Philidor Percussion Ensemble

September 30, 2007

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As a cultural arts outreach to area middle school students, Philidor brought its percussion and teaching talent to the WCHS auditorium in September. In case you missed it, here’s a photo story of the performance.

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NCVPS Update, Sept 25

September 25, 2007

North Carolina Virtual Public School may have jumped out of the gate this summer and fall with irrational exuberance. Imminent challenges soon surfaced. Many schools and students were left scrambling. NCVPS is making decisive moves to correct the course.

Today, we had our first advisory board meeting under the new administration of NCVPS. The challenges of the rollout were addressed head-on. I left the meeting with renewed confidence in NCVPS as an alternative education delivery resource for North Carolina students.

State Superintendent June St. Clair Atkinson released a memo on NCVPS today. In it, she reaffirms the commitment of NCVPS to provide 24/7 learning opportunities. She alludes to the evolving course catalog and the fit of NCVPS with the North Carolina High School Athletic Association. She reiterates that local schools will be responsible for textbooks.

NCVPS is a service to North Carolina Public Schools. At the moment, NCVPS has 5700 students taking 46 courses. The spring course catalog is scheduled for release in early November.

To ensure quality in the future, NCVPS is building in department chairs and content specialists. It is working to streamline its communication and grade monitoring processes. It hopes to be textbook-free in two to three years.

Students and parents alike must be made aware of the risk and reward of on-line classes in general. It may be a good idea for schools to have a sign-off sheet for NCVPS students in the future.

I am envisioning a sheet that speaks up front to drop dates, grade monitoring, cheating, materials and textbooks, rigor, and credit recovery. Students, parents, and schools have responsibilities in these areas. Not addressing and signing off on these responsibilities up front will yield consequences down the road.

Superintendent Atkinson summed it up rather neatly in today’s meeting:

NCVPS is trying to promote independent learning in a somewhat dependent school culture. It is aiming for flexibility in a rigid public school structure. It is begging for 21st century processes and policies in a system mired in the twentieth century.

Folks, NCVPS is not only here to stay . . . it is here to flourish.


The Peloton and Good Organizational Karma

September 22, 2007

haulin netEarly this morning I jotted down some thoughts at LeaderTalk on the Power of the Peloton. In it I ask some questions that help extend the metaphor of the peloton to organizational life.

So how did this morning’s ride go?

Six riders (five regulars and one new guy) met at daybreak. We agreed upon a course—forty-three miles at a brisk pace. And we set out.

Early in the ride, the new guy was charging too hard up a hill. I had to let him know that we would have a rider or two crack at that pace and that we would need everyone over the long haul. So he adjusted his speed to keep the group in tact.

Soon, though, one rider cracked (which in cycling parlance means he fatigued beyond comeback). That rider informed a rider who dropped back that he had already run six miles this morning, and his legs were shot. He would spare the group and drop out.

From there, the five of us picked up the tempo and finished strong. We timed forty miles, averaging a tad over 21 mph. The power of the peloton—riders taking turns out front—allowed the group to finish faster and stronger than had any of us gone the route solo.

With a few miles to go, we pulled off the main road onto a beautiful beach drive. We powered down to a conversational pace and reflected on our successful ride. As we rode side by side, instead of in a line, we laughed and drank . . . Gatorade.

So, what’s all this got to do with organizational life?

  1. We effectively and efficiently communicated our common goal.
  2. We indoctrinated the unfamiliar with group norms.
  3. A team member who was holding back the group graciously dropped off. That doesn’t mean he is out of the group or won’t come back. It just means he has to think about how he can be best prepared next time out.  (We would have adjusted our pace to keep him in the pack over the duration if he had chosen to stay in, but we would not have accomplished the same finishing results.)
  4. We flew like the wind.
  5. We reflected and celebrated our success.

We have been doing this for years.


The Power of the Peloton

September 22, 2007

It’s 5:30 a.m. on Saturday.  While my household slumbers, I’m gearing up for my Saturday morning bike.  Anywhere from six to ten of us will meet at  daybreak and pedal our bikes for forty to seventy miles depending on circumstances.

