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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Reforming Education in the US...What is the answer?

     Came across an interesting article in PDF format the other night.  Although it is no secret there are school systems throughout the world who are doing the right things and making quality strides at improving their educational systems, I think the model in which the country of Finland provides is intriguing and provides substantive evidence its model is effective.

    I think most educators across the board agree that by raising the level of respect for the teaching profession here in the US is a top priority.  The answer invariably comes back to raising teacher's salary's significantly to compare to that of other white collar workers and professions in business.  While I do think this would ultimately go along way to moving in that direction, it is unreasonable and not practical to think that US politicians and legislators will anytime soon reverse their current ideology and positions regarding the profession as demonstrated by their actions and lack of support in raising teacher's salaries to compare with their peers in similar industries.  In fact, many states have shown their continued propensity to continue to place education at the bottom of the list in funding and expenditure.  Even those states who are putting the vast majority of their budget toward education, data and statistics compiled still are not showing the achievement and success as rivaled by some of the other leading countries around the world.  Why?  To this end, I proclaim no knowledge of having the right answer(s).

     I do know that in the US, school districts continue to employ programs and policies that are supposedly termed as being best practices and current educational philosophy in the hopes that these are the right answers to move us in the right direction, or is it?  The model in which is currently being used in Finland, to me, shows promise.  Raising the standards for those who are entering the profession seem justifiable and a common sense approach in which I do not know whether it is realistic here in the US in regards to preparing and hiring only the best and brightest into the profession.  The standards in which they currently require would perhaps eliminate thousands of would be educators wanting to teach in the US.  Shortages across the nation are abundant already due to the lack of respect and pay that is being offered to those wanting to enter the profession.

     I do believe there is tremendous potential in allowing more local control of educating students at the Grassroots level, and allowing the teachers and administrators at this level to determine what should be learned and how it should be learned.  By raising the standards locally or by the individual states seems logical as a front end and rapid approach to raising the quality of the educational infrastructure of "a school" or school system.  The statistics are impressive as to what is taking place in Finland over the last quarter century, and does provide food for thought for those who are invested fully into education and the futures of our young people and society as a whole.

     Am I just the quintessential dreamer, or does some of this make blatantly simple and sound reasoning?  I look forward to opinons and thoughts as to these two reads.  Yours in the fight, and GODSPEED! 


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Finding Time to Lead?

     Whether a high school football coach, a small business owner, a public school building administrator or a Fortune 500 CEO this is intriguing.   After reading and reviewing Lisa's blog and all the links provided, I found the energy and motivation to offer my two cents on the topic.

     Experienced leaders appreciate and realize the importance and value of the people who work for them, and seeing to their sustained growth within their chosen field or profession..  It is their charge to encourage, facilitate, motivate and nurture their colleagues in scope and substance so as to empower them to self actualization within their respective jobs, organizations and careers.  Attaining this level of leadership competency is much easier said and written about than it is done in reality.  It is just as applicable with five members or 5000.  If, and when  this level can either be approached or arguably accomplished, people and employees subsequently find and  see themselves as invaluable members of the team or organization.  Again the old axiom is there is no "I" in team. Their desire and motivation to be productive and successful comes from within, in the realization of what they do is appreciated, acknowledged and respected.  In summary, leading and being part of a successful organization or school or business is being proactive and accepting the challenge that a leader exists merely to act as a servant.  It is their calling to provide a platform and venue for other leaders to emerge to a position or status above that in which has been achieved by the original leader.  The organization, just like that of a smooth running automobile engine, works finely-tuned and congruent with one another.

     In my personal and professional quest over the last thirty years to be a competent and high quality leader, I constantly struggle with one obstacle.  I would tend to think that most people in similar positions might be inclined to agree?  With so much to be done and accomplished in terms of developing your staff and employees from a human resources standpoint, I would be remiss in not confessing to have failed miserably.  Simply, but often times merely misunderstood, "time" is the obstacle standing in the way in developing people to their maximum potential and their leadership capabilities.  The daily grind of taking care of deadlines, matters, issues and paperwork, etc... I know has prevented me from establishing, nurturing and maximizing the relationships and connections I know are huge!  In some instances I worry they are desperately needed for the people within my teams and organizations to realize their integral and significant role within the team and ultimately grow.  I leave with the original question.  I sincerely appreciate and welcome any and all feedback on Lisa's article as well as my take.  Godspeed and PEACE!   

Sunday, October 16, 2011

How Should Teachers Engage Student's Imagination?

