It’s People, Not Programs

One of the most positive aspects of interacting with other educators via social media, whether it be Twitter, Ning communities, or a meeting of the minds such as the Reform Symposium, is the array of talented individuals working in education today. It is quite apparent to me that there are extraordinary teachers and administrators participating and sharing their ideas in these forums. What makes these teachers stand out from the rest? What qualities do these administrators have that make us want to follow, want to emulate, their lead?

Todd Whitaker’s What Great Principals Do Differently was on my summer reading list. Whitaker examines 14 qualities of “Great Principals.” This is a fast read, but a compelling one. As a principal I could envision a real-life scenario of every aspect of quality leadership Whitaker described. His points caused me to pause and reflect about how I could have handled a situation differently, how I could have approached a teacher’s behavior rather than her belief, and how I needed to serve as the “filter” for my school. I hope to elaborate on these points in my next several posts.

It’s people, not programs.

Isn’t this the truth? How often do schools, teachers, and administrators buy into a program or tool, thinking (hoping, praying) it will be the golden ticket to improved reading scores, or math fact fluency, or a more positive school climate? Too often. This year we tried a new math fact fluency program. After hearing from our teachers at grade level meetings that our students could use a boost in fact fluency, I researched various programs. I read reviews and consulted with former colleagues who used the program, so I thought it would be the perfect fit. I provided teachers with the program framework and all necessary documents and folders, and also showed examples of how “real live teachers” included it into their daily routine. The results were definitely mixed. Some teachers embraced the program and integrated it seamlessly into their math instruction. Others struggled with the maintenance of the student folders, tasks, and how to include it in their schedules. The program was the same for all teachers- what varied was how the teachers approached this new idea, and that was because I needed to abandon the “one size fits all” approach to implementing this program. Instead I should have provided varied levels of support to teachers to accommodate the different levels of understanding and comfort with the new tool.

As you prepare to start your new school year, consider the changes your teachers will face with curriculum transitions, new programs, and updated procedures. Focus your efforts on the people, not the programs, for the greatest benefit to students.

The best part about learning through social media? Not the tools or the programs. It’s the people!