As a conclusion to the month of July I have been in attendance at the AVID Summer Institute in San Antonio. I encourage you to check out #AVIDSI16 on Instagram and Twitter to see all of the excellent learning. As a campus principal I have been attending one of the many leadership strands designed to work with campus leaders wanting to take AVID schoolwide.
As a part of our study and activities today we read the following article, “Be a Cage-Buster” by Frederick M. Hess. You can read the article we read today by clicking here thanks to ASCD. You can also learn more about being a cage buster by clicking here. The basic premise of the cage busting approach is encouraging leaders to think differently and be willing to break out of the structural and procedural restrains that are holding them back from actually being able to coach, mentor, nurture, and inspire others the way they know they should.
The purpose of this blog post is not to analyze or break down the aspects of the article. Instead I am going to share the conversation that was had during a Socratic Seminar with the education leaders in my particular leadership strand.
At first there was hesitation with many of the members of the seminar about what they really wanted to share. As the proposed questions to discuss were read aloud to begin the seminar a common theme developed.
How do we as education leaders that belong to a large, established, traditional education system become true cage busters without losing our jobs?
The conversation began to take off as the participants began to share their fears and frustrations with the current restrains of the education system. Many of the leaders felt the constraints of having to meet the expectations of their supervisors and even though they knew something else could be done that would be better for kids they were afraid of repercussions from not meeting expectations. There were also many frustrations with the state assessment requirements and focus on “test prep instruction”. Unfortunately, these were the two most common themes throughout many of the comments from the various leaders.
It makes me quite sad to hear so many leaders that are at a conference hosted by an organization that promotes best practices to push student learning and success to the next level have fear in doing what is best for kids. They have this fear because someone “above them” in the hierarchical structure does not think the same way and/or because politicians and bureaucrats make education policy that is not focused on true student learning.
There are many excellent strategies and discussion points in the article and I am very interested in reading and learning more about being a cage buster. The main focus of cage busting is identifying a problem, name the problem, and work in specificity to solve the problem. As I reflect back on the conversation from today here is the problem that I feel needs to be solved.
How do we convince education leaders that they are able to become a cage buster and do what is best for kids even within the current constraints of the current education system?
I know that this problem has been around for decades and it is not special to education. What I do feel is special to education is that we have leaders today that recognize and are willing to focus their efforts on doing what is best for kids. Now we just need to cultivate and develop more leaders with a cage busting mentality so that we can create an education system that does what is best for kids.
I would love to hear your thoughts related to the questions posed here and how we can develop more cage busters in the education world.
Think. Achieve. Succeed.
Director of Instruction and Leadership Development
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are
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