Trust

April 30, 2007

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On April 27, the K-8 PE teachers and a guidance counselor from Carteret County Schools met at the Ropes Course behind Morehead Middle. Aside from trust (above pic), the Ropes Course can be a proving ground for the following organizational qualities:

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Support

 

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Teamwork

 

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Communication

 

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Leadership

 

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Shared Experience

Ropes Course Video (This 8-minute video is a 20mb Windows media file. Depending on your connectivity, you can either download it or play it over the Internet.)

The video shows the various activities in which we participated. Collectively, the activities can be used by students and staff to enhance trust, teamwork, leadership, adventure, communication, support, common cause, problem solving, testing the limits, risk-taking, confidence, courage, encouragement, and shared experience.

Thanks to Janice Bates-West for facilitating the meeting, Darlene Rappa and Colin Long for facilitating the Ropes Course, and Mr. Jimmy Walker for making the Ropes Course an asset of Carteret County Schools.

Folks in the schools and community who wish to use the Ropes Course may do so by contacting Clara Roberson at Central Office.

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Fatalism 101

April 29, 2007

haulin netFrom the “something-for-everyone department” comes this—to assist those who are convinced that the stars are perpetually maligned. This timely piece can increase the capacity for despair in individuals . . .

  • who have concluded that kids today are rude, self-centered and lazy,
  • who insist that constructivist, student-centered pedagogy prevents them from teaching to the test,
  • who are certain that new projects and deadlines are conspiracies to overwork them,
  • who are plagued by the constant upheaval, turmoil, and uncertainty caused by personnel shifts,
  • who know public schools are failing,
  • who deem that appropriate funding of schools is a waste of taxpayer money,
  • who view current geopolitics and climatological change as apocalyptic,
  • who have video evidence that the latest loss of the U-12 Soccer Stars is the fault of the ref.

Yes, it is for these delightful people, who have the uncanny ability to suck the life right out of the room, that I offer the following seven rules to increase their ability to wallow in magnitudes of misery:

  1. Feel sorry for yourself. There is nothing more certain to make you feel sorry for yourself than the habit of self-pity. Magnify your problems and moan about them.
  2. Worry about things that might happen but probably won’t.
  3. Complain. Find fault with everybody and everything. (Many people develop this into an art form.)
  4. Insist on always having your way.
  5. Overreact. Make mountains out of molehills. Ridicule all who oppose you.
  6. Ignore the moral teaching of your religious traditions as well as the lessons of history. Disregard ethical principals. Who needs a higher power telling us what to do, anyway?
  7. This one sums up all the rest. Be self-centered. Focus on #1. Give little thought to others. Hoard all you can for yourself.

Practice three or four of these and you can make lots of other people miserable too!

(Borrowed from a homily given by Monsignor Francis Moeslein, pastor emeritus, St. Egbert’s Catholic Church . . . back in the day.)


What’s Right with Education

April 26, 2007

haulin netAll too often, the pundits in the blogosphere wax philosophical about the changes needed to fix education. Today, I want to depart from that position and recognize what is right with education.

On April 25, I was part of the committee to select the Certified Employee of the Year for Carteret County Schools. A certified employee is one with a degree who works to support students and teachers. (We also select a teacher of the year and a classified employee of the year.)

I look forward to this annual selection process, because this parade of champions comes to central office. These fine folks that walk into the room represent the high quality employees we have in our schools. In other words, in the course of seven hours, I get a thumbnail sketch of what’s right with education in all of our schools.

The candidates bring it all to interviews. Creativity, energy, experience, caring, thoughtfulness, and—most of all—passion flow in abundance.

The hard part is determining one winner. One reason it is difficult is because the certified employee category is comprised of a variety of job types.

We had to choose from a nurse, a speech pathologist, Cat in the Hat, three technology facilitators, four guidance counselors, one school-based exceptional children’s coordinator, three media coordinators, a curriculum specialist, a school psychologist, and a school social worker. How do you compare oranges to oranges and apples to apples with that assortment?

The day is a crash course in just how comprehensive public education is. We strive not only to nurture the whole child, but sometimes the whole family. And that level of service for every student that enters our schools came through again and again during the interview process.

