Superintendent of Schools – Last week my 14 year old son, JT spent the day at work with me as part of a national Grade 9 campaign entitled, Take Your Kid to Work. Given my work is connected to schools, my kids have a decent idea about what I do, but it was a behind scenes day for JT.
He was excited because he got to wear a shirt and tie just like it was a hockey game. Throughout the day he remained very professional and took the day very seriously. Throughout the Education Centre we had 3 other students attending work with their parent for the day.
I warned him that the day was not planned for him and it will probably be a day full of meetings. The day started with us working on some behind the scenes work on the Ward Boundary Review project that JT pretty much just watched and asked questions about. We then had an hour and a half long briefing style meeting about one of the branches of our Learning Department. We moved right into another meeting about one department’s budget. JT was interested in that meeting because he got to watch a bit about how resources are allocated and some of the challenges when you want to do a number of things but the funds just are not available. He saw us prioritize spending based on the overall student needs.
At one point during the day I had to ask JT to step outside as it was a confidential material, but for the rest of the day he was with me fully. We attended a committee for about an hour that was working on the development of RVS’ new internet site. That was probably his favourite part of the day. The group asked his thoughts on the design because it directly related to students. His day finished with a bit of office work, and then when I headed out for an evening meeting he got to go to his hockey practice.
Since that day he has asked me a couple of follow-up questions about things that were discussed during the day. Overall it was a good opportunity for him to better understand what I do and I really enjoyed having him around for the day.
Superintendent of Schools – I’m a big NFL football fan and I watch my team play weekly, watch league highlights, enjoy pre-game shows, etc. The league is a multi, multi-billion dollar enterprise that is half business and half about the ego of the owners. Successful teams find the right balance between consistency and innovation.
The head coach often survives based on the win-loss record of their team. Head coaches serve at the whim of their owner. Head coaches are most likely to be fired after a poor start to the season, just before their bye week or the Monday after the end of the season. Some head coaches last one or two years and others stay for seven to ten years. Some coaches are fired from one team and then days later are hired by another team. When a head coach is fired often all of their staff is fired at the same time. NFL coaching staffs are always in a state of flux in the NFL.
One of the interesting phenomenon about NFL coaches is about their coaching tree. The head coach is surrounded with coordinators, countless assistant coaches, quality control staff, training staff, doctors, video staff, etc. A successful head coach typically has a group of assistant coaches/coordinators that stay with them from team to team. When the team does well the coordinators suddenly become head coaches elsewhere and the remaining head coach takes someone they have developed and moves them up to be the coordinator. The coordinator who gets a head coach position often tries to bring people they have worked with previously to their new team. The new head coach may bring a scheme from their past teams that they will want to use on their new team.
Over time you can track many head coaches and coordinators back to one team or head coach. The role of the head coach is not just to win games, but also to develop their entire team (coaches especially) to be successful. Check out this website which demonstrates what I’ve tried to describe above – the larger the dot the more coaches they have directly worked with and if you click the same dot more than once you see how many those direct coaches have influenced -> http://graphics.wsj.com/nfl-coaches/
Enough about the NFL, in public education we have our own leadership trees. We learn from the people we have worked with along our own journey. Not just from fellow administrators, but also from the amazing admin assistants, building operators, teachers, CDAs, electricians, etc. Sometimes we learn from colleagues that we’ve never actually worked directly with, but through conversation and observation – it still impacts you. We take what we saw in one place and add it to our own bag of tricks. We try and learn from the scars we have from prior mistakes. We sometimes try and bring some of the people we’ve worked with in the past along with us. Successful organizations build the vast majority of their leaders from within, but also supplement with outside talent. A great RVS example of this is our administrative leadership program where we are actively supporting teachers who have expressed an interest in future formal leadership opportunities. Most of our new principals and assistant principals are from within RVS but we have some who have joined us from elsewhere.
I know that I have certainly been impacted by the people I’ve worked with along my own journey. Some of my elementary teachers continue to impact how I operate today. I hope that when I am finished my own career that my leadership tree is flourishing with many leaves.
Superintendent of Schools – Last week I had the pleasure of presenting at our Administrative Leadership Program (ALP) kick-off event for the year. This is our ALP-3 group, which consists of 18 new RVS Assistant Principals. Shortly I’ll be meeting and chatting with our ALP-1 and ALP-2 cohorts. Our ALP is broken into three groups – group one and two consist of RVS teachers who aspire to be in formal leadership positions. Group three is for beginning administrators. It is great to be in a division, which is actively developing their leadership team with a program such as ALP.
My part for the morning was to bring greetings and share a bit about my thoughts on leadership. These are new AP’s who generally are finishing their first month in the formal role of Assistant Principal. The timing is good because the reality of what being a school based administrator was settling in. A month ago the conversation may have been a bit more theoretical, but now they are living the role and dealing with the practical realities of being a new administrator. The first month has challenged them to be educational leaders, while helping to manage a school and the endless administrative requirements of public education.
I was able to share with them a few thoughts, tips, and experiences I’ve had along my own journey that have impacted my leadership style. Some of the themes I shared with the group:
• It’s critical important to show people you care.
• What you do, not what you say, tells your story.
• It is okay to show vulnerability and ask for help.
• Always take a team approach.
• Build trust among your colleagues.
• Seek first to understand then to be understood.
• Reflection is important.
• Begin with the end in mind.
• It can be lonely.
• It’s important to ask yourself, if no one is following, are you really leading?
• Stay plugged in.
• Find your voice.
Manny Ferreirinha, Sharon Rhodes, Ira Stroh, Murray Besenski, Pam Davidson, Jim Forrest and Penny Beaudry also shared their thoughts on leadership, building school cultures, and instilling instructional leadership. It was an enjoyable morning together and I look forward to meeting with the ALP 1 & 2 cohorts in the upcoming weeks.
P.S. Full disclosure – I’ve never been a school-based administrator but know their work quite well though supporting them for 15+ years in various divisional roles.