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The Light of Learning: Why Leaders Need to Light the Path

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November 2011

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Great leaders have many common qualities and I am  fortunate to work with many of them in numerous districts across the country (and one outstanding director in Mexico). What I find over and over again is the best educational leaders share the desire to learn, and a mentality of communicating their expectations through personal  modeling. Those are two of the best traits in good leaders: Leaders Learn alone and alongside their colleagues, and Leaders Light the path by modeling what they expect to see within their organizations.

 

Last week, I was introducing digital formative assessment tools to a group of seventh-grade teachers. One of the assistant principals in the group called me over and said, “I can see Formative being a good tool to use after a staff meeting to get feedback. Is there a way to collect responses anonymously so that teachers can give honest feedback?” After explaining to him how to do that, I suggested that Google Forms might be a better choice in this situation. I then told him how he could create a “class” of teachers in Google Classroom to push out information, professional articles and videos, and surveys to his staff. This way, he is  modeling what he’s expecting his teachers to do. What I appreciated most about this leader is that 1.) He was at the professional learning meeting in the first place.  This is the best type of modeling because he is showing his staff that what they are learning is valuable enough that he wants to learn it and apply it right along with them, and 2.)  He was looking for a way to utilize the same technology that his teachers will be using in their classes.

“To activate others, to get them to be enthusiastic, you must first be enthusiastic yourself.”   ~David J. Schwartz

Last month, I was delivering a training on digital citizenship.  The first session was mainly attended by computer lab teachers and English teachers. I was  disappointed that no one at a building or district-level of leadership was there, as digital citizenship is the responsibility of all teachers and leaders when teaching in a digital environment.  Two days later, I was delivering the same training to a new group of participants. This time, I had principals, instructional technology coordinators, assistant principals, technology directors, and teachers all in attendance. I was thrilled to see leaders at each level of capacity embracing the need to learn more about digital citizenship and how it applied to themselves, their staff, and/or their students. As always, my training highly interactive and each person left with steps in place to apply immediately in their classrooms, buildings, and districts lighting the path for their colleagues.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” ~John Quincy Adams

In August, I had the privilege of spending an entire day working with administrators in the West Morris Regional High School District. Every administrator (even the athletic director!) attended this full-day of professional development surrounding technology integration plans for their district. We discussed organizational management, effective and personalized professional development and how to lead more engaging (and worthwhile!) staff meetings. Although there were a few who made it obvious they did not  want to be there, overall the vibe and learning environment was very positive. These administrators, spurred on by the assistant superintendent, saw the value that their own learning plays in becoming stronger leaders.  

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” ~John F. Kennedy

Next month, I get to spend a day presenting at HECC in the leadership strand. The  leaders who attend will be challenged to connect all stakeholders within their sphere of influence to establish and drive a unified mindset. I’m excited to get to meet and work with fellow educational leaders in my home state of Indiana. I am also  hopeful these administrators come with real problems, seeking to be part of real solutions. By sacrificing their time for this conference, they will be increasing their knowledge, and establishing strategies to light the way for effective blended learning in their schools and districts.

You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case.” ~Ken Kesey

I often get to work with teachers and technology coaches and less often with technology directors and principals. I rarely get to meet with superintendents, curriculum directors, or assistant superintendents. Why is this? Why do districts tend to spend their professional development budget on teachers, but not other leaders? I’ve heard how difficult it is to be “out of the office” for a day of training. It’s just as challenging for teachers, however, to give up a day of instructing their students. If the learning is valuable and needed, then we make the time. Imagine if the highest level of administrators caught the vision of learning and lighting the path and passed it onto their staffs. What could happen in our schools and nation if every student was taught by passionate and competent teachers who passed on their love of learning by fostering their own professional growth? Imagine the possibilities!

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