"Let us move forward with boldness and not retreat back into the comforts of the past." - David March
Servant Leadership and Service at it's best!!!
In any organization there are people who truly make a difference. Sometimes they are easily recognized and other times they perform in near anonymity. As SSISD has progressed in our 1:1 journey 6 people have worked tirelessly to make things happen behind the scenes. Because I get the luxury of working directly with teachers and students, I often hear the comments of appreciation for the opportunities that come along with the added access to classroom technology. Sometimes the frustration and complaints are shared as well and that is ok. I want to share a little about the people that work behind the scenes. For me, I know these people have taught me so much about educational technology and I am grateful to be able to work with and learn from some of the best in the business.
My journey with technology started 3 years ago because of the vision and leadership of Rodney White. I was hired as a campus technology specialist at the High School despite being under qualified from the technology perspective. Rodney saw my instructional background and realized that it would be an opportunity for him to get someone with a different perspective within his staff. This meant that the "Silent 6" would all have to take on a heavier workload as they taught me the technical side of things. Rodney's vision and understanding of district goals and needs show up often with things like this.
Rodney made it clear to me from day one that he operates with two key concepts in mind.
Ben Scott's title is Network Administrator, but it might be better said that he is the " all the other stuff guy." Everyone in the department takes on a share of the random things that come up, but often times if it doesn't fit in a certain area, Ben has a hand in getting it done. Despite all the random things, Ben has also undertaken the challenge of changing out, and building out the district's network. While the 1:1 program has created certain needs, the reality is that Ben has had a plan for several years to get campus networks ready for the growth. In any 1:1 program the infrastructure is priority number 1. Without it a plan will fail, when successful, the temporary setbacks will be manageable. We want things to work like they do at home, but expect the security and stability required of a large organization. The two are not always as easy to balance as we think. Ben also plays a key role in anything that involves an "auto import." Those auto imports are not automatic, until Ben sets them up.
David Hodges and Larry Mahand are probably two of the least recognizable of the tech team. Larry is a man of few words, but he serves the district as a part time support person. Larry is often seen handling support tickets and making deliveries of repaired devices. Larry won't say a lot, but his role on the team once again epitomizes the servant service concept. David Hodges joined the district last January. David has had a hand in the network build out and was without a doubt a great addition to the team. Like the rest of the team, David is perfectly content going about his business under the radar. David provides added infrastructure support that will be invaluable as we roll out the final wave of devices at the high school this year. David brings a level of expertise that we are lucky to have.
All right stop, Collaborate and listen. Ice is back with my brand new invention.
Yep, I am going there! I can stop, I can collaborate, but the thing I am not very good at is truly listening. I know this is a flaw of mine, and it has been for a very long time. I think it is important to really look at what is going on when things are not going the way you think they should. It is easier to blame what everyone else is doing, but it seems that more often than not, when you really look at things, the problems can easily be corrected by fixing yourself.
Something grabs a hold of me tightly
Most people who know me professionally know that I can get very passionate about what I believe. I do think this is a strength, but like anything too much of something can be bad. Nearly two years ago I took over the role of Instructional Technology Coordinator for my school district. Mostly this was due to being in the right place at the right time. I had a passion for technology and my district was growing a 1:1 program. It just made sense for several reasons including my math background.
To start with, I always thought of Instructional Technology as a trainer position that would simply show teachers how to use different tools. I loved tech, I loved to figure stuff out, so even though I don't know how to use everything we have, I am one of the people in my district that will spend hours figuring stuff out. So yeah, I can say I was qualified to help teachers in this way. My problem is I have this other passion, and that is learning, and researching. I blame my professor, Dr. Richard Rose from West Texas A&M for this. During my time in his Instructional Design and Technology program he lit a fire in me that I didn't know existed. So why is this a problem?
Sometimes blind ambition leads you astray despite good intentions. I have been fortunate to speak to some very strong leaders in the world of Ed Tech and Innovative education. David Jakes tried to clue me into my problem a little over two months when he said what I was wanting to do was above my title or pay grade. Of course at the time, I said, YES that is correct I shouldn't have to do this or that, but I do because nobody else is doing it. You see my problem was still there, it was ME. It was the fact that despite good intentions, I was missing the boat.
To the extreme I rock a mic like a vandal
You see, the "chump" in the room was me. As I was figuring out my role, I was constantly trying to make sure that what we did with Ed Tech would match our Curriculum vision. I bugged people in the dept that we had to come up with a common theme of vision. Really to the point of being annoying (those that know me would be shocked I'm sure).
