November 01, 2014

Disruption Requires Recommitment

An open letter to my faculty after reading and digesting Disrupting Class, Expanded Edition: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns (


Our October Faculty Meeting revealed a lot about what direction the NJDOE is taking with students. Over the last 24 months, we have also been made aware of the direction that the NJDOE has been taking with teachers and public education in general.  It’s a monumental shift for districts, for students, families, and for the classroom teacher; the norms of public education we were trained and groomed for is quickly evaporating. We are all part of an absolutely historical time.  

Admittedly, all of this can be a difficult if your nature is wary of change, rapid transition, or disruption.  If this sounds like you, I encourage you to hang in there - try to see this moment in your career as a time to make “game time adjustments”. Like any athlete or performing artist, when the game isn’t going according to plan or when the show is isn’t going as well as the rehearsals, or the career has taken an unexpected turn, an adjustment to the disruption is required.  

We cannot fool ourselves into thinking that these disruptions will go away - a lot of these disruptions are rooted in improvement and growth and are here to stay… some are not.  We control what we can control and the rest we leave to faith and adaptation. However, we have all the faith in each other and ourselves that is needed to face and adapt to these disruptions. And let’s not make that fatal mistake of believing that our burden is to save the world - we are people with faults, not Gods; we are educators who aim to give our best everyday in the right way and bring joy to students who live in a world more gray than we remember it.  And that is a good disruption for them. 

I am sure that all of you remember that first week when you started here. Maybe it was your first teaching job, support staff job, or your new district. It was a disruptive time.  But you are here, now, because you found that stride, courage, and determination to make it work.  That same moment exists for all of us right now.  

Reach back in your memory bank and appreciate yourself for making that commitment.  But like the athlete or artist, a recommitment is often necessary to finish the game or close the show.  And like professional athletes and artists, you, too, have it in you to adapt to and find renewal in this era of change and disruption.   

It’s never easy when what we knew or know is seemingly and suddenly unknown.  But this faculty and staff are capable and adaptive - you have proven that again and again."

November 03, 2013

We Don't Want Sympathy Or Empathy

Celebrate the Rodney Dangerfields of Public Education | Diann Woodard

"...principals are the Rodney Dangerfields of public education -- we get no respect for the demanding work of our calling." 

I wouldn't say "we get no respect", but I would concur with her that a lot of what we do cannot be quantifiably measured. While we can all appreciate Ms. Woodward's sentiments, seeking sympathy or empathy isn't going to change the perceptions of principals.  In fact, it may do the opposite.

In a bit of a push back, I would add that principals shouldn't do the job expecting constant accolades; you knew when you stepped into this arena that the vast majority of people have very little knowledge of what a principal does and is responsible for, therefore, they wouldn't hold you in high regard in all matters; you knew when you accepted the job that you are going to be judged every day through your words, writings, and actions, therefore don't speak, write, or act like a Rodney Dangerfield (I made that mistake once and I paid for it); you knew that being the principal requires that you prove yourself every day - your past performances will amount to little tomorrow if you violate public trust or commit malfeasance. 

So don't expect daily, weekly, or monthly affirmation.  Just do your job every day in accordance with your moral and ethical values, state code, local policy, and in the best interest of your faculty and students.  The respect you will need should begin with yourself.