The Principal Story

The Task
As part of an educational leadership course, groups were challenged to create a rubric for evaluating educational leaders based on readings from the course. Our group identified ten areas that we felt were necessary components of an effective school leader. Categories included:

  1. Organization
  2. Communication
  3. Action-based/follow-through
  4. Relationships/rapport-building
  5. Instructional expertise
  6. Situational awareness
  7. Visibility
  8. Data-driven/evidence-based practice
  9. Climate/culture development
  10. Professionalism/ethical behavior

The Principal Story

The class then viewed the film The Principal Story and was challenged to apply our rubrics to the two principals chronicled in the film. Not surprisingly, differences in opinion amongst group members emerged when deciding if the principals were “good” leaders. While it’s very easy to say that you ‘know a good leader when you see one’, it is increasingly difficult to isolate characteristics of that individual that make him/her so exceptional. Translating theory and research into practice is anything but a straightforward process. Our rubric could have listed twenty, fifty, or one hundred characteristics. Would this have made a difference or led us closer towards consensus? Would a different format (i.e. mind map, chart, etc) have been more helpful? Do these graphics/lists further strip away the human aspects of leading that can’t be captured in a rubric or checklist?

What’s the Goal?

This leadership course began with emphasizing the need for leaders to build a shared vision among those they are leading & to design a clear mission. What’s the goal of the school leader? As a teacher, my goal as a leader is to create an environment and design learning activities that are focused on the needs and interests of my students.  The students come first and are at the center of the goal. I would venture to say that the goals of the two principals in the film were similar to mine as a teacher. BUT if the focus is to remain on the students, it then context is critical. The needs and interests of groups of students varies tremendously. So, can the we then use the same metric to identify universal characteristics of an ‘effective leader’?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about standards based grading and competency-based learning. I wonder what would happen if it were to be applied to the learning of  teachers and/or school leaders. I fear that rubrics like ours reduce a complicated and highly individualistic process of educational leadership to a checklist that attempts to be universal. Would the goal of the leader then become to receive the maximum score on the evaluation tool instead of focusing on what’s best for the students? Are there some critical aspects of leadership that can’t be captured by a rubric or checklist? I’m not sure. What do you think?

Recap-PLA Virtual Spring Symposium


Photo Source: 2013 PLA Virtual Spring Symposium

This week I had the opportunity to ‘participate’ in the Public Library Association (PLA) Virtual Spring Symposium. This was a very interesting experience to sit in rooms with other local public librarians yet connect with and ask questions of presenters along with a nation-wide audience. Conference hashtag #plavss13 in case you’re interested in thoughts thrown into the twitterverse during the conference.

YA Programming (Makerspaces!)

My first session was Hands On! Innovative YA Programming led by Steve Teeri from the Detroit Public Library (DPL). The discussion focused on the DPL HYPE Makerspace which is possibly one of the most innovative library spaces I’ve seen. Let alone one devoted entirely to YA (young adults ages 13-18) patrons. The HYPE Makerspace evolved from semi-regular arts/crafts programming that was later combined with grant money, community partners, and local ‘expert instructors.’ Some of the (weekly!) workshops offered include Bike Tech, Crafternoon, Graphic Design, and Electronics/Robotics. I absolutely loved the idea of having teens become (paid) apprentices or assistants to help the instructors lead the different workshops. I also appreciated the acknowledgement of starting small with introducing any of these initiatives. While the libraries I currently work at are located within pretty affluent communities, in thinking about the costs associated with the HYPE exemplar, there is really no comparison to our YA programming budgets.

Makerspaces vs. Hackerspaces?

I asked a question during the session, as did others, about the difference between Makerspaces & Hackerspaces. After raising a similar question during my Digital Literacies class, I couldn’t help but notice that Steve did not use the two terms interchangeably during his presentation. The definitions provided were that makerspaces are for DIY crafts, hobbies, etc. while hackerspaces are designed more for the tech. DIY projects/enthusiasts. I’m not sure I’m totally sold on that distinction. I am wonder if the two are/are not mutually exclusive. Do they have to be? To me, the HYPE Makerspace is an example of one physical space that bridges the two categories by offering traditional and tech. projects. Thoughts?

Marketing Trends & Innovations

One of the afternoon sessions that I attended focused on big data, content marketing, mobile marketing, social media, and crowd-sourcing, as they apply to libraries. Presenters Alison Circle & Jim Staley provided both an overview and specific examples of how they & their libraries are using marketing tools in innovative ways. A key take away for me was the need for libraries to shift their focus from counting and reporting data to analyzing and acting based on data. I loved the KPI dashboard that was shown. What a neat way to have all of your different data collection (facebook/twitter/blog stats, GIS data, etc) in one place. Having been a fan of Google Analytics for a while, I was also interested to learn how Mid-Continent Public Library uses the in-page data to find out what’s NOT being found on their site.  I also loved their branding initiative focusing on access. Broadcast message- Access Your World. Narrowcast message(s)- Access Your Community, Fun, etc. Also found it fascinating the different mental images created by the language surrounding libraries and their usage. What do you think of when you hear library card versus access pass? (Also check out their fabulous videos on homework help & digital/music services)

Overall, this was a truly thought-provoking opportunity. Each of the sessions I attended provided lots of points for discussion among the members of the libraries and communities I work with. The next step would be to figure out how to adapt these national exemplars to best fit the needs (and budget) of any local, public library.

*I also attended a session on content management systems for library websites-which will (hopefully) be the topic of a future post…once I do some homework on CMS managed library websites.