I introduce to you in alphabetical order of the schools from which they were nominated—the 2007 Carteret County Public School System Certified Employees of the Year:

  • Mary Jane Govoni, nurse (Atlantic Elementary)
  • Patricia Smith, speech pathologist (Beaufort Elementary)
  • Geraline Castle, Cat in the Hat (Beaufort Middle)
  • Dianna Todd, instructional technology facilitator (Bogue Sound Elementary)
  • Marylene Tootle, guidance counselor (Broad Creek Middle)
  • Sue Dunlap, EC coordinator (Croatan High School)
  • Liz Kappel, guidance counselor (East Carteret High School)
  • Dianne Garner, media coordinator (Harkers Island Elementary)
  • Barbara Tomberlin, curriculum specialist (Morehead Elementary)
  • Lisa Raines, instructional technology facilitator (Morehead Middle)
  • Jodi Lewis, school social worker (Morehead City Primary)
  • Libba Frazelle, school psychologist (Newport Elementary)
  • Amy Heckroth, guidance counselor (Newport Middle)
  • Norma Fulton, media coordinator (Smyrna Elementary)
  • Amy McKay, instructional technology facilitator (West Carteret High School)
  • Jody Elliott, media coordinator (White Oak Elementary)

The other reason it is difficult to select one is because they all are winners! However, the candidate with the most votes from the committee will be named in mid-May.


Virtual Offices

April 26, 2007

haulin netIn our school system and around the state, serious discussions are breaking out on how North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS) may affect our business. I have heard the following comment more than once:

If the students are taking the class on-line and at home, how can we be sure that they are the ones doing the work?

I have looked at the course content of my 14-year-old’s two on-line classes. Generally, I don’t understand Spanish I content anymore at a granular level. I don’t have the time to do her work in Principles of Business, nor do I have the desire. So, if I started to helicopter her on-line class for her, the teacher would know it. Her grades would drop significantly.

This is not to say that this would be the case for all parents. The unfortunate reality is that some folks will go to any extreme to ensure school success. So cheating happens. There is nothing unique here. Cheating probably happens in bricks and mortar schools at a rate somewhat relative to the predictability of the assignment.

We have two options:

  1. We can change the nature of assignments so they become more authentic, inquiry-based, and constructive.
  2. We can manage the environment, as in the following example—

“Why don’t you type up your writing assignment like you do your stories?” I asked my 13 year old daughter a few weeks ago. Her response shocked me. “I have to write it up at school by hand, so why use the computer?” she replied. My daughter publishes her stories and poems online via a wiki, but has given up trying to turn her assignments in via a blog or wiki…her teacher won’t accept them. (Miguel Guhlin in LeaderTalk)

In The New Workforce (2004), Hankin argues that

Increasingly available, efficient, and affordable technology makes it feasible to work from anywhere, at anytime. While this can be tremendously attractive to a high-talent candidate, virtual offices can be a tough transition for old-school management that has always depended on appearances to judge worker value and contribution.

Last evening, I was discussing this topic with a highly respected administrator of the local community college. He shared that his son works for a software company in a city. His apartment is rigged with all the technology he needs to do his job from home. Lately, he has been doing more and more of that.

His boss, realizing that it is about results more than fixed seat time, is attempting to grow in his managerial philosophy in order to allow more of his workers to take advantage of virtual offices. It is not an easy transition. Rightfully, he has concerns about abuse and unintended consequences.

So, how many of our K-12 students will do some, if not all, of their career work from the patio? What skills beyond technology will they need for success? What are we doing to prepare them? Is NCVPS a virtual office training ground?

Beyond that, what about our managers? Is the next logical step to create hybrid high school courses using Blackboard or Moodle at the local level? Should we encourage all high school students who are intent on success in this century to be taking at least one on-line course? Should we investigate further the concept of trust?

Or, should we demand that all drafts of the next five-paragraph essay be written in ink in class under the scrutiny of our watchful eyes?

 


Too Far Out Front of Which Parade?

April 24, 2007

In the May/June 2007 issue of The Futurist, author John Naisbitt (Megatrends) shares how he uses information from vast news outlets to predict future trends. He filters that information through his values and mind-sets.

