A Two-Week Peek at the Life of the Alabama Best Practices Center
September 30, 2015
by Cathy Gassenheimer
Remember the movie If It’s Tuesday, This Must be Belgium? Well, we weren’t exactly in Belgium, but we’ve traveled quite extensively over most of September without ever leaving Alabama! Here's the story of just two of those weeks.
Embracing the leadership challenge
We began in Birmingham on Sunday, September 13 with the Superintendent Leaders Network (SLN) retreat for new members. Superintendents from Butler County, Brewton City, Demopolis City, Enterprise City, Hartselle City, Jasper City, Midfield City, Oxford City, Piedmont City, Limestone County, Phenix City, Saraland, Tarrant City and Walker County joined us for two days of learning.
The retreat was designed to provide opportunities for superintendents to learn from each other as well as from research and best practice.
Oxford City Superintendent Jeff Goodwin, a long-term SLN member, reflected on his journey as superintendent, and in the ensuing discussion participating superintendents recognized that even though they serve districts of different size, location, and demographics, they share many of the same challenges.
One of the most meaningful experiences, participants said, was mapping their roles and responsibilities as the "lead learner" in their districts, using Kouzes and Posner’s Five Exemplary Practices from their bestselling book The Leadership Challenge, (5th Edition).
As their maps emerged, it became even clearer that though they manage different sized districts with different demographics, they have a lot in common as they set out to lead their learning communities along the path to excellence.
A harbor filled with instructional partners
The venue then shifted to Children’s Harbor at Lake Martin for the first of three Instructional Partner Network (IPN) regional retreats this fall.Read More
"Refuel Hour" at James Clemens High Boosts Student Freedom & Productivity
August 25, 2015
by Kristi Combs
Giving high school students a "free" hour during each day can increase their productivity, improve their emotional health, and also provide better support for clubs and other activities that promote a positive school culture.
Our school, James Clemens High
in Madison City, has added a daily Refuel Hour to our schedule this year. Modeled after the Power Hour
idea developed by 2015 National Principal of the Year Jayne Ellspermann at West Port HS in Ocala FL, our program releases all JCHS students from 11:20-12:20, Monday through Friday, for "refueling."
During this schoolwide break, students eat lunch, attend club meetings, participate in tutoring and study groups, meet with advisors and mentors, form student-led interest groups, and generally recharge their learning batteries. To keep an eye on things as we launch this Big Idea, we have several teachers on Refuel duty to monitor students throughout the building. Read More
Effective Coaching Often Begins with Good Questions
August 6, 2015
by Cathy Gassenheimer
Whether we like it or not, at different times we become coaches. For some people, coaching is part of the essential set of skills they bring to a job. For others, it is much more episodic and informal.
First, a caveat: Even though we’re nearing football season, I’m not talking about coaching sports, but rather coaching colleagues, friends, and families, both informally or formally. And, when I mention coaching, I draw upon thought-leaders like Parker Palmer, Edgar Schein, and Jim Knight, all of whom tell us the key to effective coaching is building a partnership with whomever is being coached.
Schein, a professor emeritus of management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, reminds us that today’s culture is a “culture of tell,” which makes it difficult for people to ask instead of tell. “What is so wrong with telling? The short answer is a sociological one. Telling puts the other person down.” (Humble Inquiry
, p. 8)
So what is the alternative? According to Schein, “asking temporarily empowers the other person in the conversation and temporarily makes me vulnerable. It implies that the other person knows something that I need or want to know. It draws the other person into the situation and into the driver’s seat; it enables the other person to help or hurt me and, thereby, opens the door to building a relationship.” (p. 9)Read More