Accountability

So this week I’d like to start off with a quick little story to help illustrate the importance of teacher/administrator accountability in schools. I first came across it when reading Peter Senge’s, The Fifth Discipline several years ago, and if you stop to think about it, the sentiment quickly becomes crystal clear. It goes like this……. One Sunday, during a Little League Baseball Game, a young right fielder dropped three or four fly balls in a row which cost his team the win. After the final run scored, he came running into the dugout and yelled, “Man, NOBODY can catch a ball out there!”.Obviously, the point of this story is to showcase how easy and common it is to look to (or blame) other people, or factors, or the circumstances outside of your control, for the issues that are prohibiting an organization from reaching their goal or vision.

In my opinion, accountability is a difficult thing to talk about for many people and schools because if it’s not going well, then it needs to result in hard, awkward, and confrontational conversations that most people like to avoid. One of the best lessons that I’ve learned over the past couple of years however, is that there is nothing more detrimental to a worthy cause than a serious problem that goes unaddressed (thanks Greg). So, with all that said……I’d like to talk about accountability.
As I see it, accountability in schools can be broken down into four parts (kind of like our C.O.A.R. Initiative, which accountability is such a huge part of)……..
  • Accountability to our students – This in my mind is the most important one and has many, many layers. Things like modeling professional and appropriate behavior, preparing educationally sound and engaging lessons that align with our vision, challenging each student intellectually, using our laptop program effectively and responsibly, setting high expectations for all students, using formative and summative assessment strategies to authentically assess a student’s learning, monitoring classroom behavior, doing your supervision duties with an eye on student safety and well being, celebrating our school’s diversity, being thoughtful and honest when writing report comments, and being passionate about education each and every day……and that’s just a start.

 

  • Accountability to our colleagues – Being responsible and accountable to each other is huge, and is an essential component to building a great school. Things like sharing your expertise through peer evaluations, presenting mini Professional Development workshops, posting videotaped lessons, attending and actively engaging in department and grade level meetings, doing your partnered supervision duties, helping to write and align curriculum both horizontally and vertically, living up to your contractual obligations, being an effective communicator and active listener, developing strong relationships, building trust, and supporting each other both personally or professionally….all the time.

 

  • Accountability to our parent community – As a community school, the parent piece is paramount as I see it. We need to be responsible for keeping parents well informed about their child’s progress/struggles, being willing to discuss issues with behavior, asking for support on the home front, keeping your web presence updated and inviting, being communicative and proactive with any and all learning issues or celebrations, taking your job as an advisor seriously and being that child’s mentor teacher in its truest sense, welcoming parent feedback, looking for ways to bring their professional expertise into your classrooms if possible, and asking them to help promote the sparks that you see in their child.

 

  • Accountability to ourselves as individuals – This is where it all starts….We need to be true to who we are as educators by being passionate about our work, and coming to school everyday with a positive attitude that inspires. We need to look into Professional Development opportunities so we are continuously learning and growing, as well as seeking out our colleagues with an eye on collaboration and peer sharing. We need to have educational courage and have the necessary difficult conversations with positive intent, and we need to go out of our way to develop professional and collegial relationships which will positively impact the learning of our students. We need to question our current practice, and challenge our current thinking, and share our expertise, and be the best educators that we can for our kids…you owe it to yourself!
I recently joined a wonderful on-line Professional Learning Community through the site, CONNECTED PRINCIPALS. It was created by a Canadian Principal named George Couros, and it is a wonderful resource for educators. There are fantastic articles and discussion points and topical conversation threads that keep you thinking and growing, and it’s interesting to see how we are all going through the same issues regardless of where we are around the globe. One particularly interesting post about being an effective Principal (by George Couros incidentally), lists six ways that you can truly make a positive difference in students’ lives. After reading and reflecting on it, it is easy to see that it doesn’t just apply to Principals, but to every faculty member that is engaged with students. The six ways are…….
  1. Welcome the kids when they arrive, say goodbye to them when they leave
  2. Your first interaction with a student should always be a positive one
  3. Talk as little as possible!
  4. Use humor to deal with situations any chance you can
  5. Do the Walk (be present throughout the day outside of your classroom)
  6. Kids will love you if they know that you love them
Anyway, as we look to showcase our Open House Night for parents on Tuesday, think about how you’re doing with regards to accountability, and look for ways that you can step up your game, so to speak. We all have room to grow personally and professionally (heaven knows that I do), and this is a good week to recommit to ourselves, our school, and each other. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.
Quote of the Week…….
Don’t spend your precious time asking “Why isn’t my school a better place?” It will only be time wasted. The question to ask is “How can I make my school better?” To that there is an answer.

