Sunday, November 23, 2014

Flipped Mindset


When I decided it was time to flip my faculty meeting, I didn't mean to videotape myself delivering administrivia upside down.   

However, that faux pas, that willingness to take a risk and embrace change as the principal of the Northfield Community Middle School, might have been the best mistake I ever made. Because, it showed my staff I was open to new ideas, valued their time, and would ask of them only what I was willing to do.

I've never forgotten what it was like to be a teacher because I still am one. My pupils are just adults, but they need to be lifelong learners because this is what we want our students to be. As a connected educator, I love to share and acquire ideas to better my staff, students, and school, even if my connection is shown upside down on someone's monitor. This allows me to grow teacher-leaders who are empowered by my trust, and pass that on to the students. I don't need to micro-manage. If I did, what was I thinking when I hired the staff members in the first place?

At two recent conferences, I had an opportunity to connect with teachers in districts throughout NJ and PA. I heard from a number of disheartened teachers who feel they are asked to differentiate instruction, infuse technology, and more. Yet, when they come to a faculty meeting or receive pullout training, their administrators teach to the middle of the group. Most of the training is done in lecture format. Some of it even makes the teachers feel talked down to. It makes me wonder, what would a fellow administrator say if they observed a teacher teaching to the middle, lecturing for an hour, or talking down to a student. I don't think they'd get a four on the Danielson rubric.

Why not take a risk to flip the faculty meeting, tape yourself on video, and allow staff to see it firsthand instead of telling them what to do.  Have your teachers share their strengths that you have observed in their classrooms to your other teachers.  Ask teachers to bring one positive and one need of improvement about the current school culture to a one-on-one meeting where all is open to discuss.  Lastly, take a step outside your comfort zone and challenge each teacher to take a risk with a new lesson/project idea. Promise them that you are not out to get them, that you'll actually make sure to include it as a positive in the summative evaluation, and that working together as a team can only enhance the school for the better.  

Did I mention that to enhance the school culture and climate I was ducted taped to the wall by my students who maintained A's and B's while remaining discipline free over several months?  The result was A LOT of tape as 95% of the student body participated in this wacky fun day. Who knows what this year's challenge will be as I asked my students and staff to think of some ideas.  Maybe pies to the face on National Pi day?

Perhaps if we allow our staff to grow, then student growth would increase as well.  It's no secret that some of the best schools in the country model and demonstrate this daily.  Over the past several years my PLN, family, staff, students and co-workers have all inspired me to reflect daily and truly analyze who I was as an administrator and who I want to become as an administrator.  By flipping your own mindset away from what you had always seen to what we can envision, should be motivation enough each day to improve onescraft for the betterment of staff and students. 

A big thank you to the following for making a difference in my leadership style!

Joe Mazza - @Joe_Mazza
Jeff Zoul - @Jeff_Zoul
Jimmy Casas - @Casas_Jimmy
Todd Whitaker - @ToddWhitaker
Patrick Larkin - @patrickmlarkin
Barry Saide - @Barrykid1
Aleng Phommathep - @Alengman
Michael Curran - @mgcjusa
Spike Cook - @Drspikecook
Kevin Jarrett - @KJarrett
Thomas Murray - @Thomascmurray
Tony Sinanis - @TonySinanis
Joe Sanfelippo -@Joesanfelippofc
Jay Eitnor - @Isupereit
Tom Whitby - @Tomwhitby
Stephen Santilli - @Spsantilli
Jennifer Scheffer - @Jlscheffer
Scott Rocco -  @Scottrrocco
Brad Currie - @Bradmcurrie
Ben Gilpin - @benjamingilpin

AND THE REST OF MY PLN TEAM!