Thursday, October 22, 2009

Leadership Lessons

Two of the best leaders I have ever known are my mother and father. My father is a very quiet leader. He takes his time in making a decision. He is very carefully in order to make the decision that will motivate others and move his agenda in a positive direction. He is always very careful to take into consideration others in his decision making. My mother is a leader with spunk, to say the least. She is always very confident in her decisions as her experiences seem to give her a firm background in making good solid decisions. The combination of their leadership styles has strongly influenced me in my leadership roles. While my mother and father are both natural leaders it has been a role that hasn't been one hundred percent comfortable for me.

I have been very fortunate to have some very good friends who have proven to be very influential to me during my struggles with leadership. One of my oldest and dearest friends, Steve, who is a CEO for a hospital once told me a story of an experience he had. To this day that story influences my ability to lead others in my role as a Principal. It's a leadership quality that I struggled with early on but has come to learn the value and importance of it in providing the best school experience for our kids. The story was about a leader who struggled with the desire to be a popular leader rather than holding everyone accountable. His organization was very stagnant, people became satisfied with the status quo, over time people became burned out, and finally the organization failed. I've learned over time that in order to lead others towards greatness that you must be clear, concise and honest with them. I have had more than my fair share of times when my heart was racing, my palms were sweating, and I dreaded having to look someone in the eye and tell them something I knew they did not want to hear. But I have to admit that brutal honesty, challenging others, and holding them accountable to become better has caused others to become better than they ever believed they could become. Had I chosen to not leave my own comfort zone and hold others accountable, they would have never gotten on their journey to become great.

As I mentioned earlier, leadership does not come naturally for me. I still struggle with an area of leadership that frustrates me quite often. I desire harmony! My family members have been the best teachers for me with this leadership lesson. While I want harmony here at my home, Lynette challenges me to think outside the box, Jessica teaches me to look at various perspectives, and Alex teaches me to listen. Now, almost by default I've gotten better at this. Certainly I have a wife, a son, and a daughter that challenges the "harmony" at the Lyddane household, but at schools I have all chiefs and no Indians. So I am challenged and we engage in conflict pretty often at Sutton Elementary School. But once again, this has caused us to reach for greatness. If we didn't challenge one another we wouldn't see the results we see in regards to student success.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Future Classroom

What should our classrooms today look like? What should our teachers instruction look like today and towards the future? It should be bold. It needs to break the mold of the old classroom. It should be flexible, creative, challenging, and complex. It needs to address a rapidly changing world filled with fantastic new problems as well as exciting new possibilities. Change is going to be a challenge for all of us. It means getting out of our comfort zone. But the truth is, a childs mind is wired differently than todays adult. Children today are comfotable with the technology revolution that is ever changing today. They are growing up in a much more diverse world that is much more complex, strongly infuenced by the media, and more globalized than ever before.

Todays kindergarten students will be retiring in the year 2067. We have no idea what the world will look like in five years much less sixty years as things are changing so quickly. How will our children respond to the challenges that we already know exist as well as the new challenges that will emerge in the future? Our students will have no choice but to respond to such issues as world famine, growing poverty, health issues, a global population explosion and other environmental and social issues. These issues lead to a need for students to be able to communicate, function and create change personally, socially, economically and politically on local, national and global levels.

Even kindergarten children can make a difference in the world by participating in real-life, real-world service learning projects. You're never too young, or too old, to make your voice heard and create change that makes the world a better place.

Emerging technologies and resulting globalization also provide unlimited possibilities for exciting new discoveries and developments such as new forms of energy, medical advances, restoration of environmentally ravaged areas, communications, and exploration into space and into the depths of the oceans. The possibilities are unlimited.

As we prepare our children for these future challenges we must be comitted to educating the “whole child”, the “whole person”, and does not limit our curriculum design to meeting testing expectations as a measure of a successful educational standard.

We can ensure that our children develop these needed skills for the future through curriculum, which is interdisciplinary, integrated with technology, and project-based. We must insist that our children are able to collaborate by being able to work in teams, that they have good critical thinking skills and can solve complex problems, that they have good oral communication skillsand writing skills, can adapt to and use various forms of technology, take on civic and global issues, and engage themsleves in service learning.

Let's work together to prepare our children for these challenges. We have the skills, the passion, and the knowhow to help our children work towards success.