In October, I posted “Top 10 Signs Your School Is Caught in a Time Warp: List for School Leaders.” Of course the whole idea behind that post was to call attention to those leadership proclivities that are actually hindering movement toward a 21st century learning environment.
Now, let me be just a bit more direct in this post. Here’s the list of indications that your school leadership is obsolete and in need of a big upgrade.
1. You actually find yourself defending school policies that ban the use of cell phones in your building. Cell phone bans need to go the way of the slate and chalkboards. Instead of prowling the halls to catch students with cell phones out, how about getting students to use them constructively? Besides, if a cell phone disrupts class, it is the user that actually disrupts the class, not the phone. Cell phone bans are a waste of administrative energy and time.
2. You defend adamantly the use of Internet filters on your school networks. I know all about the CIPA compliance issues and all, but perhaps your leadership is just a bit outdated and your knowledge of computers inadequate if you actually think filters work. Let’s face it, most districts put filters on their networks, not because they work, but because they allow them to keep their funding. If you really want to know whether your Internet filters are working, just ask a student. The smile on their face says a great deal. Heck, some of them might even show you one way they use to get to Facebook even though it’s supposed to be blocked.
3. You brag about the number of computers, smartboards, or iPads you have in your building. I have to point the finger to myself a bit on this one. It’s darn hard to resist boasting about your computer-to-student ratio when a fellow administrator brags about his, but the truth is, it really doesn’t matter if you have 3 computers to every student if no one is using them effectively for learning. Administrators have historically boasted about needing an iPad for every student or a laptop for every student. I’ve even heard school principals boast about having Smartboards in every classroom. Truth is, it’s not the numbers that matter; it’s what students and teachers are doing with those devices that matters.
4. You see Facebook and other social media as one of the biggest menaces of modern society. Granted, I will admit I’ve dealt with enough “Facebook-connected issues” that I sometimes think “Zuckerberg” should be a bad word. But, social media is our reality; it’s our students’ reality. We can’t keep blocking it out with the hopes that it will go away. It will, in some form, outlast us all. Instead, let’s figure out some way to use social media educationally. We all might learn something.
5. You think learning occurs only within the confines of your building’s classrooms under the direction of your teachers. Our students are learning about things they care about in spite of us. Classrooms are not the only places where student curiosity is satisfied (if they ever were). Our students are engaged in massive learning on their own while sitting with digital devices wherever they happen to be. It’s time to measure learning by something other than seat time and length of class periods. Perhaps we could even figure out a way to channel all that energy to learn to accomplish our educational goals.
School leaders suffering from “obsolete leadership” really do prevent schools from becoming 21st century learning places. Perhaps someday we’ll quit trying to defend the rules and question why the rules exist in the first place. That said, I am positive there are others indicators that could be added to this list.