– Adapted from a quote by Leo Buscaglia
Article #1 – Six Critical School Success factors (Douglas Reeves) Douglas Reeves on Six Critical School
Article #2 – What Makes Superstar Teachers Effective? (Neil Bright) What Makes Superstar Teachers Effective
Article #3 – Passion Pays (F. John Reh) Passion Pays
George Couros Blog
Connected Principals Collaborative Resource

http://connectedprincipals.com/

Opportunity 2.012

So this week I’m going to write about the second facet of this year’s C.O.A.R. Initiative…..OPPORTUNITY. It was almost exactly one year ago today that I first wrote about this very topic, and as we begin the third full week of school in 2012-13, I feel as though we’re finally starting to seize the opportunity that is right here in our hands. Looking around at the smiles and laughter during last Friday’s fantastic faculty boat cruise, it is not hard to recognize the truly palpable positive energy that we’re carrying with us to start the year. The feeling on campus is upbeat, exciting, and wonderfully collegial, which puts us in the perfect position to consolidate what we began a couple of years ago. I’ve been calling 2012-13 “the year of consolidation”, because the initiatives that we’ve been working so hard to introduce to our students over the past two years are starting to take hold. From my perspective, it feels as though the momentum is growing rapidly with each passing day, and I have to say………. it’s keeping a perpetual smile on my face.

In my opinion, this “opportunity” that we have to turn our school from good to great (to steal a catch phrase from Jim Collins) begins and ends with the relationships that we form with each other. The educational/pedagogical thinking behind what we’ve rolled out is true and sound, but in order to successfully weave these initiatives into the fabric of our school, we need to have some ownership of the vision as individuals, as well as finding a way to join the fight collectively as a team. It makes me think of a great line from a Dr. Seuss book called The Lorax, which says……… “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not”. Well, as I see it, things are definitely getting a whole lot better at SCIS, and it’s because of what each of you is contributing to the cause…..so on behalf of all our fortunate students, thank you for such wonderful start to the year.
I saw a kid the other day wearing a great t-shirt that read, “today is the perfect day to have a perfect day”, and it made me think of our school, our opportunity, and how each of us has the power to make or break a students daily experience. We have the power and opportunity to deliver creative, thoughtful, and engaging lessons for our kids…..we have the power and opportunity to have collaborative and effective grade level curriculum meetings……..we have the power and opportunity to build open and trusting relationships with each other………and, we have the power and opportunity to have the necessary hard conversations with each other in a respectful way while presuming positive intent. When thinking about our opportunity this year, I keep thinking about a favorite poem of mine by James Russell Lowell. Think about these words as you continue to be the best that you can be for yourself, our students, and our school. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and great for each other.
It’s not what we give, but what we share-
For the gift without the giver is bare;
Who gives himself with his alms feeds three-
Himself, his hungering neighbor, and Me.

Quote of the Week……..
To find out what one is fitted to do, and to secure an opportunity to do it, is the key to happiness.
John Dewey
Article #1 – Building a Coherent Curriculum (Mike Schmoker) Mike Schmoker on Building a Coherent Curriculum
Article #2 – Building Trust (James O’Toole & Warren Bennis) Building Trust
TED Talk – Dare to Disagree (Amazing Talk… Ask yourself….How are you collaborating? How is your moral courage?)
Looking for Learning Website

http://www.greatlearning.com/lfl/