Sunday, February 5, 2023

How to Lead with Little to No "Experience"

I vividly remember how frustrating it was to interview for various school administrator positions only to be told that I didn’t have enough practical experience related to the position(s). Well duh, of course I didn’t, as I was an aspiring leader who was just venturing into this space. I am sure virtually everyone reading this post has been in the same situation at some point, whether in the past or currently. Frustrating is putting it mildly. It should be noted that experience can certainly be beneficial when it comes to leadership, as it can provide a leader with valuable knowledge, skills, and perspective. However, it is not the only factor that determines a person's ability to lead effectively. Some people may have a natural talent for leadership and are able to inspire and guide others, even if they don't have a lot of experience.

That being said, there are certain situations where experience can be essential for a leader. For example, if a leader is facing a complex or unfamiliar challenge, their past experiences may give them a better understanding of how to approach and solve the problem. Most would agree that the COVID-19 pandemic fits the bill here. Experience can also help a leader to build credibility and gain the respect of their team. Overall, experience can be a valuable asset for a leader, but it is not the only factor that determines a person's ability to lead.

Leadership is not necessarily about having a lot of experience but rather having the ability to inspire, motivate, and guide others toward a common goal. Eventually, I began revising my resume and linking to instances where I actively cultivated leadership characteristics or built capacity through coaching sports, writing curriculum, and advising clubs. Think about what you have done that can translate into a school administrator role.

Once you get your first position, the key is to hit the ground running. Here are a few other tips that may help you to lead effectively, even if you don't have a lot of experience:

  • Set clear goals: Clearly define what you and your staff are working towards. This will help to keep everyone focused and motivated.
  • Communicate openly: Make sure to keep the lines of communication open with all stakeholders. Encourage open and honest dialogue while being approachable.
  • Be adaptable: Be open to new ideas and approaches and show a willingness to pivot when necessary.
  • Empower your people: Trust your staff and give them the autonomy to make decisions and take ownership of their work.
  • Lead by example: Show everyone what it means to be a good leader by being a good follower. Set a positive example through your own actions and work ethic.

As I shared in Digital Leadership, it's not about having all the answers but creating a vision and guiding others toward its realization.

So, what if you have never been an administrator? If you are lacking in leadership experience, there are several steps you can take to compensate for this and become a more effective leader:

  • Seek opportunities to develop your leadership competencies: This can include taking on capacity-building roles within your school or district, enrolling in educational leadership programs, creating a Personal Learning Network (PLN), or participating in pertinent workshops or conferences.
  • Learn from more experienced leaders: Seek out mentors or coaches who can provide guidance and support as you develop.
  • Practice self-reflection: Take time to reflect on your strengths and areas for growth. This can help you to identify areas where you need to focus your professional learning efforts.
  • Stay current on trends and best practices in the education field. Make an effort to stay up-to-date on the latest developments and incorporate this knowledge into your leadership style.
  • Be open to feedback: Seek out feedback from others and be open to learning from their experiences and insights.

Remember, leadership is a never-ending journey and everyone starts at a different point. By being proactive in your development and continually learning and improving, you can effectively compensate for a lack of experience and become a strong and effective leader. 

Monday, January 30, 2023

#EDvice: Interest Powers Learning and Outcomes

Humans crave a deep connection when it comes to learning something new, especially if they initially don't see any value in what's being taught or facilitated. We expect this as adult learners, so it goes without saying that our students both want and need this as well. In the absence of authentic meaning there is a tendency to disconnect or go off task, putting the learning experience at hand in jeopardy of not being successful. No one wants this, especially teachers who have spent a great deal of time planning lessons. 

In the classroom making connections to content and concepts embedded within standards is of utmost importance, but these have to be captivating as some kids naturally won't be jazzed up about certain content. The key is to elicit attending behavior. Interest is a powerful element that acts as a motivator and is a key component that drives learning. NEVER underestimate the importance of a "hook" during the opening movements of a lesson to empower ALL learners. In this piece of #EDvice I unpack some tips on how utilize simple strategies as well as share some practical examples. 

