Thursday, July 25, 2013

It's Not Us Against Them

Review by Art Trombley

I purchased three books at the Model Schools Conference in Washington D.C.. This is the second one I am reviewing. It was written by Ray McNulty who is one of the fellows in the ICLE (International Center for Educational Leadership in Education). He works with Bill Dagget, the man who spoke to us all in May this past year.
This book is about how we look at our own schools and decide if we are all heading in the same direction. To see if we are unified in our goals. To see if as a staff we have a vision. There are examples from many schools around the country and their focus was not the same but what made them special to the author was that some careful consideration was given to having a clear plan for their school.
He talks often about the 21st century learner and the skills our students need for a future we are not sure about. He describes the rapid change in our culture over the past few years and the fact that jobs that never existed before are now not being filled because schools are not training students for those jobs.
But mostly he focused on 5 Cs of school leadership - communication, clarity, consistency, conviction and cohesiveness. At times his examples seem simple yet complicated. Schools in trouble really had to reinvent themselves in creative ways and in some cases those changes lead to some teachers quitting the profession. He is very clear however that the school making the most significant changes are the ones willing to take risks when they know things are not working.
I am going to say that our school is not in the same boat as the ones described in the book. We tend to be among the better performing schools in the area. But we know we can be better and this book gives some outlines about how we can create a plan. We need a leadership team to decide a direction to take. We need a concrete plan that we ALL follow. We need a vision and perhaps a more direct mission statement if we want to move forward. The new tests and curriculum changes are going to make us move in a new direction anyway so it is a good time to revisit the goals we have for our future.
There are some answers in this book but more importantly there are questions to guide us to make decisions. This book is inspiring in that it reminds us that we are doing many things quite well already and that simple changes may be all we need to turn our school from one of the best in the area to one of the best period.
I do have this book to loan out. I did have it signed by the author so I will want it back. It is a quick and inspiring read.
McNulty was a speaker in D.C. and was as engaging on stage as he is in this book. If nothing else this company is really selling motivation and I have to admit I bought into it all. I am already redesigning my class, my lessons and my approach to teaching for when we get back to work in September. I have also committed to being part of the leadership team and hope that maybe you will as well.

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