Thursday, January 05, 2012

Things I Want My Future Principal to Read: Old School or Bold School?

My longtime principal (more than 25 years at our school) recently announced he'll be retiring at the end of the school year, which means we'll be looking for a new principal. (I'd link to the job posting, but it's not posted yet. (Update: Position is posted.) While I don't have any direct say in the hiring process, I've naturally been thinking a bit about what qualities I would want in a new principal as well as what questions I'd ask in the interview process if I were part of it.

You may have noticed that I haven't been blogging much the past year or so. That's for several reasons, not the least of which is that both my day job and my personal life have been somewhat overwhelming. But it's also because I haven't felt like I've had that much to add to the conversation. I felt like I needed to come up with some original thinking to make it worthwhile to hit the publish button, and I just didn't feel like I had that much original to contribute. Thinking about hiring a new principal, however, has made me want get back to my earlier blogging style which was much more of a link-blogging effort, linking to other interesting items and occasionally adding a thought or two of my own.

I think it might help me crystallize my own thinking in terms of what I'd like to see in a new principal.  Now, I'm not naive enough to think that my future principal is likely to be reading my blog, but stranger things have happened and perhaps some other folks out there (either current or future administrators) might find some use in it as well, so here goes.

So the first item I'd like my future principal to read (and think about), is Will Richardson's latest for District Administration: Are You an Old School or a Bold School?
Right now, we need bold schools, not old schools. By that, I mean we need schools to take serious steps to not only reinvent themselves, but to step out and advocate for a new, more meaningful definition of what learning means for our students, one that goes beyond simply “higher student achievement” or “increased student performance.”

Bold schools are places of questions, not answers. When much of what we currently think is important for our students to know is just a few taps on a phone or a Google search away, our central mission can’t be to deliver and test for content mastery. Instead, it must be to develop deep dispositions for learning by supporting sustained inquiry into both the content and context of whatever subject students are tackling. 
I would like my future instructional leader to read this short article, and then lead our faculty in a meaningful discussion around some of the issues it raises. This, of course, would need to be in the context of a larger staff discussion surrounding the purpose of school, and the purpose of our school, but I think it would be a good starting point.

In our current age of data-driven, accountability-above-all-else schools, I'm realistic enough to understand that our new principal will need to be able to navigate in those waters. But is it too much to ask that we also get a principal that has a bold vision for what our school can become, that can not only retain what is great about our current school (and there is much that is great), but can also lead us to someplace better, to reinvent ourselves and create, as Will says,
[S]chools [that] are steeped in cultures where everyone, both educators and students, are seen as learners first.
I want both my new principal and my school to be bold. I think our students deserve nothing less.

1 comment:

  1. By old school I think you mean a school that buys the current reform movement in the US with lots of standardized test and lots of test prep, which is seen by many as the safe way to go. It features a narrowing of the curriculum, more stress for teachers and students, teachers sifting through unreliable data, and test scores used as part of teacher evaluation. The bold principal is one who tells teachers to focus on creating interesting and engaging lessons and to let the tests take care of themselves. The bold principal would follow Finnish reforms borrowed in a large part of the US, not the US reforms forced on us by big government. See summary of "Finnish Lessons" at . Keep up the good work.