Walk TALL and Help Others Carry their BIG Sticks

Image taken by G. McGough
Image taken by G. McGough

In the spirit of Mothers’ Day, I would like to share a small story that I witnessed a short time ago.

I was in the waiting line to pick up my daughter from her elementary school when I witnessed an inspirational moment of servant leadership. A mother was walking her son home from kindergarten, and he pulled her to a stop to pick up a fairly large branch that was protruding out into the sidewalk. She waited for him to grasp it and then she proceeded at a slower gait so that he could manage his new burden. The stick jostled as it outlined each crack and separation in the concrete. Once or twice it poked her in the back of the leg.

After the third poke to the back of her calf, I knew that this was the moment of truth. I could empathize with her frustration at being poked by such a useless object. I thought that I knew her response. She is going to grab the stick from him and launch it into the hedgerow.

Interestingly, her response was just the opposite of my expectations. She took his little hand and showed him how to hold the stick so that it would not pose a threat to either of their legs. HE was important to her…and her efforts allowed her to look past the apparently useless BIG stick. It was within only a few steps that he pulled her to a hault and launched the stick into the hedge. Unencumbered, the two walked hand-in-hand the rest of the way home from school.

There are many times in a leadership moment when those we are leading pull the organization to a hault and take up a “big stick” of their own to drag. Whether its a new program or additional job tasks. Compassionate leaders understand that the new task was undertaken because of an innate interest in the mind of the individual. An inspirational leader cares enough about those s/he leads that s/he allows them the freedom to take on new tasks. In an effort to show organizational support, the leader should help the person position him/herself and the various resources so that success can be gained. If the task proves to be too much down the road, the individual can make the choice while still feeling fully supported by the organization.

Who in your organization could use some help with a big stick problem that they are dragging along the path?

Yours in Education,

Dr. Gregg McGough, CRI Blogger/CRI Podcaster

Who Wants to Be Saved By Superman?

The image was created by sciodrivver on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/65576902@N00/451466621/
The image was created by sciondriver on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/ photos/65576902  @N00/451466621/




When my son was ten, he uttered the words that no father, especially one who is an English teacher, wants to hear, “Dad, I just really don’t like reading.”

I was devastated, but I decided that to try a technique that I had picked up in one of the many national ELA conferences that I have attended over the years. My son has always liked superheroes and one in particular, Superman. After a small argument concerning superheroes, we ended up at the local comic book store looking for answers. I am happy to report that my son is currently an avid reader, although it appears as if I am now the one with a serious comic book addiction.

A recent career advancement has forced me to contemplate my approach to leadership.

Just the other day I was reading one of my comics, and I started to think about how leadership is displayed in this visually stunning art form. The beautifully drawn cells of the comic book display muscle bound super humans swooping into sometimes desperate situations and rescuing a person or people in some sort of trouble. This type of narrative makes for some compelling comic books, but I fear that too many leaders adopt the superhero metaphor when determining their leadership role in a new organization.

No one wants to be saved by Superman. Think about it! Everyone wants to don the red cape and be the savior. Too many leaders have the Superman complex and want to constantly arrive quickly on the scene and make quick fixes and save everyone. The problem with this leadership style is that before Superman swoops in he is flying too far above the problem to make an accurate assessment.

The true hero is Clark Kent because, in an effort to protect his anonymity, he sometimes delays the transformation into the blue leotards, and he remains the mild-mannered Clark, who supports those around him. (Clark Kent is Superman’s human alter ego that allows him anonymity in Metropolis.)This approach inspires people to try and identify and solve their own problems. This is the type of empowerment that allows organizations to reach new heights of organizational effectiveness.

One person cannot save an organization; but s/he can truly inspire the team to realize their hidden super-potential.


Yours in Education

Dr. Gregg McGough, CRI Blogger/Podcaster

A GPS for College and Career Readiness

GPSHiking a nature trail is a great experience for exercise and enjoyment. When hiking familiar trails, we know the route  and we can just enjoy the experience and not have to worry about getting lost or have need for a map. This comfortable experience of hiking can be compared to the conditions in many schools, where a culture of focusing on preparing students for the next grade level, hopefully moving on to college, is familiar territory for educators and we continue to exercise and enjoy the experience. However, when we introduce college AND career readiness to the equation, our comfortable hike takes on a very different experience and we uncomfortably find ourselves in uncharted territory. The area around us is different and we’re unsure of our destination. We are in desperate need of a map.

Finding our way in the world has become much easier and we have added a new term to our navigation vocabulary — GPS (Global Positioning System). Maps and compasses are old technology and today we have the added benefit of GPS. A GPS has the convenience of a well marked map, often in electronic form on a smart phone. But, it also has the exact positioning of where we are in relation to the trail, our environment and can automatically map out a route for us to find our destination. This convenient technology has made it much easier to find our way in a new neighborhood, or a new trail.

In schools, as we negotiate the new terrain of college AND career readiness, leaders often wish we had a similar GPS that would give us greater detail about the unfamiliar terrain, show us exactly where we are and automatically map our route to the destination. We are no where near a smartphone app that would give us a very clear indication of how to improve schools, but recently developed tools give us many of the elements of a GPS to map our way towards this important student goal of college and career readiness.

The Career Readiness Institute (CRI) hosted by the Successful Practices Network (SPN) has created a Career Readiness Self-Assessment. Building upon over a decade of cataloging the best practices in America’s most rapidly improving schools, SPN has developed a series of checklists which serve as the equivalent of a GPS to guide schools toward its destination of college and career readiness. This self-assessment includes a series of checklists which enable schools to more precisely identify where their school community is in relationship to this changing terrain. Since schools have a very comfortable experience in mapping their programs towards college readiness, these checklists primarily focus on career readiness. However, many aspects of school relate to both college and career readiness as partially overlapping goals and several checklists relate to both.

The checklists include school characteristics in three areas. First, Results encourages leadership teams to reflect on their overall student learning results and look beyond the minimum measures of state academic assessments. The checklists encourage schools to examine achievement in stretching students beyond the minimum and also including measures on student performances and developing Life/Career Abilities or “soft skills.” The second area of checklists focus on school Culture. Often the existing culture of the school either enables or hinders a school improvement or change initiative. Examining these current behaviors related to school culture gives leadership teams a more precise identification of aspects of culture that need to be changed over time. Finally, the third area of checklists focuses on Practices — those unique instructional planning, instruction and student support services that are necessary to develop career readiness.

The Career Readiness Self-Assessment is a powerful new resource to guide schools in their planning. You can learn more about the self-assessment by going to the Career Readiness Institute website or viewing this podcast overview .  School leaders and staff should not feel overwhelmed when hiking through new territory of college and career readiness.  There are tools and experience, equivalent of a GPS, that can guide us to this destination.