Thursday, July 15, 2010

Affirming the Importance of Vision

I’ve been traveling in and out of Portland, OR while working on an Oregon GEAR UP project. Whenever I can I like to wander into Powell’s bookstore. If you ever visit Portland you must find time to go to Powell’s. It’s an incredibly complete store carved out a series of inter-connected buildings in the Pearl district of Portland. If you like bookstores you are sure to like Powell’s. I could wander around for hours!

As I often do, I recently spent some time in the leadership section and found myself looking at several books about one’s personal vision. The start of the new school year is a natural time to stop and reflect on your personal vision for your own life and for your school.

The North Central Regional Lab identified a “clear, strong and collectively held vision” as one of the critical components of an effective school. It all starts with your ability to describe your own personal vision. In The Principalship from A to Z we devote an entire chapter to vision because of its importance (Chapter V).

There are lots of good books that describe one’s personal vision. The following examples reflect clear values and beliefs about life and work. They provide interesting insights into how other leaders articulate and actualize their personal vision.

Behar, Howard, (2007). It’s Not About the Coffee: Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks. New York: Penguin Group.

Kidder, Rushworth (2003). How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living. New York: Harper.

Pausch, Randy (2008). The Last Lecture. New York: Hyperion Press.

As always I would enjoy hearing from you about your vision for your school and how you nurture and sustain in especially during challenging times. I look forward to hearing from you.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Conversation About "Our" School

Principals always want to hear from their teachers and other employees about how things are going. Earlier in the week I participated in a session at Royal Oak High School outside of Detroit. Principal Michael Greening holds two or three informal "conversations" every summer with his staff. The sessions provide an opportunity for people to talk about successes as well as challenges and since Michael's arrival these conversations have become an important part of the school's culture. Michael and the other administrators listen, comment occasionally, but strive to hear from teachers about the school's program. Several major school improvement initiatives were originally discussed during these meetings and the conversation helped to create a shared agenda for addressing each issue. Three questions guided the conversation:
  • What do we do well?
  • What are our biggest challenges in the coming school year?
  • What will our school look like in 2013?
These meetings are a great way to open communication, seek informal consensus, and get an agenda for continuing school improvement.

I'm always looking for good ideas that principals can use and would enjoy learning about ways you work with teachers and other staff to improve your school.