Mr. Stevens carried a stack of papers to the front of the classroom. “These are your final exam results,” he said while walking up the first row of desks, and handing a stapled packet to each sophomore. “You’ll recall that this test covered all the work we did this semester. The grade reflects your level of knowledge and skills acquired.” He walked down the next row, passing out more papers.
Paper crackled and slapped the desk as students looked through the pages. A few students raised a hand. The teacher headed up the next row of seats. “There are two grades. The first is the exam grade. The second, which is circled, is your grade for the course.” Hands dropped, except for one.
“If you have any questions, see me after class.”
“Mr. Stevens, how can I have an A on my exam and a D for the course?” Tony asked, while keeping his hand in the air. The sounds of rustling paper ceased.
The teacher continued his measured steps, turning down the final row. “As I’ve already stated, I’ll answer questions at the end of class.”
“Sir, I got an A on the exam. You just said that it covered the entire semester work. An A means I know a lot about this course. So how come you gave me a D?”Tony was short of breath.
Mr. Stevens exhaled. All eyes watched and waited for his response. “Alright, since you insist. You’ve turned in few homework assignments and you’ve participated little in class discussions. Calculating those grades, the A’s and B’s on tests, and the Final exam results in a D.”
"That’s the real world Tony. Apply yourself better next time."
Act 1: Scene 2
Ms. Stevens carried envelopes to the front of the conference room. “These are the 6 month commissions,” she said while walking around one side of the table of sales reps and corporate executives, and handing an envelope to each person. “Based on your quota for sales and contracts negotiated, your commission represent how much you made for the company.Checks will arrive this coming Friday.”
Paper ripping filled the room as the people pulledout statements. Some chuckled or whispered. Several handsrose. Ms. Stevens rounded the table, passing out more envelopes. “There are two numbers listed. The first is the total amount you've earned for the company. The second number isa multiplier for yourcommission.”
Stacy, her had still raised holding her letter. “Ms. Stevens,I’ve attended every meeting and turned in all memos on time. I made sales quota exactly. Why do I have the minimum multiplier? Tony over there misses meetings and he’s chronically late on memos. Yet he’s got a huge multiplier.”
Ms. Stevens sighed.“Tony exceeds every sales and contract goal set. He keeps that up, he can miss some meetings and turn in memos when he’s not making a sale or closing a lucrative contract for the company."
"That’s the real world. Apply yourself better next time."
Wisdom is found sometimes in the unlikeliest of places. Napoleon may have been a dictator, and one who aspired to rule. A "dealer in hope" is part of what leadership can do. When put to good use, people are inspired to dream of possibilies.
The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet.
Another important facet of leadership is guiding people fulfill that vision. Sometimes it takes connecting with what's in the hearts of other, other times its sweetness, or cold facts of the new reality. People will follow that which is clear and shown to be in their best interests.
In education, schools, even districts, build and follow school improvement plans whose intent is to provide students a successful learning experience. This is done, in part, giving teachers the tools to do that job, and for guiding administrators with a road map for leading the adults towards success. Such accomplishment takes a lot of work and sacrifices by the adults. There are no short cuts. No free rides. In most cases, effective school improvement plans require a shift in thinking by educators as to the ways business is done must change.
What gets monitored, gets done. What is not monitored does not get done.
As schools strive to become more skillful, better at meeting student needs, success is about building buy-in among staff. Not everyone will be on board. Yet a persistent leader can bring along staff by staying the course of action. There are veterans who with each initiative will murmur, "This too shall pass." While seeming cynical, those teachers and administrators speak from experience not fantasy. Resistance is a form of conserving ones energy for the real work. Change for its on sake does not by nature take root.
Strong leadership is needed to have effective school improvement plans. Leaders need to involve staff in the planning, include them in the shaping of a plan, and hold them accountable to their commitments. A leader who pays lip service will see the school improvement plan become a paperweight rather than a vehicle for improving success by teachers teaching students, and learners learning. Sadly, too many well intentioned leaders get trapped in the day to day demands. Like parents of kids going away to college where they are out of sight and no longer guided, a swamped leader "hopes" the staff is following the plan and doing what's expected. Just like the leader, the staff also struggle to keep their heads afloat. Priority is survival. The first things cast overboard are the tools and expectations of the school improvement plan.
'Good directors, playwrights and leaders are enablers who make it possible for others to succeed by providing the means and opportunities for actions.' Anon
Leadership is passionate persistence about what's best for learners needs and ensuring that all staff strive to meet those identified needs.