     In regards to this recent Wall Street Journal article the question brings to focus not "if"  but "how to?"  I concur with most of what Mr. Murdoch commentates about yet one of the underlying issues or problems is that school districts, and ultimately the leadership of said, are moving too slowly and are content with the status quo.
     Many school district leaders and superintendents are too out of touch with their roots.  Most have worked their way into their current positions by serving in the schools as teachers and ultimately at building level administration and leadership, to where they are now.  There are many district leaders who have spent little time in the classrooms within the trenches, and likewise have served far too little time in building level leadership roles to have a firm grasp and understanding of the complexities and dynamics of what goes on in individual classrooms.  I am not here writing to stereotype or make any sweeping generalizations about educational leaders across the board. 
     A classroom, and ultimately individual schools, are so diverse, multi-faceted and fast moving that it is extremely hard to explain and comprehend if you are not, and have not been in education for quite some time.  I think those who know education realize, and if not should, that schools are ultimately communities.  As such, the happiest and most productive communities are those in which there are high levels and degrees of communication, openness, diversity, respect and tolerance.  There is also cooperative spirits and cultures of collaboration and compassion amongst its members.  Consequently, you have successful schools in which there are high levels of student achievement and little disruption and discipline issues. 
     In retrospect, I believe with some reservation, that schools and classrooms are in fact not doing enough (or perhaps taking the right initiatives or approaches through digital and technological means)to stir and engage student's imagination, thought and critical thinking skills.  Some of this is in fact due to lack of resources, yet I believe equally at cause here is teachers apprehension at moving forward in their thinking (and yes their imagination) and while making concerted efforts to "learn" thus testing and hopefully increasing their technological acumen and aptitude.  Teachers, with the staunchest of building level administration support, should be open to taking risks and thinking outside the box in their lessons (planning and preparation).  At the forefront of their minds they need to be asking themselves what and how am I going to keep my students engaged and spur their imaginations in my approach and pedagogy,  day in and day out in trying to create the perfect lesson plan?
     I adamantly believe that technology will not replace teachers, but when will teachers replace in many instances archaic ways of methodology with their one size fits all to instruction versus attempting to reach and make successful each child sitting in their classroom?  The answer therefore in my mind is to begin to look deep within themselves and begin modeling what coaching and facilitating is, versus working much too hard as an instructor in the traditional sense in the classroom.  I am a firm believer, and I think most quality educators will agree,  the best teachers are those who work harder in their planning and preparation stages.  Is this a difficult and daunting task?  By all means it certainly is.  However, if we want to encourage and engage imagination on behalf of our students, should we as teachers not do so first? 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Why Don't People Matter?

     Recently came upon a tweet, and ultimately what I see as being a profound and far reaching blog, that made so much sense it reminded me of what not only I, but most people need all the time! Sadly however, it is so beyond the collective consciousness of most people that it makes too much sense to stop and think about it and put it into practice.
      I have known of the value and importance of speaking and listening to people with one's full attention for some time now, and likewise thanking people all the time. I continue to practice and reach toward perfecting these arguably instincts or skills if you will. Fortunately, in stumbling upon the aforementioned tweet and subsequent blog, this addendum to how I try and live both my personal and professional life will now be enhanced ten fold.
     Angela, I thank you for sharing with others. Beyond the two words "Thank You" it now seems to me by using the term "You Matter" can have an equally profound impact and effect on the quality of other people's lives as well. One comment shared in response to your article was equally profound as I continued to reflect on what all of the others said. This wise man suggested that humans perceive others as being either a problem, project or a person. These words do ring clearly in retrospect. Our goal as human beings should not be our concern for the superficial and perception of what others think of us but being true to ourselves in what we say and what we do regardless of the outcome or potential consequences. So why do we not practice what we preach ultimately is the definitive question, no? I can honestly say with all the hundreds, if not thousands of daily personal and professional interactions and conversations I have with all whom I encounter, I rarely ever here these two simple words uttered by anyone?

     As a coach, facilitator, father, husband, leader and professional, I think this will be part of my continued calling to help bring understanding and hope for all the people I regularly interact with each day within both the remote and happenstance, as well as part of my intimate and required forums; "You Matter!" and "Do you know and realize that You Matter?"... Beyond all my experiences, beyond all my travels, beyond all that I have witnessed and taken part in over the years, all the education that I have been exposed, these two words are prophetic in their potential to impact the quality of life for others while offering endless volumes to educate and empower one person, one at a time.
      One wise man put the complexities of life into a simple few cliches; be passionate about what it is you do, and have compassion for all others. Likewise, take care of little people, take care of the elderly and take care of all the animals.

     I suppose in contributing to a bolder and greater world for what little time we have left here on this huge earth, these few thoughts as expounded on above certainly couldn't hurt the ills and instability that seems to prevail within the context of the larger picture of all that goes round in the world...

Peace to all my brothers and sisters, and Godspeed