The mission of the Sulphur Springs Independent School District is to provide students with the skills that will prepare them to adapt and excel in a fast-changing world, enabling them to lead productive lives. The district shares with parents and the community the responsibility of promoting high standards and expectations as we provide opportunities for all students within our diverse community to attain personal growth and to become lifelong learners.
So above is our District mission statement. It has been the same since before I even came to the district, and finally one day I re-read it and decided yes, that is great (especially the underlined words) and so I set out to make sure that what we do with Instructional tech ties back into our mission statement. Sound logical thinking, right? Well my problem is that I let myself go astray again by essentially creating my own mission or "agenda." It wasn't a bad thing, not a personal agenda to go against others, or to improve myself over others, but it has altered a lot of my thinking.
If there was a problem, yo, I'll solve it
For me, I had to solve the problem of ensuring that our classrooms were innovative, and our teachers were all embracing all of the stuff that I believe to be important in that regard. I spend a ridiculous amount of time researching and reading and trying to make sure that we are doing things that are sound. And in so many ways what we do is really good. But it doesn't match everything that we should be all about. Again the elephant in the room is the fact that what I think we should be all about doesn't mean squat. My job is to carry out the vision and mission of my superiors. There are many things that they would like to accomplish right now also, but they know that we cannot throw everything out at once or our people will flounder miserably.
You see there is a fine line between leading and pushing. I tend to be a pusher, despite wanting to be a leader. I have really been working hard at trying to step back and help serve people rather than try to get them to all think like me. I have felt like I was making great strides, but last night it hit me. I sat with our Superintendent and said our common vision stinks. He graciously let me state my opinion, and didn't fire me, which I appreciate. He then followed it up with a well directed statement that was the nicest way he could have said to me that my mission wasn't a common one. It wasn't in those exact words, and I am not sure he even knows the exact statement that I am referring to directly. But the reality is it finally sank in, NO we do not have a common vision for what I personally think is best, but please note that I agree with things we are doing. That is true, but it is also because my vision or mission is NOT what the district mission or vision is, because it is not where the district is at this point in time, which I must recognize.
Yes I see eye to eye on a lot of things, but where my passion lies, is not where our district needs to be right now. My superiors have a common vision. They meet and they are on the same page and have their goals. I go back to David Jakes and his kick in the pants to me. It is not MY role to come up with what our common vision should be. It is my role to make sure our district vision is met. Take initiative for things that are in my wheel house, and give input when appropriate. There are a lot of "problems" that are not mine to solve. When they are not your problems, it doesn't mean that you don't stay proactive in addressing them when found, but remember that someone else with much more information is already working on those problems. It was said to me multiple times in multiple ways and I did "get it" at the time it was said, but I really didn't listen absorb it the way I should.
It is amazing how well I can hear that music the DJ is revolving, when I just get out of my own way. While my particular story may not relate to you, I do challenge you to really look at how you handle situations and determine if you are part of the problem as well. I think when we really look at things, we will see that before we complain, we need to make sure we have our house in order first.
I know Johnny is going to struggle with Algebra because I had a miserable time with it when I was in school.
Which side of your face do you want me to slap, or should I slap both sides?
How many times have you turned on your local news, or read in your news feed about a negative Student - Teacher interaction? For every inappropriate interaction there are thousands of positive ones ever hour across the country. The positive stuff doesn't make for a sexy news headline and won't be shared unless we intentionally do so. We must continue to tell the true story of the incredible things our teachers and students do daily.
In the latest edition from Dave Burgess Publishing, Ryan McLane and Eric Lowe discuss ways that educators can be sure that the right message is getting out about our schools. Your School Rocks is a great source of ideas for educators. This is all too important with the addition of Charter and other for-profit education entities. We have to continue to fight hard to showcase the positives.
What are you doing to share the positive experiences in your schools? Are you sure your message is getting to the intended audience? As Dave Burgess said recently, "often we use mediums that are outright useless.... We need to go where our audience is, not where we think they should be." I would love to hear your your ideas in the comments.
So are you up to the challenge? Positivity is infectious. The more we share the great things that are going on the more good we will recognize. I would like to challenge you to blog about the great things you are seeing in your schools. While I am confident this will benefit our teachers and students, I am even more confident that you will benefit most from the experience. When we focus on finding and recognizing the positive things, we naturally are happier and more positive in our daily actions.
If you begin this challenge, please share the links to your blog articles with me. I aim to gather as many great experiences as I can in several formats, so I can help spread the messages on various levels. Make that conscious effort to find great things and lets be sure that OUR message is the face of education today!