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Leading to Reform: May 12


Welcome to welcome reform for the second Sunday in May. This week we look at the need for becoming a leader before you are one, Latinos gains in education, the plight of unions being influenced by teachers that need to get busy living, and innovation and the Silicon Valley. As always, we link to to an array of columns and pieces spanning the ideological spectrum on leadership and reform. Watch for a blog announcement later this week.

Act Like a Leader Before Your Are One
If you want to become a leader, don't wait for the fancy title or the corner office. You can begin to act, think, and communicate like a leader long before that promotion. Even if you're still several levels down and someone else is calling all the shots, there are numerous ways to demonstrate your potential and carve your path to the role you want.

What the Experts Say…

"It's never foolish to begin preparing for a transition no matter how many years away it is or where you are in your career," says Muriel Maignan Wilkins, coauthor of Own the Room: Discover Your Signature Voice to Master Your Leadership Presence.

Michael Watkins, the chairman of Genesis Advisers and author of The First 90 Days and Your Next Move, agrees. Not only does the planning help you develop the necessary skills and leadership presence, it also increases your chances of getting the promotion because people will already recognize you as a leader.

The key is to take on opportunities now, regardless of your tenure or role. "You can demonstrate leadership at any time no matter what your title is," says Amy Jen Su, coauthor of Own the Room.

Here are several ways to start laying the groundwork from Amy Gallo via The Harvard Business Review…

Latinos Make Gains in Education, Gaps Remain
After lagging behind other Americans in education for generations, Latinos have significantly narrowed the gap, and last year they passed a milestone, with new Hispanic high school graduates more likely than their white counterparts to go directly to college, according to a new study.

In an era of rising high school completion and college attendance over all, Latinos have made larger gains than other groups, the Pew Research Center reported Thursday, in a study based on data collected by the Census Bureau. By several measures, young Latinos have achieved parity with blacks in educational attainment.

“This is the maturation of a big second generation among Latinos — native born, and educated in American schools,” said Richard Fry, the lead author of the report. He noted survey results showing that Latinos were more likely than white students to say that a college degree is essential to get ahead in life.

Among the major demographic groups, Latinos remain the likeliest to drop out of high school, but that rate dropped by half in just a dozen years. Among people 16 to 24 surveyed last fall, 14 percent of Latinos had neither finished high school nor were attending school, compared with 28 percent in 2000. In the same period, the dropout rate fell to 7 percent from 13 percent among blacks, and to 5 percent from 7 percent among whites.

The Plight of Teacher Unions: The Shawshank Dilemma
A chance conversation with some teachers in a district I know reassured me that vision and following a dream first leads to great rather than good.

I bumped into groups of teachers from a district I once served in at lunch this week. They were on break from a day of PD enjoying a quick lunch. Most were happy and upbeat.

A few considered good teachers were hunched over their table, grumping about the expectations of them to teach better. They spoke of an administration that doesn’t understand them expecting them increase engagement and get better results with kids that are changing.

Isn’t this what most of expect and do deal with every day? Teach better, engage more and achieve? Don’t most of us know that we make our own way forward instead of expecting “them” to do it for us?

These star teachers – I least I thought they were -- included the highest paid in Wisconsin were in a misery trough: frustrated, self-centered, and feeling “unappreciated.”

After a few pleasantries, I said, “Make it better or come work with us in the city.”

This was met with eyes rolling and a comment from one — you don’t understand, you sold us out, you’ve gone to the dark side of charter and voucher schools (full disclosure – I work cross-sector in Milwaukee public, charter and choice schools in leadership development.)

I once considered these great teachers. I sensed they had become cynical and smarting still in the wake of Act 10. They are in compliance mode and angry about it, accusatory, disheveled; just not living.

They say I don’t understand. But, I think I do. If you aren’t happy with your situation change it or change with it. Kids’ lives are at stake -- if you can’t teach at the top of your game, get better or get out. The kids deserve it.

Stephen King’s “The Shawshank Redemption” probably sums it up best, “Get busy living or get busy dying.” Too many become institutionalized in their jobs or circumstances. Some feel a false sense of security but they are not truly free.

In Shawshank, the banker Andy Dufresne refused to allow grim circumstances keep him from hoping and following his dream. Reach full potential by recasting your vision and overcoming life's obstacles. Focus on your vision, don't give up hope.

Shawshank can mirror your current situation. Life can feel like a prison with invisible bars holding you back and dreaming of the time you’re released. It’s your Shawshank and you don’t even know you’re in it.

The fact is that the world has changed for teacher unions and their members and many want their old world back and now. Union leaders are recasting their vision and their members hold them back.

Arthur Levine captures the dilemma for teacher unions and why members still are struggling with their new reality.

Policymakers and unions have fundamentally different visions of the work of schools and teachers. This is not to say unions have done something wrong. It's that the world changed around them. It is also important to note that the situation of teachers' unions is not unique. All of our social institutions—schools, government, media, health care, and finance—were created for an old-style industrial economy. All are out of date and appear to be broken. Each needs to be rethought for the present and the future.

Government, so often critical of unions, has many of the same problems: vesting power on the basis of longevity, institutionalizing tenure through redistricting and opposition to term limits, focusing on process rather than outcomes, and engendering rising levels of public criticism. Members respond to the criticism with some leaving for different work, others hunkering down. Some are living. Some are dying.

In the years ahead, the burden will be on unions to develop policies rooted in information-era schools where student learning is the focus. They can play a vital role in building the information-age schools we need for tomorrow and in supporting the teachers those schools will require, or they will be viewed as obstructionist and ultimately become irrelevant. Many of their members understand this, but the loud and angry ones are still drowning out those who show up every day and give their best to kids and families.

The question isn’t the path perfect. The question is this the path I want to go?

Still, the shift is inevitable. Unions can oppose it or lead the transition, preserving what history has shown to be essential while building the new that is needed. But first, they must understand, advocate, and embrace the seismic shift in how schools work. Many of the union leaders get it, the problem some in the membership don’t and expect them to stop the inevitable shift. Get busy living or get busy dying.

The Way’s of Silicon Valley
Deborah Perry Piscione and her husband jettisoned the Washington, DC lifestyle—rife with political rants and power plays—and entered into the open and inviting ecosystem of Silicon Valley.  Both milieus are full of Type-A personalities, but they quickly realized that the similarities ended there. She has written about the secrets that make Silicon Valley the place it is.

It’s more than a geographic place, it’s an entrepreneurial mindset. Whether they are not nor not, they call themselves entrepreneurs.

They work like they are in startups, lead lean lives and are open and are constantly hungry and open to new ideas’. They are not tied down by traditions or legacies Most importantly whether they have been around for five months or fifteen years, they let go of old ideas.

Learn more about what we can learn from Piccione
via the Washington Post….

Articles for the Week:

“The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing. ” --Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

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