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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Soup to Nuts

This Blog entry is unlikely to excite anyone or generate a great deal of interest in the flash and splash of education, but it does offer a close-up of what I personally believe about education. I am offering my individual philosophy on education for your review and critique. Following that, I have provided an outline of essential characteristics of an ideal school/district. Together they form a map for the future of our district.

Personal Philosophy of Education

The following clarification of my perspective on education is borne of the many years I have spent in schools since age five; as a learner, teacher, and school leader.

The essence of education ultimately resides within the personal interaction between teacher and learner, with those two roles defined in the broadest sense, no matter the setting, the amount of time allocated, or the type of materials, equipment, and technology utilized. As such, this dynamic emphasizes interpersonal communication skills and relationship management as the fundamental resources in the teaching and learning process. Someone once stated, “People don’t care about what you know until they know that you care.” That adage generally describes how I approach the challenge of education.  

The chief role and responsibility of the superintendent is to articulate and sustain a coherent and compelling vision attendant to the mission of the district. Alan Kay, of Apple Computer, sums it up best with his statement, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” A credible vision that embraces the interests and nurtures the hopes of all constituents serves as the compass for the school system. The superintendent communicates expectations, provides direction and subsequent feedback, and facilitates the collective efforts of the school-community. The superintendent is responsible for defining desired outcomes, while orchestrating the processes necessary to achieve stated goals.

Educational researcher William Spady claims that, “All children can learn, just not in the same way or on the same day.” I would contend that the same assertion should be applied to all learners, regardless of age. If a school district expects to reach its potential, it will require the coordinated efforts of all staff members. This belief warrants a commitment to promoting growth, not just among those between ages five and eighteen, but all those involved as active participants in the education process. Productive contributions increase within an organizational culture that promotes respect for the individual, expects success, sustains hope and nurtures dreams, fosters collaboration, and values a caring and compassionate climate.
What Will It Look Like When We Get There:

How would one describe the ideal school system? The following characteristics will serve as indicators:

A School:

... with an operational philosophy constructed around the way children learn and the manner in which people interact effectively;

... where energy and effort are supportive of a mission that focuses upon cultivating success in all learners, nurturing individual responsibility, and human development;

... that employs a decision making matrix consistently involving the mission, data base, desired outcomes, and continual feedback;

... guided by applied and empirical research;

... cognizant of its relationship with internal and external components of a holistic satellite ( practices, processes, expectations, interests, organizational structures and resulting networks);

More specifically -

a. leadership is appropriately extended throughout the
   organization and not held hostage by a title or office,
b. reciprocal relationship exists between leaders and
c. leaders develop human resources and capabilities,
d. leaders display commitment and consistency toward
   organizational goals,
e. collaboration, collegiality, entrepreneurship, and risk
   taking are fostered,
f. leaders model life long learning
g. leadership is situational, but focused around the

Staff Development:
a. ongoing
b. all staff are valuable
c. sensitive and responsive to both individual and
   organizational goals
d. training precedes application of new skills
e. understands characteristics of adult learning
f. reward system
g. assessment
h. growth oriented not deficit oriented
i. recognizes sociology of teaching

a. reciprocal and honest
b. vital to maintain healthy environment
c. solicited
d. variety of means
e. active listening is crucial
f. research on small group dynamics

Problem Solving:
a. systematic
b. involve those associated with problem
c. must pass through filter
d. support mission

Resource Management:
a. support and facilitate mission
b. based on data
c. allocated in manner which makes a difference
d. appropriated according to rational decision making
   process as close to the learner as possible, based on
   relevance and expertise
e. equitable distribution according to needs of learners
f. efficient and effective

a. emerges from values, goals and mission
b. requires participation and collaboration
c. Concerns Based Adoption Model to ease people through the
d. Systematic
   1. goal clarity
   2. re-educate, renorm community
   3. establish healthy organization
   4. process oriented
   5. continually assess process and modify when needed
   6. change agent - disrupt equilibrium
   7. organizations are interdependent - change in one part
      impacts other areas as well

a. assumes mutual and reciprocal relationship between people
   and organization
b. climate is the observable behavior, attitudes and
   feelings evolving from interaction among members of
c. individuals must accept responsibility for climate
d. climate is larger than morale, also including student
   achievement and staff effectiveness

a. the way of life
b. values, informal standards, accepted norms
c. individual or group response to cope with organization
d. can be altered by deliberate leader interventions

Desired Learner Outcomes:
a. self esteem as learner and person
b. cognitive levels
c. process skills (problem solving, communication, decision
   making, accountability, group process)
d. self directed learner
e. concern for others

Instructional Process:
a. all learners can learn
b. learners are encouraged and supported
c. instruction is systematic and reflects the best research
   and practices
d. recognizes time as a variable
e. staff flexibility and collegial relationships
f. basis for staff development
g. components within process are altered to increase success

Curriculum Organization:
a. school specifies and defines expectations of desired
   learner outcomes
b. learning is arranged in increasing levels of difficulty
   and complexity
c. curriculum and instruction are aligned with clear
   relationship between what will be learned, how it will be
   learned, and what will be measured.
d. curriculum are vehicles through which teachers nourish
   desired learner exit behaviors.

School Practices:
a. learners are placed at the point their prior learning end and new learning begins
b. movement through the curriculum is achievement driven based on demonstrated learner achievement
c. learner mastery of desired learning objectives is certified

Classroom Practices:
a. standard, mutually agreed upon
   1. marks and grading
   2. testing
   3. retesting
   4. incompletes for those who do not meet minimum
   5. learner discipline and conduct
   6. exceptional learners
   7. attendance
   8. prerequisites
   9. learner - instructor relations

Characteristics of Adult Learners:
a. change = unlearning established patterns of thinking and
b. strong needs to accomplish their own learning goals in an
   atmosphere of cooperation
c. need immediate relevance to their personal or work life
d. make decisions about their learning experiences
e. direct application is a planned, deliberate outcome with
   opportunities for practice
f. trusting, safe environment for risk taking
g. collegial support groups for processing and rehearsing
   new skills.

a. School Board commits to mission and vision of the 
b. School Board establishes district policy with guidance  
   from superintendent
1.  policies are consistent with appropriate laws and periodically reviewed and updated
c. School Board empowers the superintendent to administer
   district policies
d. School Board members receive training and support  
   necessary to successfully perform duties and meet
   challenges of governing the system

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