Looking Ahead

As I write this I’m thinking about two societal norms for the Christmas/New Year season. First, we make wishes for Christmas and second, we make resolutions for the New Year. But what I believe is that only by combining the two can we actual get what we want. Allow me to explain.

Many of you know that in my younger days I coached and one of the clichés of the sports world is that “luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” That is a simplistic way of communicating to players that if you prepare well enough in practice then in the midst of the game you find success. I’m thinking that Christmas wishes and New Year’s resolutions are the same. If we resolve to work hard at something then our wish for success will be granted.

We are currently in the midst of two tremendously important projects at the Center and they should come to fruition in 2017. One is the complete redesign of our professional development delivery model. Most of you are, at the very least, aware of the 70-20-10 model and some of you are neck deep in working to implement it. My wish is that this bold initiative will impact the learning of teachers and other educators strongly and that through them it impacts the learning of students. My resolution is that Region 10 will dedicate the resources of time, money and effort to achieve success with the model.

The other project is the renovation of space in both buildings. Many of you have had the chance to give input with the two architects on what is needed as we adapt our facilities to meet 21st Century professional development practices. My wish is to provide schools with a model that links instructional design and instructional space which enhances learning of modern students. I resolve to find and commit the resources required to achieve that goal.

Students, Service, Solutions

Thanking Our Vets

November is an amazing month for giving thanks. Christians start on November 1st with All Saints Day giving thanks for the faithful who have died. In the United States we give thanks to those who have served in the military on November 11th, Veterans Day. Then we round out the month by celebrating Thanksgiving Day. Although we set aside these special days to say thanks in both religious and secular traditions, our mothers taught us to say ‘thank you’ as a matter of politeness every time someone did something for us. I fear that I often forget to thank people when I should so let me take this opportunity to do so. Thank you to …

  • my family,
  • the teachers, band directors and coaches my sons have had in school and now college,
  • my friends,
  • the Cabinet and Directors Council members-what an incredible leadership group here at Region 10,
  • and all of you who make Region 10 a wonderful service organization.

Happy Thanksgiving Month!

Ranting and Raving

The subtitle this month should be ranting and raving because I’m doing both. A little background: I love music and have somehow developed quite diverse interests in everything from Broadway, Beethoven and Fall Out Boy to classic country, modern country rock, and Crown the Empire. I even have some bagpipe music on my iPod.

As you might imagine, I also enjoy the marching bands at high school and college football games. Those of you who have known me for even a short time are aware that I am not a big fan of Aggies, but I admit that when the Fighting Texas Aggie Band strikes up the Aggie War Hymn and steps off in incredibly straight lines I am amazed by the sight and stirred by the sound.

So here is my RAVE: Because my son plays the sousaphone in the Wylie High School band, I have had the privilege of seeing probably 30 high school marching bands perform at football games and marching band contests each of the last three years. This Saturday I will announce the Wylie Invitational Marching Contest where 23 bands will perform. If it is like last year, I will enjoy every performance. Our schools need these programs. They teach students discipline, camaraderie, determination, trust and interdependence. You can see all of those traits in the performances they put on. The band programs also teach kids to appreciate an eclectic repertoire of music.

And here is my RANT: I detest the fact that we have made music a competition. 22 of those 23 bands at Wylie on Saturday will leave disappointed because six professional judges using very subjective criteria will have ranked the bands and decided that one of them is the best. I think it is a shame that our society has made everything into a competition. And I wish that I could share the joy that will be stirred in my heart and soul with every member of every band marching on Saturday. My day will be made wonderful because of the sounds and sight of those bands. I hope in retrospect each of those students can understand what a wonderful experience they created and were a part of during their high school band days and that they don’t simply remember being dejected at the end of the day.

Right Where We Need To Be

In 1965, Ohio State University professor Bruce Tuckman published a theory called the Stages of Group Development. If you have studied group/organizational leadership since 1965 you have learned the theory even if no one told you who created it or what it was called. Most of us know it as the Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing stages. Organizations have certain characteristics at each stage:

  • FORMING – High enthusiasm : Low skills
  • STORMING – Low enthusiasm : Low skills
  • NORMING – Rising enthusiasm : Growing skills
  • PERFORMING – High enthusiasm : High skills

There are programs at Region 10 that fit in each category but looking at the organization as a whole, instead of at the individual programs, the Center fits at the edge between Norming and Performing. And I believe that is right where we need to be! I want us to constantly be improving or “growing our skills” because that indicates we are confident in what we are doing but developing ways to be better.

The R10 Dream Team

Yesterday I was part of one of the best Region 10 events of the year. Every year we host a “gala” luncheon for all of the Teachers of the Year selected by our ISDs and Charters. This annual event is exciting and exhilarating to attend because you realize the room is filled with those who represent the best of the education profession. The honorees are those chosen as the best in their districts. Yesterday’s theme drew on the Olympics as we termed those teachers our “Dream Team”.

I was honored to be asked to give a short speech to help bring that theme into perspective. I showed the assembled educators pictures of some of the greatest Olympic teams ever assembled including the 1992 basketball team for whom the term “Dream Team” was originally created. Along with that group were the pictures of the 2012 womens soccer team, the 1980 hockey “Miracle” team, and this year’s womens gymnastics team. I want you to do the same thing that I challenged the honorees yesterday to do: Consider those pictures, and decide which one you are in your field of specialty.

