Thursday, April 30, 2009

Leading With Kindness

I was first drawn to the book Leading With Kindness because of the title and the author William Baker, who spent 20 years as president of WNET public television. I have always thought that “leading” and “kindness” are not mutually exclusive but necessary characteristics in serving students, teachers, and parents.

Chapters include:
What Kind Leaders Do
Who Kind Leaders Are
Expectations Matter
The Truth Matters
Growth Matters
Preparing the Next Generation of Leaders

Sensitive and direct, the book keeps the reader focused on what matters in leadership. Authors Baker and O'Malley convincingly talk about being an effective leader using kindness and establishing credibility. DWYSYWD: Do What You Say You Will Do is a credo cited for introducing three requirements for credibility: have 1) a history of follow-through, 2) expertise, and 3) trust.

I am convinced that leading with kindness is the way to go.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Parallel Play

I love to watch children engaged in parallel play — that play where children are individually engrossed in a book or puzzle, side by side with other children.

My office is set up in a way to invite children in to engage in play and exploration from using a life-like beaver as a doorstop to a bookcase modified to hold books, colorful nested dolls, puzzles, ninja ladder, and blocks. Children love to explore unusual items and the challenge of manipulative materials.

Because my office is adjacent to the lobby, I often have young visitors when their parents are having a conversation and they are looking for something to do instead of waiting nearby.

The best observed parallel play, though, is when two children will come into my office — no permission is necessary — grab a book or item, sit on the floor, and begin playing, and often they pick up where they left off the last time they were in my office. And, I am at my desk, working at my computer engaged in my own play — aka work. Periodically, I will look out of the corner of my eye to see how my friends are playing parallelly.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Leadership for Change

Devoted to leadership for change, the spring issue of Independent School magazine has many excellent articles, but there is one that I would draw parents' and teachers' attention to.  It is available online, written by Dr. Michael Thompson, and entitled "Too Much Information: How Much Should Parents Know About Their Child?"  Do take a minute to read this important piece.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Online Learning May Be Closer Than We Think

In a recent discussion with members of our state association professional development committee, much time was spent discussing the future of technology in our schools, most specifically the discussion centered on online learning.

Disrupting Class, Clayton Christensen's book, devotes quite a few pages to online learning.  A friend passed on to me reporter Tamar Lewin's article "Israeli Entrepreneur Plans a Free Global University That Will Be Online Only."  Also, check out the Independent School Educators Network website.

Finally, I pass on this one minute video to my readers, not as an endorsement of Kaplan University but as a window into a path education may be taking sooner than we think.  You might want to watch it a few times to take in the various avenues used for online teaching.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Well Written

While reading the Sunday paper, my eye was attracted to the headline "Always, the Crack of the Bat" and accompanying photograph of a pitcher and batter at the ready.  As I read the article, it occurred to me that this was well written—especially well written.  Once I glanced at the byline, it made good sense to me why the piece was so well written.

The writer William Zinsser, for me, is the writer's coach on how to write clearly with simplicity.   His seminal book On Writing Well is popular among writers.  Having sold over 1.5 million copies, the book is a must-read.  "Paper Cuts a Blog About Books" talks about Zinsser and his book.  

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Child Honesty

I remember the date and the day vividly. It was Wednesday, October 29 at about 1:15 p.m. and I was standing on the rooftop play area watching our Lower Elementary (grades 1, 2, and 3) children run and play during their recess time. One of the highlights of my week is the fact that I get to spend time with children in an unstructured time and spell a teacher who might otherwise have the duty.

On this chilly but sunny day, I was stationed at my usual post where the fence that protects the rooftop heating and cooling equipment forms a corner. To my left is the geo-climbing structure where you can always find a child hanging upside down talking to a friend who is sitting underneath on the deck nearly nose to nose. And, to my right is a runway in front of the large playscape where children race around, chasing each other in an endless game of tag. I love watching how the children engage with one another — sometimes parallel play, boys often wrestling one another to the ground, girls forever doing cartwheels, and others chat in serious conversations. For teachers, child play is a beautiful thing to watch.

While minding my own business and glancing at the city rooftops thinking about what I had to do once I returned to my office, Lucy, a first grader, stood in front of me and said, “Dane?” I looked at her with a smile and replied, “Hey, Lucy.” Having my full attention, Lucy asked, “What are you going to be for Halloween?”

She caught me a bit off guard, but I furrowed my brow, projected a pensive look, thought for the better part of 20 seconds, and said, “Ah, I, I guess a clown.” Without skipping a beat, Lucy thoughtfully replied, “You look like a clown.”

I stammered with appreciation, "Thhh annnk ew, Lucy." She turned and engaged another friend with the same Halloween question.

Was it my nose? Was it my smile? No, it had to be my bow tie. I know she was serious in her response, which was totally without disrespect. I believe it was her way to say that I would be a good clown to trick or treat, and her honesty was priceless.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Rotunda

Recently, I had the occasion to visit the University of Virginia and was struck by the campus, particularly Thomas Jefferson's design of the Academical Village.
The brochure I picked up and read stated that the architectural layout is based on the Jeffersonian principle that learning is a lifelong and shared process, and that interaction between faculty and students is vital to the pursuit of knowledge.

I couldn't agree more with the principle that learning is a lifelong and shared process.

The long, stately lawn is surrounded by ten Pavilions which house the faculty and has as the focal point The Rotunda.   This 18 second video will give you a quick tour of the lawn and Rotunda.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Deborah Roffman on Human Sexuality

This evening parents and teachers had the pleasure of spending an evening with nationally renowned Deborah Roffman.  She has the perfect balance of perspective, love, and good parenting sense and has a wonderful way of sharing her many years of knowledge and experience.  She is a must-speaker for your parents and teachers.  You won't be sorry.

"If 30 years of experience in this field has taught me one thing, it is that when talking with our children about sex, we need to make sure that we educate rather than dictate and that our approach is based on scientific evidence. Only then can we hope to arm young people against the escalating social and cultural pressures they face."

You might want to check out both of her books: Sex and Sensibility and but how'd I get in there in the first place?