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.
I hope that this summer you were able to take the time to get in touch with your younger self. I believe that as adults it is vital to our happiness and stability to remember what it is like to be a kid and the best way to do that is to take time to do just that, go be a kid again. Kevin Carroll (@kckatalyst)has made a huge impact on my thinking related to the importance of never losing the desire to go play.
Kevin does not know it but he and I have a connection through a common person and this person unknowingly introduced me to Kevin’s approach to life. Although at different times, Kevin and I were mentored by Randy Matthews as student athletic trainers at Angelo State University. Kevin had already graduated and was working for the Philadelphia 76ers when I arrived to ASU but Kevin’s story was still a part of the athletic training room. Randy would share Kevin stories and every now and then there would be a phone call between Kevin and Randy. Randy would laugh and share the stories that Kevin told and then he would talk about how proud he was of Kevin.
Eventually I met Kevin when he came to Texas in the early 2000’s to share his story and his new life role as a Katalyst. You need to understand that Kevin’s approach to life was so different that he was recruited from the Philadelphia 76ers for a job that did not even exist yet. Kevin wrote his own job description with Nike. I encourage you to learn more about his story and about his inspiration by looking here and by listening to this podcast with Kevin posted on April 7, 2016.
The reason I am sharing the back story about Kevin is so that you better understand my thinking. You see, ever since I met and listened to Kevin I have always been reminded to stay in touch with my inner child. I have always been reminded of the importance of play.
As an educator I believe it is important to stay in touch with being a kid because it keeps you grounded on your student’s perspectives. Isn’t that what we are doing this for, to help kids? How better to help kids than to remember their perspectives through staying in touch with what it means to be a kid? How they think, what is important to them, how the world looks through their eyes.
There is always time for you to go ride a bike, go for a walk, play in the sprinkler, look up at the clouds and decide what animals and creatures you see, or just sit and get lost in your thoughts for a while. Don’t forget to look up at the stars and wonder about just how big the universe really is and what will you do to make an impact. By doing these things you will make a positive impact each day for yourself and that in turn will make a positive impact for the students you serve.
Connect with what matters.
Take a moment to watch this video. There is a segment where he discusses uncomfortable vs hard in the first 5 minutes.
Think about that difference for you and your current professional situation. Is change knocking on your door in your current professional situation? How do you feel about that change? Are you open to the change? Why or why not?
Change is not easy. I am not stating that change is easy. What I am asking you to do is to put that change into the lens of uncomfortable vs. hard. Think about the change that is on your doorstep. Is it hard or just uncomfortable? Be honest with yourself.
Lean into the discomfort of change. That is a phrase that I hear often from my friend Mark McCord @MarkMcCord10 Change is uncomfortable. Think about what is really hard in life. I challenge you to keep your mindset about change in perspective of uncomfortable vs hard. Lean into the discomfort about change. You will be surprised at what you will learn about yourself and others when you keep the appropriate mindset.
I would love to hear your thoughts about Uncomfortable vs hard. Please feel free to leave your thoughts below.
Think. Achieve. Succeed.
"Lean into the discomfort" ~Mark McCord
About this time each year my wife and I embark on some type of a journey. Our journey allows us to get away from town for a few days and requires us to take a break from our everyday life. This year our journey took us up into the rocky mountains of Colorado. As you can imagine there are many adventures to be had in the rocky mountains. The adventure I am going to share with you here happened by accident.
No not that kind of accident. More of a happy accident. Amanda and I were finishing up a hike with our dog on the continental divide trail when we came across a young lady that had just dismounted her bike at the sign marking the continental divide.
Sidebar: Off an on during our time in the rockies we had seen cyclist churning their legs fiercely up and down the different mountain roads. Both Amanda and I were amazed at their determination and touch of craziness to ride a bike on a mountain highway with thousands of feet in elevation changes. Some of these roads would make a mountain goat blink and these cyclists are on their bikes with vehicles passing just inches from them while on a mountain side. Scary stuff man. End Sidebar.
When the three of us approached our dog greeted her with a smile and she smiled back at our dog. The young lady then asked me to take a picture of her with her iPhone because she was struggling with taking a selfie that included the large sign marker. Being a selfie kind of guy myself I gladly agreed to take the photo. A conversation soon began.
When we asked where she was headed she told us that she was riding her bike across America. She is from Maryland and is riding to California. We asked if she had planned stops along the way and she did somewhat but it was dependent upon her progress. Sometimes she slept outside in a tent and sometimes she slept where someone would put her up for the night. She had been on the road since June 15 and she planned to arrive in about 2 weeks to California.
She wasn't riding for a cause. She wasn't trying to raise awareness. She was just pushing herself and doing what she wanted to do. My wife and I admired her spirit and her courage. We wished her the best on her journey. Before we went our separate ways I asked her if I could take a selfie with her to share her story with others. With a laugh she said "Sure thing!"
Are you willing to do what needs to be done for the sake of improving education for your students?
After our chance encounter I began to think about risk taking and being brave. Real change in schools will not happen unless you are brave enough take that risk. Taking a risk is scary, much like riding your bike on a mountain side. You have to be brave and perhaps you need a touch of crazy too but you must also be willing. You must be willing to take a risk to achieve what you want to achieve.
So here is my question for you. Are you willing to do what needs to be done for the sake of improving education for your students? If so, you must be willing to shake things up. I am not talking about reckless abandonment or change for change sake. I am talking about being willing to look at what you are doing and make the changes you need to make in your practice because it just isn't working for your students.
Be willing to ask yourself and others the hard questions. Reflect upon those answers and then make the changes you know you need to make. Your students need you to be brave. Your students need you to be willing. Be Willing.
Think. Achieve. Succeed.
Director of Instruction and Leadership Development
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are
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