Whether you refer to the strategy as a hook or anticipatory set, they key is to infuse relevance that piques the interest of diverse learners.  Below are some of the startefgies I shared in Disruptive Thinking in Our Classrooms:

  • Picture prompt
  • Real-world problem of the day
  • Current event or personal story
  • Open-ended writing prompt that sparks inquiry and creativity
  • Riddle
  • Short, engaging video followed by a turn and talk
  • Sensory exploration 
If we want to improve outcomes, in the classrooms or during professional learning, we must make efforts to impart interest. 

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Imparting Value When It Comes to Change

I remember vividly as a young principal when I started to drink the “edtech” Kool-Aid many years ago. It represented a true turning point in how I thought about change in education. Up until this point, my thinking was relatively traditional and as such, so was the culture of my school. However, I was motivated like never before to move beyond the nearly impenetrable walls I had mentally constructed that had inhibited me from moving beyond my comfort zone until this point. It was now time to become a true leader and that required being honest about where not only I was but also the culture of my school.

When I first attempted to channel this excitement into a call to action, I failed miserably. Basically, all I did was talk about what “I” wanted to accomplish and what “I” thought was important when it came to the purposeful use of technology in the classroom as a catalyst to improve outcomes. After some deep internal and external reflection, I soon realized that I failed to help my staff see the value for themselves when it came to shifting their practice in new and innovative ways. Herein lies the reason that most change initiatives fail. If people don’t see the value in what they are being asked to do, the chances increase that they won’t get on board.

I learned an important lesson that still sticks with me today. Change for the sake of change is often a recipe for disaster. My role as a leader was to alleviate fear, mitigate risk, and create the conditions where my staff wanted to change for their own sake as well as that of their students. While research and data certainly play a pivotal role in showcasing the value of change efforts, the real key is to make everyone part of the solution. Leaders who do this strive to:

  • Create a shared vision
  • Empower people
  • Build capacity
  • Improve outcomes

All of the above elements play a part in achieving collective efficacy, which is the belief that a group can work together effectively to achieve common goals. Some positive outcomes include improved group performance, increased motivation, greater resilience, and better problem-solving.   Collective efficacy is hard to achieve without an initial sense of value in doing things differently.

Leaders need to be attuned to the fact that the world is rapidly evolving, something I discuss in detail in Digital Leadership. Abiding by the status quo doesn’t cut it, no matter where performance indicators reside.  Herein lies a significant challenge when it comes to venturing down an innovative path. Organizations can become more efficient and effective by continuously looking for ways to improve processes and systems, but people need to understand the value from the beginning. Valuing change is critical because it helps to create a culture of continuous improvement and innovation within an organization. When people value change, they are more open to new ideas and approaches and more willing to embrace and adapt to change when necessary.

Monday, January 16, 2023

#EDvice: Closing Learning Gaps with Rotational Models

Education is still reeling from the impacts of COVID-19. The rapid shift to virtual learning was a necessity and, like always, educators rose to the occasion like they always do even though training in this area didn’t really exist at scale.  A few years later, we are beginning to get an idea of the most pressing issue at hand, which is learning recovery. During coaching visits across the country, educators share the difficulty of having classrooms of students where the majority are at different grade levels. So how do we begin to address this issue? 

Knowing where kids are and then developing strategies to meet their respective needs is one of the most effective ways to close learning gaps post-pandemic. While the challenge is real, rotational models can stem the tide. In this piece of #EDvice I unpack this strategy and how it can be easily implemented in K-12 classrooms.

Success using rotational models relies on maximizing available class time, understanding sound pedagogy, and leveraging actionable data.  Below are some resources I created to help educators with effective implementation.  

At the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE), we have developed research and evidence-based professional learning solutions to scale personalized strategies that are integral for learner success in a post-pandemic world. If you are interested in learning more, drop your email in the comments section.