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Know Your Kids


I created the New learning Ecosystem chart seven years ago. It was my attempt to try to make sense of the direction learning should go in the future. Interestingly, "learner-centered" is having a moment right now. There are so many great resources to learn more about becoming a learner-centered educator. A recent group that is having a lot of impact is The Learner-Centered Collaborative. I encourage you to check them out.

This chart is meant to simplify the framework in which to think about moving away from the traditional model of schooling and do something more meaningful for learners. But, is there a way to create an even more simplified framework?

My colleague Duff Rearick and I discuss just this idea quite a bit and we have come up with a few points that will help you shift from a traditional mindset of school to a learner-centered mindset.

Here you go.

1. Know Your Kids. No excuse. No matter the size of your school, and the inherent issues facing your school, a learner-centered leader sets up systems to assure that ALL learners are "known" to adults in the school. What are their interests, hopes, fears, aspirations, and inspirations? This is simple to do. Forget the hogwash about test scores and "growth"...just know your kids!

2. Kids Aren't "Things." Kids are not data points. Kids are not a plot on a chart. Kids are not inanimate objects that can be modified by research-based interventions. Kids are human beings and human beings can be messy at times. Embrace the messy...that is where the magic lies!

3. The Testing Culture Is Child Abuse (And Fiscal Abuse). I am not downplaying some of the horrible conditions that our children live through. I am putting a stake in the ground and saying that the Education/Testing Complex is a form of child abuse. When kids cry the night before big state-mandated tests, when kids are placed in "remediation" classes because of a score on a test, when a student's self-worth is determined by a test score...we are encouraging child abuse in our a system.

BTW, go figure out the amount of money you spend in your school on state-mandated tests. Figure the hourly rate of all of the adults involved in organizing and proctoring the test. It's fiscally irresponsible. I would love to hear what you come up with.

Lead With A "SPINE"

When you experience a bad leader, you might think, "This person has no spine." What you are getting at is that the person backs down a lot or gives in to the whims of whoever is in front of them at any given time. 

What is the opposite of not having a spine? How about having a backbone. In an article I read this week, the author describes the difference between a spine and a backbone. 

The cure for lack of spine is a backbone — the courage to live up to standards that matter for the betterment of others.

"For the betterment of others." What a simple mantra to live by. How can you live up to standards that will matter for the betterment of others THIS WEEK? Do something today!

I think you will find the author's acronym for SPINE worthwhile as you think about actions to take for the betterment of others.

Strength is standing up for what you believe and acting on those beliefs. “Moral authority,” wrote Stephen Covey, “comes from following universal and timeless principles like honesty, integrity, treating people with respect.”

Principle is rooted in purpose. What you believe and why you believe it. “To see what is right and not to do it is want of courage, or of principle,” said Confucius. Principle becomes the very marrow of the spine. It gives it the ability to remain upright in the face of adversity.

Integrity is the expression of ethical behavior. Telling the truth and holding oneself accountable is fundamental to behaving with honor, living not just for oneself but for the good of others.

Nurture is the caring side of leadership. It means investing yourself in the development of others. Another form of nurturing is coaching, finding ways to guide and at the same time challenging them to do their best.

Energy is what is necessary to catalyze the organization. If the organization is dead in the water, in time you do nothing but drift. Leaders need to invest themselves in creating opportunities for others. That requires exertion.
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Becoming An Empathetic Leader
If you keep in mind these seven traits of an empathetic leader, your school will improve immensely.

An empathetic Leader...
  • Asks rather than tells
  • Listens rather than speaks
  • Serves rather than commands
  • Cares about people’s concerns
  • Is receptive to feedback
  • Doesn’t overact to people’s questions or concerns
  • Doesn’t interpret concerns as resistance
Which one comes naturally to you?

Which one do you need to learn more about so you can become better?
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