Archive | June, 2011

HARVARD Day 3-Tuesday, the 28th

30 Jun

After yesterday’s challenge course, the members of the Art of Leadership group were not that thrilled to spend the whole day in the classroom.  After all, we were energized! We had challenged ourselves physically and mentally…there were some deep emotional moments and some soul searching concerning why we want to be leaders…fo lack of a better term, Monday was deep, and it was exhausting!

So, the idea of listening to Dr. Hunter Gehlbach about “Everyday Mindreading in Educational Contexts” didn’t seem exciting.  Well, as would become the theme for the next few days, things just get better and better. Harvard is for real! –(I’m writing this Wednesday night) I have to digress for a moment. The quality of the professors I’ve seen this week is nothing short of amazing!  The reality is, they are just teachers and they take that very seriously–teaching, education, the service of it, is a life! So, they make their lives interesting, exciting, and fun…makes sense. The Harvard teachers’ lectures are highly interactive. They keep the students (us) engaged, and they use multiple technologies. By the way, we have all of that available to us, it’s just a matter of doing it! Am I saying that MCAS is capable of teaching the same way Harvard teaches? Yes! Yes, I absolutely am!

So…think about the name Dr. Hunter Gehlbach…sounds like an old man in tweed that reeks of a pipe and uses $64, 000 words…wrong! Didn ‘t I tell you, Harvard is not stuffy, old, or stuck in the past.

Hunter (yeah, first name!) is a young guy in his early 40s (who rides his bicycle to work) with some amazing research that makes a VERY important point.

Hunter Gehlbach

The goal of his work is to enhance the social interaction between teachers and students.  He wants us to get better at communicating with each other. A perfect way to open the day. We had broken down some serious barriers the day before and now we’re going to learn how to teach people to communicate better by learning the methods with the author.  Hunter has created a systematic way to get better at perceiving others. WE NEED THIS!

The basics are we have to have knowledge about someone before we judge and react. If we don’t, we may react incorrectly or inappropriately and therefore, prohibit an opportunity for learning.  Think about kids.  Some are better at holding a grudge than we are. If we injure a relationship early on, it is hard to repair.  Kids will not be receptive if they feel they’ve been mis-perceived.  Imagine the harm done when making a judgment on someone you’re going to spen 10 montsh with, and then expect them to listen and respect you. Would you do it? It would be hard for me, too.

Even though people often mis-perceive us, as educators, we have to take this higher road by withholding judgment, gathering information, watching body language, and listening, first. Many people are ging to read this (fat chance) and say, “Duh, who doesn’t know that!?” They may be right, but ask why then do we have so many conflicts in education that are based upon poor communication skills? The answer is that we rely, we rely HEAVILY on our perceptions. Many of us think we know best…that assumption is a recipe for failure. Educators must remain open-minded…and you know what? Everyone else should, too! Again, we are all together on this!

If you think you’re highly perceptive, watch the video below and concentrate hard. Count the passes the white shirted team makes. I’ll bet you get it incorrect…


Now, on to Dr. Robert Kegan…

Robert Kegan..OMG (oh my gosh, btw–by the way)! I still cannot wrap my head around what this man did to the room on Tuesday afternoon. It was like mass hypnosis, mass psycho-therapy, mass brain control, and wildly edu-taining! Honestly, it is late and I have an early session, so I’m not going into detail right now…just know that man had adults sobbing and smiling while showing us who we are, why we do what we do, and whether or not we’re going to do what we set out to do…I am getting chills right now thinking about it!

Just try his first step, and I’ll get back to you…

Pick 4 people to have dinner with. You’re inviting them there so each one can tell you one thing you should change about yourself to become a better person. Each guest gives you one thing that would improve what you do. Write down who those people are, and what each one would tell you. It can be anyone…spouse, co-workers, superiors, friends…just one thing, each of them different, that you need to change about yourself in order to be better.

Write that down and if anyone responds to this blog, I’ll finish the experiment…it’s going to BLOW YOUR MIND! I am still emotional about it! It made me scared about my goals while affirming that I am absolutely in the right place. It made me face my faults and affirmed that my goals are in the right place. It made me see, no, FEEL, how important, not just MCHS, but Michigan City is to me.

Again follow the instructions above, and I’ll finish the experiment with you…I’m beat! Need sleep!






Harvard Day 2

28 Jun

Day 2 was met with much trepidation and anxiety from the principals attending the institute. There was a certain air of mystery surrounding the day. It makes one think that when we don’t communicate effectively, then we can create anxiety among our constituency. That anxiety can lead to reluctance and fear of change.

We took a beautiful bus ride to Beverly, MA, to Project Adventure ! It’s located on Moraine Farm, which was designed by one of the fathers of Landscape Architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted !

The day started in a large group practicing perceptions of different leaders. The consensus is that the positive sincere leader has a better effect on everyone.  Do you need an exercise to know that? No, but it is effective to see it in action. We then split into small groups and proceeded to the challenge course. Each small group had our Harvard appointed facilitator and a Project Adventure trainer.  We spent a while building bonds and learning to trust one another. One of the norms of the workshop is to be honest.  That’s a tough task when you’re thrown into a group the night before. However, the PA trainer quickly broke us down and we began to communicate openly and honestly. The techniques I learned today will stay with me and be beneficial at MCHS.

We then did some very challenging group puzzle activities. Imagine 8-9 leaders in one group trying to solve a problem together. Often, we are expected to decide, or solve a problem, alone, immediately. This problem solving session helped us see the necessary steps we need to address and initiate when solving a problem. While today was full of activity we did much reflection, as well. So often, as leaders we don’t get the time to just reflect on what the people we work with really need. I feel I had some of that time today. It was quite emotional. We are here for our kids, for our families and four our city, and the everyday work can sometimes cloud that vision.  Trying to keep your passion in check when every minute of your day may bring a new problem is tough. Today, I revisited why it is so important that the whole city get behind our kids, our teachers, and our schools. The stakes that rely on the success of MCAS are so high we can’t afford to take it lightly.

