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The Learner-Centered Leader: Reflect and Renew

Deschooling Society (Part II)...A Solution To A Problem

This week Duff and I discussed our reactions to Chapter 2 in the book. Let me cut to the chase about the result of the discussion based on how we read the chapter.

Too often, people complain about something, whether it’s a situation, an institution, or a governmental entity without offering solutions to the problem. Well today, dear friends, I am offering a solution to the problem facing public education. The problem is an overreliance by those who make education policy on testing and shaming of learners and schools.

The solution will create hubs of innovative practices across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

With this solution, learners will become more than numbers on a spreadsheet.

We can create a world where staff will be more than vessels to vomit information into the minds of learners.

So, here we go...

The Pennsylvania Department of Education needs to create the conditions to allow experimental school districts.

Now, before you start saying "that's what charter schools are supposed to do"...just stop it! The foundational principles of charter schools (that innovation can occur when the right circumstances are created) should be done in good ol' "regular" public schools. We don't need charters to be innovative. It seems to me that everyone should want regular public school districts to have the freedom that charter schools provide.

The solution of experimental school districts is based on three tenets.

1. Experiminatation can only be effective when it is a local solution to a problem faced LOCALLY. What works in the Austin Area School District in Potter County is different from what will work in the Penn-Trafford School District in Westmoreland County. Let's accept the obvious fact that a one size fits all approach to education policy simply does not work.

2. PDE will loosen the stranglehold that over-regulation and "accountability systems" have on public education. I just shared a document with superintendents that lists all of the regulations (State and Federal) that school districts must follow. The document is 74 pages long!! It seems to me that creating the conditions for experimental school districts can be done in 2 steps.
           First, learn to trust school boards and those people that work in education. That should be easy. Really, it should be. If you can't trust elected officials at the hyper-local level, why should anyone trust elected officials at the State level? Come on, school boards (although not perfect) know what the pulse of their community is like and can craft programs to meet their needs.
           Second, allowing pilot programs to flourish for 5 years untethered from some of the over regulations, will give a school the necessary time to prove that what they are doing is best for learners. If their program works, great. If it does not, then how can it be adjusted?

3. There will be 25 school districts vying to become experimental school districts. Their application must reflect the outcomes the program is addressing, the method in which they will address the outcomes, and they must be willing to publish the results on what they learned at the end of their program. By the way, they must also list the specific regulations they are seeking relief from following during the course of their program.

There you go...a solution that is doable...IF there is courageous leadership among State policymakers.

Learner-Centered Leaders Believe They Can Change People!

The work of instituting learner-centered change in your school is hard. Let's face it, all of us can push "The Easy Button" and coast through our careers and be compliant and create no waves. But you have not chosen that path. For that reason, I offer you some advice I found in a blog this week about how you can change people as you lead change in your schools.

The Bottom Line.
Changing people requires 4 shifts in your thinking.

1. Shift from a critic to an ally. You don't want to jump right in and criticize someone who does not want to discuss the changes you want to make. You must first become an ally and understand their point of view. Good Ol' Stephen Covey's Fifth Habit...Seek first to understand and then be understood.

2. Identify an energizing outcome. Who wants to work hard for a change that is meaningless? You don't, so don't expect others to follow you if the outcome is just ho-hum. How can you start this process? By asking one question to people..."What do you want to achieve?" Imagine how much you will learn by asking that one, simple question!

3. Find the hidden opportunity in every problem. Some good questions to start this problem.
“What’s potentially good or valuable about this problem?”
“How can this problem help you achieve your energizing outcome?”
“Is this problem a symptom of a systemic issue?”
“Who would you have to become to achieve your energizing outcome?”

4. Create a level 10 plan. When you ask someone how confident they are that they (and you) will be successful in the change, you want them to say "10 out of 10." I have learned throughout the last few years that creating a project management plan aligned to outcomes and goals is a great way to achieve a level 10 plan.
Read the Blog Post

Thank You for Completing My Survey


Thank you to everyone who completed my survey last week. I truly appreciate the effort and time you took to complete it. Here are some of the results.



Please Share
As The Learner-Centered Leader Newsletter evolves, I want to create a community of school leaders that supports and inspires each other. In the upcoming year, I am planning different events and activities that will be available for The Learner-Centered community. Right now, at the end of 2021, we have 88 members of our Learner-Centered community.

I am asking that you share this email with a few school leaders who you think will benefit from the newsletter and future events that we organize.

Please use the links below to share this newsletter on social media or forward the newsletter through email. 

Let's set a goal of 200 members by July 1st. I appreciate your help in building our community.

Now, more than ever, those of us who are focused on the learner need to work together to inspire and support one another!

Thank you!
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Strategy To Lessen Anxiety
This is from the Alex and Books newsletter. The author is reviewing the book The Anxiety Toolkit by Alice Boyes. Here are his main take-aways from the book as written by the newsletter author.

Some tips to lessen anxiety:
1) Break big projects into multiple small tasks:
A big project can be intimidating and stop you from doing anything at all.
But if you break it down into small tasks, it will be much more manageable and won't trigger your anxiety.

2) Be smart about procrastination:
If you find yourself procrastinating, it may be a cue to take a break.
Try to still do something productive while procrastinating like organizing your room or cooking.

3) Meditate for 3-5 minutes a day:
Doing so will decrease your anxiety while simultaneously boosting your focus.

Ok, this is Tom back at you. Do not overlook tip #3. A 3-5 minute meditation every day is really helpful...and no, you don't have to get in the Lotus position and hum. Instead, just download the Headspace app on your phone and you can customize the length of your meditation. Allowing your mind the chance to relax is not New-Agey is a scientific practice that is proven to sharpen your mind.
What I Am Watching
The idea of "freedom" has always fascinated me. I find it interesting that people can experience freedom when they are in prison while people with all of the resources to be happy and content do not feel "free". Somewhere in between those two extremes is where most of us live.

This short (12 minute) film chronicles Craig Bierly as he enters his 13th year as a nomad living in a van and mountain biking his way across age 71!  

The Bottom Line: All of us have our own definition of what personal freedom means. Some people ride mountain bikes, some people write newsletters!
Let your mind wander as you watch the video
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