This from Knowmoremedia.com:

One thing that fascinates me is the power of the peloton. If the peloton organizes itself, they will almost invariably catch the breakaway riders. The peloton is just toopeloton.jpg strong. Surely there is little more disheartening to a breakaway rider than to look over his shoulder and see the massive peloton charging up his back.

And the rest of this story can be found in my latest contribution to LeaderTalk.


Instructional Leadership

September 18, 2007

haulin netSchool administration in a large high school is a wild bear. A mile a minute is the pace, and managerial demands never cease. But management and leadership are different animals.

Here’s a nifty self-test on the leadership/management dichotomy. (Of course, it pays to be both a leader and a manager.)

Management tends to be more concerned with preservation of the status quo.  Leadership is more concerned with the continuous improvement of people rather than processes.

Management in a school has as much to do with the very necessary bus routes and grade reporting as anything else. Leadership in a school has as much to do with quality instruction and thriving culture as anything else.

Check out LeaderTalk’s Making Time for Instructional Leadership for what other school leaders across the country are currently saying on the subject.

I have spent the majority of my career involved in innovative teaching and learning practice. So it was with a great sense of accomplishment today that I did my first full teacher observation of the year.

As I sat in the class, observing and making notes, I felt at home.

I enjoyed the respectful professional dialog with the teacher as we de-briefed. (Professional discourse is the breeding ground for good ideas.) I look forward to seeing and hearing more teachers and adding value during observation cycles.

A couple of other instructional areas are emerging on my radar screen. The English department is key. The first challenge we have there is in writing. That’s my background and my strength. The other is the Senior Project. I have been with this project since the beginning in our school system, and I am fortunate to be working with Senior Project trailblazer Nancy Reynolds.

I am the quasi-mentor to one student, Nick, who is interested in cinematography and Reusable Learning Objects as his Senior Project. This is one to watch as he creates a Reusable Learning Object repository for the Senior Project initiative at West Carteret.

And the kids with the Led Zep tees continue to ask me to sponsor their guitar club . . .

No surprises here: I still flex my tech zeal. Since everyone is doing Animoto, check out the 22-second French Chef Animoto I put on our French Teacher’s assignment page.


Frenetic Pace

September 15, 2007

haulin netTwo weeks in as an assistant principal of a high school with close to 1300 students, I am coming up for air. After close to a decade away, I am back in the world of students with unbridled energy, creativity, and passion.

Now the trick is to get them to apply some of that towards their classes.

I have spent the first two weeks learning the ropes. A lot of “law and order” type chores . . . girl drama, mad mamas, f-bombers . . . a slew of sporting events . . . the five-minute lunch break . . . and good intentions for instructional leadership.

Add to that the time spent getting students in and out and in again of North Carolina Virtual Public School, and to say the least, the jumpstart has been frenetic and invigorating.

This coming week, I will start teacher observations. Being techno-savvy, I’m sure I will proceed as in this video— Walkthroughs and Learning Objectives.

I anticipate working with the English department to help crystalize a focus on writing. The test scores say we—and the rest of the state—need improvement there. And the school faculty is in the early stages of building Professional Learning Communities to attack such problems. So, here is where the real excitement lies.

My move from a Central Services position (Director of Many Things) to a school-based position is a long-term commitment. One of the drivers is the interplay between theory and application. I fully enjoyed and benefited from the research, reflection, and writing associated with centralized leadership. Over the last three years, my blog has flourished with evidence of that growth experience.

Now, I have the growth opportunity to add my capital in a real school setting. It will not happen overnight, but it will happen.

As I calculated the risk on this career move, I determined that my affect for reshaping high schools would be greater felt were I embedded in an actual context then were I to continue pontificating from on high as so many of us in the educational blogosphere are wont to do.


Why I Take Virtual High School Courses

September 11, 2007

I had scheduling conflicts.

I wanted to get in another AP course.

I wanted to be competitive for college.

I feel like I am better prepared because I know when everything is due. It has made my study skills and time management a whole lot better.

I like being able to work at my own pace so I am not crunched for time when I don’t need to be.

Here is the high school senior’s own words in a four-minute audiocast.