Sometimes you go further with the brakes on a bit…

Bernhardt, Victoria L., Using data to improve student learning in school districts. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education, 2006 (p. 11)

At least once a week, my principal and I meet to debrief, and to exchange thoughts, ideas and feedback.  Lately I’ve been sharing my enthusiasm with him about blogging.  We’ve set up a school blog, he’s visited this blog, and I’ve created two classroom blogs with both classes I teach.  The comments and feedback from parents, students and staff have been very positive and I can’t wait to see the excitement spread.  My vision is to see widespread use of blogs as a means of increasing parent engagement in our school.

Today my principal and I sat down in his office (yes, it’s Saturday, but if you’re an administrator and reading this, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise, right?) so we could catch up, plan and exchange feedback.  I look forward to these sessions for my personal and professional development.  As I was rattling off excitedly my plans and visions for school-wide blogging, he smiled the smile I’ve come to know as the one that indicates he’s about to impart some wisdom on me.  Bring it on, I’m thinking. 

He opened his notebook and drew the familiar four-part Venn diagram like the one above, from Victoria Bernhardt’s book Using Data to Improve Student Learning in Elementary SchoolsIt’s familiar not necessarily because I’ve read the book, but because it’s such an intrinsic part of his leadership approach.  Whenever he’s faced with a decision, and not just school improvement decisions, he pictures the diagram and considers all four sectors: demographics, perceptions, student learning and school processes.  So while I was going a mile-a-minute about blogging and school-wide implementation, and won’t this be fantastic, he’s considering the bigger picture.

This is not to say that he’s against the idea, or that he’s reluctant.  Like me, he gets excited about initiatives, new learnings, anything that engages kids and improves learning and teaching.  And he’s just as excited about my pushing him in a direction that’s new for him. But he’s trained himself to put the brakes on, if only just a smidge, and filter his enthusiasm through Bernhardt’s framework.  For instance, he’s  thinking about the perceptions of the staff with regards to classroom blogging.  If we start talking about classroom blogs, are they going to perceive this as being forced upon them? If I bring in colleagues who are advanced bloggers, how will the staff receive this?  His feedback?  Start with the few keeners, and have them present to the staff at a later date. Hopefully, staff will see the merits in blogging and come to it on their own, with their own level of enthusiasm.

I value my relationship with my principal, and I am so thankful for his openness and his feedback.  I know that I am the type of person that gets so excited about something I want to rush ahead, but by doing so I risk separating myself from my team and losing sight of the whole picture.  It becomes “my thing”.  By slowing down I then have the opportunity to work collaboratively with my team, expand ownership and move an idea or vision forward until it becomes part of school culture.

6 thoughts on “Sometimes you go further with the brakes on a bit…

  1. Great thoughts, Erin. Important to consider impact prior to launching a new initiative. With regards to the blogging, I offered to be in the lab a few mornings to help anyone interested. We have about 6 class blogs up and running and about an equal number more who are just getting set up. If you have some of the connectors in your school involved, others will follow. Great project!

    Shannon

    • Thanks Shannon. I sometimes forget in my eagerness that others need more time to process and digest new information. I love the idea of making myself available in the lab. I know a few who would join me – definitely my connectors – and who would spread the word.

  2. Great idea about the 4-way Venn Diagram – although it might need a 5th circle – relationships. I guess I should read the book.

    I’m 3 days into my first principalship and fighting the urge to start blogging. It’s the right thing to do in many circles, but might not be the right time.

    I love leading at highway speeds, but sometimes 2nd gear is the best way to get up a hill.

    • Hi Kyle. Congratulations on your principalship. I love your last line – that absolutely describes how I can be!

      I agree that relationships are absolutely key. I’m also new in my role as VP, and new to the school, so it’s all about relationship-building right now. I know to limit changes during my honeymoon year and gather evidence on what the school does really well. I know that my relationships with a few staff members, connectors as I’ve learned to call them, can withstand my enthusiasm and they’re ready to go. Others need the slow lane, which is fine. Adaptability within staff relationships is important in order to get widespread buy-in.

      Thanks for the comment. Let me know when you start blogging!

  3. Erin,

    When I first saw this graphic, I remember being surprised by the number of interactions that occur within a school community. We need to be cognizant of where people are coming from when we bring forward new ideas, especially into schools where there can be significant push back from people who are resistant to change (or who expect change). My own attempts to create change have reminded my of the Dance of Anger — people will do what they can to bring you back to where things were before so they do not have to change and so they can retain some power. Keep people involved, let them try, and more people will come with you.

    Good luck!

    • Hey Chris,
      I’m starting to see the fruits of some of my labour. I’ve made myself available to teachers who would be interested in blogging, and I’ve gone from one lone teacher, to 4+ now. Start with a few connected people, and then their connected people see what’s happening, and it’s a happy snowball effect. Or, as it says in the draft of my next post, it’s like boiling frogs.

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