  • Are you Charles Barkly — confident, powerful and full of swagger; well known and cheered for by your peers?
  • Or are you John Stockton? No one knows who you are until they see you in action and then they never forget you because of your incredible ability to make others better.
  • Perhaps you’re Madison Kocian, the specialist who leaves everyone awed.
  • Maybe you’re Gabby Douglas, a champion who sustains an exceptionally high performance level, sets an example for others to follow, and then shares the mountaintop.
  • My guess is that most of you would prefer to be like Jim Craig who, after achieving what others didn’t think was possible, wanted to enjoy success privately, not in the spotlight.

I challenge you to identify your role on the Region 10 DREAM TEAM.

Quotes With Character

As we head into the heat of the summer, here are ten inspirational quotes to get you fired up about the important work we do.

“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela

“Free the child’s potential and you will transform him into the world.” – Maria Montessori

“Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

“The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.” – C.S. Lewis

“What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all its children.” – John Dewey

“Wisdom begins with wonder.” – Socrates

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” – Henry Ford

“Teachers affect eternity; they can never tell where their influence stops.” – Henry Adams

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” – Albert Einstein

“The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” – Mark Van Doren

Showing Real Leadership

In April and May I wrote about the first two words in our new motto. I wrote about focusing on students and about being in service to others. The third installment of the trilogy is a bit more difficult. Understand that I don’t believe a problem exists that doesn’t have a solution. To use a Star Trek reference (yes, I’m a nerd), I simply don’t believe in the Kobayashi Maru scenario. That fictional no-win/no-solutions scenario is supposed to test leadership, decisiveness and judgment. Captain Kirk goes through the test twice and fails to find a solution. Before his third time to take the test he hacks the computer and reprograms it so he can solve the problem.

I want Region 10 to show that kind of leadership. When a school or an educator asks us for help, I want us to provide the solution they are seeking. And if the solution doesn’t exist, then I want us to create it, borrow it, steal it, or hack and reprogram it. We need to be passionate about our work and serious about finding the solution that’s needed.

Students, Service, Solutions

In Service

The BBC/PBS television show Downton Abbey finished its six-year run in mid-February. Like many of you, my wife, Kelly, and I became avid watchers of the show. In the process, I became aware of a phrase that is both very British in nature and quite specific to the Victorian Age and early 20th century. The phrase is in service; a phrase the aristocracy used to identify those serving in professions as butlers, maids, cooks, footmen, etc. To be in service did not mean to be in servitude; in fact, service jobs were highly sought because they offered very stable employment and often carried some prestige in the villages and hamlets. Individuals employed in service were proud of their profession.

I often tell the superintendents who compliment us for going above and beyond that we are a full-service organization. Buddy Echols’ favorite phrase about Region 10 was “Service is our middle name.” While we can find humor in those phrases, there is also real meaning to them. When the Region 10 motto – Students, Service, Solutions – was chosen, the Strategic Planning Committee made sure the middle word was service, not services. Our organization is about providing acts of assistance, help, and aid because we are action-oriented; we don’t just focus on delivering a product. Our role, which we fulfill exceptionally well, is to be in service to the young people of Texas through our work with schools and educators. I take pride that I’m in service.

Students, Service, Solutions

It’s Why We’re Here

As an adjunct professor it’s my privilege to teach graduate level courses at two local universities. While I think the students gain from interacting with someone owning my professional experiences, I admit to enjoying the classes because I love the experience of being in a classroom doing something I love – teaching. I thrive on the energy students bring to the experience!

Last Tuesday during the School Law class I teach for future principals, one of the bright young minds in the group stopped the discussion to say, “This stuff is crazy and it makes my head hurt.” There was a long pause without anyone saying anything and then her classmates voiced their agreement.

The politics and laws that come along with our profession sometimes make it difficult for us to focus on our purpose. The political and legal obstacles placed along the path to learning are frustrating, often crazy, and yes, they make our heads hurt. But like steeplechase runners who jump hurdles, climb over larger barriers, and splash through water on their way to the finish line, we can also overcome the obstacles in our path. We will do so, however, only if we remain focused on our goal: to help students learn. It’s why we are here.

Students, Service, Solutions

Change With A Purpose

Change was one of the major topics at Monday’s internal professional development. We talked about changing how staff members communicate, changing our understanding of what education means, changing how we plan and deliver professional development for teachers, changing the design of our building, changing our logo, changing our ….  You get the point.  When change is discussed it’s almost always introduced with a cliché, such as:

  • Change is good… hard… constant… exciting…
  • Nothing ever changes
  • Everything changes

There is an entire section of books on my shelves about this subject with titles like:

  • Managing Transitions: Making the most of change
  • Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice and Leadership
  • Hard optimism: Developing deep strengths for managing uncertainty, opportunity, adversity, and change
  • Who Moved My Cheese
  • Our Iceberg Is Melting

The only thing that seems to be missing is a presidential quote like: “We have nothing to change but change itself” (my apologies to FDR).

What I want every Region 10 employee to know is that when changes occur here at the Center, they have a purpose and have been diligently thought-out. We should never change just for change’s sake.