Judgments in almost every area are driven by mind-sets . . . Mindsets work like fixed stars in our heads. Holding on to them, our mind, drifting like a ship in an ocean of information, finds orientation. They keep it on course and guide it safely to its destination.

His primary mind-set is “Understand how powerful it is not to be right.

It is a great release in any field of business and private life, indispensable in any endeavor where you venture out. It is the mind-set that will enable you to dare to say or try whatever you are working on . . . It is the mindset that supports creative imagination.

His secondary mind-set is “Don’t get too far ahead of the parade so that people don’t know you’re in it.

In every field of life, in business, in leadership, or in politics, it is the mind-set that helps you not to extrapolate so far ahead that people do not relate to what you do or say.

I like the interplay and balance between these two mindsets. The first one opens the door to inquiry; the second maintains the reigns of relevance. Both resonate with leadership.

Pushing the envelope, however, I struggle with the metaphor of school as a parade. Rather, schools often appear to be several parades. For example, we can see admin on parade, teachers on parade, students on parade, etc. If we are pushing the latest technological innovation, we might be too far ahead of one parade, but barely keeping up with another parade.

I often hear of a true learning community, an environment in which all stakeholders are committed to lifelong learning . . . a single parade. In that ideal, is it even possible to be too far out front?


Creative Wildfires and Divergent Paths

April 23, 2007

haulin netCreativity burns hot within those who opt not to take their inner songs with them to the grave. Whatever fuels creativity — passion, muse, spirit, spirits, magic, necessity, yearning, emotion — seems to be alive in some and dormant in others.

But creativity alone does not yield quality fruit. It takes extreme effort and the willingness to risk baring one’s soul.

In a variety of ways, creativity rekindles the soul. We may sing, play music, dance, orienteer, write poems, blog, build furniture, paint, code websites, cook fine dinners, invent new gadgets, decorate, design a new offense, eat dessert first. Or not.

Often, teachers lack time and energy to dabble in their own creative pursuits as they toil managing the creative output of so many students. Says Patrick in “Thoughts on Art”:

I have picked up my paint brushes after a year break due to the demands of my teaching and distance learning jobs and I must admit, at first I was very frustrated trying to get back to where I left off last year.

And David is getting ready to relive his beach music roots with a reunion gig:

A bunch of us get back together and play, and this weekend, I’ll drive home from Charlotte, and we’re going to try to record some of our music, before some of us get to be too old to pick up a guitar.

I appreciate the value of sabbaticals and NCCAT to keep the creative fire aglow in teachers. I have read Richard Florida and Daniel Pink, both of whom wave the banner of creativity as the key determinant to the future success of the individual and the nation. And I keep up with the conversations on New Schools as the creative answer to educational malaise.

I read the blogosphere and see that Miguel is pondering what it takes to prepare students to make video resumes:

How are we guiding our students to develop these skills, and where are we sharing the examples?

Miquel’s post aligns with The New Workforce: Five Sweeping Trends That Will Shape Your Company’s Future (2004). Harriet Hankin, the HR futurist author, sees job seeking and job recruiting going automated. She sees centralized recruiting centers, centralized databases of candidates, and centralized databases of companies. She sees video resumes and virtual interviews.

The challenge for schools is that we have to get creative in our approaches to prepare students for such an eventuality. I think we in NC have an incredible headstart with College Foundation of North Carolina, the vaunted inter-relational database of the future. And I think a mandate should require all NC high school students to take at least one on-line class at North Carolina Virtual Public School.

What is going to be difficult for us is how to figure out the rest of future-ready for our students . . . if we as professionals allow our personal flames of creativity to flicker and fade.

Where then will we discover our most divergent paths?


Empowering Conversations

April 22, 2007

I have submitted my monthly post to LeaderTalk.  Here is the last paragraph:

Buy-in for emergent web technologies as a standard of practice has to be inclusive, willing, intentional, significant, enduring and rewarding within the entire learning community.  Otherwise, the good thoughts shared as conversation starters or reflections of the journey by the trailblazers merely fade into the ether…until the time is right.