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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Superintendents: Take the Flipped Leadership Challenge!

By Peter DeWitt — August 19, 2014 4 min read
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District leaders...this is for you. It’s also for building leaders, teachers or parents who would like to see their district leaders provide more information before meetings instead of after. Feeling brave?...Send it to your superintendent.

A couple of years ago I wrote how flipped learning could be a really engaging way to maximize learning in the classroom. And then...Bill Ferriter challenged school principals to flip their faculty meetings. It was a challenge I took, and it helped us get more out of our faculty meetings.

There are those of us in leadership positions, who took the flipped learning idea and used it at the leadership level. We flipped our faculty meetings, curriculum meetings, and parent communication. It was one way to help us brand our school and get ahead of the message, and to maximize our precious little time together.

In a time when schools are constantly fighting the stigma of being trapped in years long ago, teachers are trying to use a variety of methods to engage students. Central office administration however, have not really changed how they engage their stakeholders.

Let’s take administration meetings for example. Throw in a table with donuts and coffee, slap an agenda on a piece of paper, and set aside 3 or 4 hours to get through the list, and you have yourself an administration meeting.

Perhaps it’s time to upgrade the admin meeting? Perhaps it’s time to upgrade the way you communicate with your stakeholders?

Flipping at the District Level...

Superintendents are seen as the political leaders of their town or county, the face of the school district, and some pride themselves on being instructional leaders, which means they are just as responsible for engaging their school leaders as teachers are for engaging their students. And there is no better time to do it than now.

Mission - How often do you discuss the district mission? Sure, it’s on every wall around each building in the district, but do you really focus on it? Do you set aside time to talk about student engagement?

Goals - Are you talking about the goals you have set as an admin team? How are you progressing? Do you even remember what the goals are? Or is the time together spent on venting and things that ultimately don’t help you further your goals?

Mandates - New ones come down from the state at breakneck speed. How often do you dissect them and see how they will work in your system?

Learning - There is so much great learning going on in schools...and more importantly...in your school? How often do you talk about that? Do you talk about the great things teachers and students are doing....or do you always focus on what they aren’t doing?

School Community - Do you send home a pretty pamphlet every year? Do you think it is the building leader’s job to engage parents because your job is to engage parents during board meetings that are hardly attended. How do you get that information out to parents? How do you show transparency at the same time you highlight all of the good things about your district? Do you try new ways to engage...or just do the same thing and get the same results?

Flip It

All of these discussions can be enhanced through flipping your leadership. Sending out engaging information before a meeting to maximize the conversation is important. Actually, it’s more than important...it is vital. There are school leaders in your district who are drowning under the weight of mandates and accountability. Inspire them to see the positive side of things in your district.

District leaders need to practice what they preach. If they want teachers to find new ways to engage students, they must find new ways to engage their own leaders and the school community. They need to maximize the precious time they have with their staff. Time is fixed, but what we do with it doesn’t have to be.

Flip some admin meetings and parent communication. Upload the parent communication to Facebook and your website. There is just no excuse for not communicating with stakeholders in a variety of ways, because the tools are right at your feet.

In the End

There are times when I get tired of the word “flip.” It almost sounds like a gimmick but it is not. It is a positive way to get a message out before any meeting in order to provide important information that can be discussed at a much deeper level during the meeting.

Imagine how well attended a board meeting may be, if district leaders provide information through the flipped method before, so stakeholders can come and learn more about it? Imagine how much parents may appreciate that their school district goes the extra mile to communicate with stakeholders?

Some parents, teachers and building leaders will never watch it, and they may walk around saying that it’s extra work to view it before the meeting time. That’s a sad and negative way to look at it. Flipping is meant to provide important information that stakeholders should want to know before a meeting so they get more out of the meeting.

We always look to teachers to change the way they approach instruction. We even put the onus on school principals to lead the way and be the role model. But superintendents should strive to be role models as well, and they have a whole community that they could be engaging that include teachers, students, building leaders and parents.

Take the challenge...flip something.

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The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.