see, one other thing struck me in Tim’s post.

Another thing great schools need is a strong leader as principal -so I’m thinking maybe we could clone Chris. 🙂

Ok, so that’s not very practical. Instead we need to work to help our administrators understand that more trust in our kids and giving them more control over their own education can actually improve their learning. Test scores, too.

Then one of the commentors left this comment-

I couldn’t agree more, and it became painfully clear today as we held the second of three faculty interviews for a new lower division principal at my school. I left thinking, “where’s the passion?” Chris definitely holds the patent on passion in administrators.

First, I have no doubt that this wasn’t aimed at all administrators  but it did grate me some.  Oh well. Move on and I probably would have but I kept on reading through my RSS feed and came across Scott McLeod’s post over at Dangerously Irrevevant that was a follow-up to an earlier post. Now, Scott links to his earlier post, a follow-up post by Pete Reilly and Others who have commented. He finishes by saying:

We need to teach administrators about this stuff. Take a post like mine that gets some play (and also is of interest to school leaders) and show them how this works. Show them that the learning is in the dialogue and the interplay of ideas and that it’s not difficult to do. They need help seeing the power and potential. Lend a hand, won’t you?

As one administrator who’s working his tale off and trying to make a difference, I’m kind of deflated at the moment, to be honest. I don’t have a hope of being able to hold a conference or be able to do national presentations about technology and the power it holds for administrators. Heck, I don’t even get the chance with the administrators in my own division.  I might get a crack to actually do a small presentation at a small conference later this year, if my proposal is approved. I work pretty much in isolation, trying to gain insights and support from my small network. I’m trying to change things in my own school to make technology more accessible but am not always able to make headway. I’ve shared my own teaching experiences using technology, everything from using gliffy and bubbl.us to creating podcasts using audacity and trying out some of the online video editing software to sharing the use of social bookmarking tools, blogging and RSS readers. I worked to try to begin a ning group specifically geared to administrators and technology use but it’s not getting the response that I expected even once I threw it out to my twitter network.

Do I have the passion? I think so. But right now my passion is really burning wondering what a guy has to do to get someone to listen. Okay, maybe that isn’t passion but it’s still burning.  Most administrators I know are working in a situation where they have way too much on their desks. They are trying to do things that are being dictated from above while being pushed by the teachers within their own buildings, often with more than one competing agenda. Heck, I think technology is extremely important but I don’t have the time to always be up on what’s happening on Twitter or seeing who’s leading on twitdir. In fact, I’ve grown to really like Pownce because I can see it having some real use for my staff and even for students in particular instances.

All-in-all, I’m pretty frustrated with all this talk about administrators being the ones who are highlighted for needing help. In my experience, they are only a part of the puzzle. In fact, it is just as important to bring all the stakeholders online with this need for change. Policy and focus need to support the actions of technology use so that schools can move from casual use to assimilation where the technology no longer has that “wow” factor but is just part of the learning environment. This requires more than just getting administrators on board. It requires a reshaping of culture in order to see that learning does not span certain a period of time but is, in fact, a lifelong pursuit that begins at birth and continues until death.

Yes, I have a passion – for doing what is best for the students that come into the school each day. Sometimes, I have no time to even think about technology with all the meetings or dealings with students who are struggling or who are mad or bullied or …. and never mind those who don’t want to be in the building. Then there are parents who don’t agree with how we do things or how I do things. Like most public school administrators, I deal with whomever comes through the doors and whatever baggage they are carrying and try to make things work for them. If passion was all it took to get things done, I’d have accomplished much more in my time as principal. But it takes much, much more.

For those who are serious about wanting to have their administrators become better engaged with technology, send them over to the ning. I’m hoping it’s a place to share and grow as learners. My experience is that, like teachers, administrators listen to other administrators. They don’t have to do more than just look around but I’m hoping to bring together a collection of what I’ve gleaned over the past few years in regards to technology, learning and leading. Actually, I’m hoping to have others contribute – my stuff won’t take much space.  

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3 responses

  1. I’d suggest reading material that you’ve probably already read:

    “Improving Schools from Within” by Roland Barth.

    It deals with the benefits of gathering area principals and administrators, specifically in the Boston metropolitan area, if I remember correctly.

    Collegiality and cooperation are tenets of Barth’s approach. Of course, the administrators involved started off skeptical and largely unwilling to cooperate because of the stresses and pressures and responsibilities already in place.

    I mention this because it sounds exactly like what you’re trying to get going, here. If, on the off-chance you haven’t read it, you should. It isn’t especially specific, but it’s still a reasonably good read along these lines.

    http://awaitingtenure.wordpress.com/

  2. I attended a session at Educon that might be of interest to you by Kevin Jarrett and Sylvia Martinez about the “future search” process, which brings people together to talk about the future of their school.

    You may already be familiar with it? Anyway, the author, Sandra Janoff, was at the session, and she shared an acronym for the people needed to be present when these kinds of changes are discussed–

    “AREIN” –meaning those with authority, resources, expertise, information, and need–should “be in the room” for the conversations.

    That was helpful to think about, and the process looks like from first glance an excellent way to systematically “take time away” to discuss and plan change.

    I think you are right that it has to come from many sources and many directions, but also needs to be focused to really be significant.

    But I think sometimes we forget that the messages each one of us carry back to our districts does make a difference. Maybe sometimes it is bit by bit, but just think if we weren’t present? Or weren’t sharing our passions? What would our district be lacking?

    And I think Educon was helpful to me because we all need time to refill our own wells. We have to remember to do that, (not my strength!) so that we can reinvigorate our own campuses! We have to make time to refuel ourselves.

  3. Kelly, change is hard. That’s why we see so little of it in education (and other places). There’s no solution except to keep fighting the good fight (remember that you have a lot of supporters!) or leave for a more change-ready organization. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of any help.

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