Sunday, July 18, 2010

Funny videos about leadership

These are great! After you chuckle, can you identify what went wrong?

Funny Teamwork Video1

Funny Teamwork Video 2

I found these at Teamwork and Leadership Bloggings with Mike Rogers

Monday, July 12, 2010

Play Ball!

This may totally wreck any credibility I may possess, but I am a Cubs fan; have been all of my life.

Yet, in spite of all of the losing, I still love the Cubs and baseball in general.  AND, I think we can learn some from the game.  I was working with a board on Saturday and we were talking about success.  As sometimes happens, a baseball metaphor pops into my mind, so it was not surprising that this happened on Saturday.

We have weird ideas about success in our society and we don't like failure.  Yet in baseball, the REALLY GOOD hitters only get a hit about 3 out of 10 tries.  Day after day, player after player, takes their at bats--162 days out of the year.I have often wondered what it must feel like to strike out for the third out with the winning run on third, 30,000 people watching. 

We celebrate those who can hit over .300, and fail to recognize the effort, the patience, the perseverance it takes to take your at bats day after day. For me, this is one of the things that makes baseball such a great game.

How can we in public education, celebrate the .300 hitters, and persevere in spite of the pressure and criticism that often comes from parents and the public? 

If we only succeed with three out of ten children we would not count that as success, so the "data" part of the metaphor is not where the lesson lies.  The lesson lies in the ability to take an at bat, time after time, learn from your previous at bats, get better at pitch selection, your stance in the batter's box.  Don't just play the game.  Be a student of the game.  It is not the number of hits, it is the trying; the learning; the improving your swing and your eye.  These are the lessons we can learn from baseball and apply them to our work in public education.

We too have a long season.  Each day we have to come prepared to "Play ball!" 

Monday, July 5, 2010

Innovation in Public Education--What is the most needed resource? Financial Capital or Human Capital?

I have been listening and engaging in conversations about public education for more than twenty years.  Two of the dominant themes of these conversations are the need to improve the system and the need for more money to implement improvements.

I have learned that the argument about the need for more money for public education is much like culture war arguments.  Just as we will never resolve culture war issues like abortion or gun use, we will never determine when public education has been adequately financed. (By the way, the funding argument has been employed since the Great Depression.)

Much like culture war issues, the funding issue distracts us from the bigger challenge--how to innovate so that all children learn what they need to survive as individuals and as productive citizens in our society.

Rather than  investing resources in the funding argument, I think we need to turn our energies toward learning how to make school relevant and meaningful; how to sustain the system; how to provide opportunities for children to learn 21st century skills (which, by the way, the 21st century is already ten years old).

Recently I had a conversation with a good friend about the state of public education. She works very hard and firmly believes that the public education system in Minnesota needs more financial resources.  She was having a down day because Minnesota had just released the results of the state test and, once again, little progress had been made.

I said that I thought the answer to the problem might be found in charter schools; that we need to radically restructure time if we intend to provide students with experiences that are relevant to their lives today and that charter schools provide a way around the structures--parents, teachers, communities--who don't want to change.  My friend argued that she was not willing to lose a generation of children  because the system cannot meet their needs. Implicit in her argument was the notion that charter schools create greater inequalities among students as motivated parents will enroll their children in charter schools that provide quality programs, leaving students with greater needs behind in the public schools.  She firmly believes that if public schools were given adequate funding, the system could meet the needs of all children.

I, too, see the problem as one of resources, but not financial resources.  We need to employ human capital if we expect to meet the needs of today's students.  I want to see us employ radically new methods of engaging with students--one rooted in 21st century technology, not the 19th century industrial model.

In this TED talk, Charles Leadbeater: Education innovation in the slums describes radical forms of education--all of which are found in some of the poorest communities in the world.  And this informal, disruptive new kind of school, he says, is what all schools need to become.  We need to look at these models to learn how we might transform public education in the United States.  

Improving the current system is not the answer.  Rather than incremental innovation, the system needs disruptive innovation, change the brings a whole new way of doing things to public education.  Rather than focusing on the money, we need to think about the structure.  We need to reinvent public education.  If we cannot transform the system from the inside, then we need to employ external models to do the work for us.

I just want to see it happen.  If the public system can do it--Great.  If it can't--I am ready to embrace what works, wherever it comes from.  I, too, hate to see us waste another generation of students.