Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Going from Third-Person, to First

Pause for a moment and reflect on the cumulative effect of the projects currently at play in Wisconsin: Common Core, RTI, PBIS, InTASC, SBAC, new district report cards, and a new educator evaluation system. Not to mention the fact that we are powering up these initiatives at a time of record-low revenue and depleted morale in Wisconsin. 

All these initiatives are worthy—there is no question about value or merit. However, to paraphrase Peter Drucker, culture eats projects like these for breakfast, and without considerable attention to the softer-side of organizations, our school districts will suffer and struggle to not only implement but also realize any student-performance benefit from these mass-scale reforms.

To a large extent, school leaders have little influence over any of these projects; in a practical sense, they are mandates—from the top, down. We must implement them, and we have trivial authority over the particulars.  While we have insignificant influence over the actual reforms, we have substantial inspiration in how we choose to implement them at the local level. 

School leaders today have direct affect on the climates in which these reforms come to fruition. If the quality of our partnerships aren't strong, if we aren't in agreement about continuous improvement, and if our vision isn't powerful and based on community values, these reforms aren't going to get very far.  No matter how innovative and research-based these reforms are, they will fall short without powerful work at the local level to inspire motivation, commitment, vision, and empathy. 

For teacher leaders, building principals, district administrators, and board members, we now are fortunate to have this flash of clarity. Yes, the limelight is on top-down reform and the white-hot spotlight is directed at us, yet this affords us the opportunity to direct the action.

Ironic as it may be after decades of efforts to lobby huge and impersonal education legislation, we realize that our most influential efforts are best played out on a local scale, with our own communities, on personal relationships and collegial trust. So today, we shift to calling forth the gifts of kids and colleagues, finding a way to let people’s light shine, and to go from third-person, to first. 


  1. Brad, as an administrator, I am often in conversations about all of these things. We currently are faced with more than we can effectively handle at one time. Theoretically, it all sounds great and "dove-tails" together; however, the unintended impacts and influences that pushing so much and so many things at once will undoubtedly later cause people to re-think the process that led to this current situation. We are all feeling the pressure and seeing the emotional impacts prior to the actual implementation. It is hard to measure how this all impacts student learning via impacts on teacher effectiveness related to stress/disruption/distraction caused from these mandated things but just by our focus being taking away by these things, it must be impacting productivity?

  2. Brad, I thought you hit the mark on this topic when I first read it some time ago. A related issue is to avoid the "paralysis of analysis" that can easily occur when there are so many issues of such significance moving forward simultaneously. This linked article describes some ways we are looking to support school leaders across Wisconsin with this over coming months:

    Also, CONGRATULATIONS on the new role, Brad. You will be fantastic!!