We then moved to the first High Element challenge. It got serious, quickly. If you don’t trust your team, you don’t do this! You mount a ladder, then climb to about 30 feet above the ground on hooks pounded into a tree, then walk across a wire while supporting your body on a loose rope. Your team has hold of you on a harness.  I went first and hurried up the ladder, then got to the tree. I was out of my comfort zone almost immediately. My breathing changed, my knuckles were white as I squeezed the small hooks, and got out onto the wire.  My speed of movement slowed to very cautious and I had to control my breathing.  Knowing that my team is there, and hearing them support me made me think.  What about our kids who have no “team?” What about our teachers and staff who feel they have no team? What a scary thought. Everyone should feel supported! Everyone should feel safe enough with their supporters to get out of the comfort zone. That’s our job. Support our kids, support our colleagues, and cheer them on to just try, try, try. What an invigorating experience!

After a brief lunch we worked more on building trust and setting goals.  We did a cool exercise with symbolic pictures, but I can’t get them to post right now. I’ll put them up later. I still have some reading to review for tomorrow’s session.

Thank you,


Info for ya

Experiential Learning Cycle Developed originally by David Kolb, the concept of experiential learning explores the cyclical pattern of all learning from Experience through Reflection and Conceptualizing to Action and on to further Experience.

Experiential Learning Experiential Learning is the process of making meaning from direct experience. David A. Kolb helped to popularize the idea of experiential learning drawing heavily on the work of John Dewey and Jean Piaget. Kolb’s work on experiential learning has contributed greatly to expanding the philosophy of experiential education. Experiential learning is learning through reflection on doing, which is often contrasted with rote or didactic learning.

Harvard Day 1…

27 Jun

Associate Principal’s log, stardate June 26, 2011…ok, I will write succinctly rather than entertainingly…after all, I am here on an amazing gift! The anticipation and preparation for this trip has been intense. I have to thank the Unity Foundation, Chuck Compton, Dr. Eason Watkins, Mr. Botana, Mr. Francesconi, Mrs. Upp, the School Board, and SO very important to everything successful in my life, my family, and my wife and daughters.

Sunday, 8am.  After arrival and check-in at Longfellow Hall there was an opportunity to mingle with fellow colleagues.  Everyone was eager to begin. There are about 120 Principals and the like in the Institute. There are many from Texas (see the RYHT initiative–we should do this MC!) and many from Florida and many from Illinois. All of which are here on grants from their state. However, everyone is here for the first time!

After the program introduction, the first speaker is a man named Dr. Bill Henderson. Dr. Henderson is a retired principal of a special needs school.  There is nothing interesting about that except, Dr. Henderson became blind while he was an educator. He was told by his doctor and by his associate superintendent to get out of education and to accept disability. Obviously, he didn’t listen.
Jun. 24, 2009 Henderson School: William Henderson, the longtime principal of the Patrick O'Hearn School, cuts a ribbon with successor Patricia Lampron during a June 23, 2009 ceremony in which city leaders announced that the school has been re-named in his honor. Photo by Filipe Miranda

That’s him in 2009. They renamed the school after him! He’s pretty amazing, google him!

He talked about the characteristics of good leaders: Determination, Vision, Sensitivity, Organization, Collaboration, and Humor.  The most important thing he talked about was Inclusion. His second session was about how we MUST include disabled students into every classroom! Those kids need to be with our honors and mid-level kids if we’re ever going to give our disabled kids a chance. Imagine being a doctor or lawyer. Your client walks in and obviously has Down’s Syndrome.  If you’ve never known a person like that, how would you react? We have to expect the best of everyone. The ONLY way to do that is with inclusion. Social exposure for special needs kids is necessary…actually, it’s humane! They are our children, and they deserve an education. We should not lock them in special learning areas. No one can live there forever, and we owe it to our society to educate special needs kids so they are effective citizens…like they want to be.

Whew! Trust me, that’s the REALLY condensed version!

The afternoon session was with Irma Tyler-Wood.  She was amazing! We had to assess our leadership skills in the context of six leadership styles: coercive (I tell you, you do it), authoritative (Here’s our goal, let’s do it), Affiliative (How do you feel about this goal?), Democratic (Let’s make a committee to figure it out), Pace-setting (Look at me work the hardest, why don’t you?), and Coaching (What do you need to be the best?).  Four of the six styles work positively, but none of them alone.  She likens it to golf…there are many shots you’ll have to make, so there are many clubs in which to make them.  Knowing when to use what club is the key.

Irma Tyler-Wood also talked about how each leadership style makes an impact on climate. It was fascinating! Every conflict, requires a different method of dealing with it, but none of that matters if you’re not taking climate into consideration.  The examples here are endless and I have a huge day tomorrow, so I’ll say this…people need six simple things…they need to feel they have flexibility to do what they know is right, responsibility to the goal of the organization, that they uphold  a high level of standards, that they are rewarded fairly and evenly, that their mission is clear, and that there is a commitment to a common purpose.

See? It’s that easy to lead!

For those of you who know me and would rather I be a bit more…cheeky, chime in …otherwise, I need some sleep…Harvard waits for no one! Tomorrow’s session is about leadership under stress…I feel better already…I know where I work, and I LOVE it! They better watch out! I’m ready for my 5am wake-up call!


Hello world!

27 Jun

Go ahead…let me have it!