The Education Corporation

For me, one of the most interesting books has been The Corporation. I read it years ago and it still sticks with me. The Youtube version of chapter one gives a good summary of some of the main ideas behind the book. A synopsis of the book includes the following:

One hundred and fifty years ago, the corporation was a relatively insignificant entity. Today, it is a vivid, dramatic and pervasive presence in all our lives. Like the Church, the Monarchy and the Communist Party in other times and places, the corporation is today’s dominant institution.

The Corporation website

This is a really interesting study and I have thought for a long time that its analysis needs to go beyond businesses and should be extended to the traditional school system.

It is interesting when you take a look at their website that they are working hard to get their film into 1000 schools. I think it should be shown in schools, it is a great social commentary on how our society is currently structured.

Will any educator make the connection that apart from the pursuit of profit, there is little that separates the modern corporation from the traditional school board?

Probably not. We like to judge corporations as somehow a bit impure because they are motivated by profit and the wishes of their stockholders. I would argue that traditional school boards are motivated very much the same way as the corporation. It is simpler to call school boards what they are – education corporations.

The main motivator for the corporation is always to act in its own interests, to ensure its own survival. All actions are then justified because the corporation answers only to its shareholders.

The education corporation is in some ways worse – it likes to believe that it serves a higher purpose. This is especially true for Catholic school boards in Ontario where I live. Somehow saying that you are a Catholic school board gives license to all sorts of hypocritical actions.

Can we say we apply these great principles to the people who work in our schools?

Education corporations can be just as cruel and unfeeling as any modern-day corporation. It is very easy to find examples where people in powerful positions have treated others with less power in truly shameful ways. Generally speaking, the people who are being cruel justify their actions in the only way that makes sense to them – what they do they do in the best interests of the school board. They may give other justifications, but it comes down to their need to demand compliance and stay in power.

Unlike the business corporation, however, the education corporation does not answer to anyone. It could be said that there are public trustees who can call them to account, but at least in Ontario, trustees are underpaid officials who are totally captured by the senior staff that they depend on for information. They do not have the time or the resources to act as a counterbalance to superintendents and directors who really hold the power in the education corporation.

This allows for all sorts of abuse to happen. At the school level, poor administrators are simply moved to a new and sometimes bigger school when their actions become intolerable to a local community of teachers and parents. At the school board level, when senior administrators act poorly, there is no consequence, they are free to act with impunity.

There is the beginning of a climate change in our society. Only a few months ago it was acceptable for men (mainly) to use their power to oppress and abuse the women who worked for them. This bevaviour is no longer acceptable and this is a very good thing.

Will we ever get to a point in our society when those who abuse their power in other ways will be called to account? I hope so. Abuse of power in any form for any reason should always be seen as unacceptable.

The Role of the Administrator – Support your Teachers

Doug Peterson wrote a great post a few days ago comparing how adults are treated at conferences with the daily experience of students in high school. The post has attracted over 20 comments from readers so it definitely resonates with many people.

Doug makes this point at the end of the post:

“Why couldn’t school be like this” takes on importance.  We probably don’t want to encourage a society addicted to bacon and coffee but there were lots of great takeaways that could/should be implemented or have an impact on design.  The presenters and organizers had all kinds of insights about how to make things great for adult learners.

Are there not lessons there for the regular classroom and school day?

This led to a really interesting conversation on how an administrator can make a positive difference in a school especially if they have the welfare of students and teachers as their main focus. Aviva Dunsiger another great Ontario blogger commented:

What really got me on the first day of school this year, is that my new principal always pops in and says, “hello,” every morning. He checks in with all staff constantly. “How are you? What can I do to help?” Even when he’s busy and stressed, he’s still smiling, positive, and ALWAYS making time for the staff.

Doug’s two posts, IT DOESN’T ALWAYS COST MONEY and IN THEIR SHOES have garnered 27 comments already. Doug is right – the status quo is being challenged. I added my comment to his blog and it is included below. I am less familiar with high school structure as I have been in elementary for the past ten years. However, Doug and Aviva’s discussion on administrators really resonated so I had to add something about the role of the administrator. Is it changing? Are we getting this right?

The primary role of the principal should be to support staff, students, and parents. The teachers need to be allowed to teach and teaching is certainly the hardest job in education. My philosophy as principal was always ‘what can I do to make your job easier? I respect what you do, I know how hard it is, what needs to be done to make you more effective?’
I was never a fan of those who wanted to pressure teachers to do ‘more’ or to drive up the test scores – a ridiculous venture at the best of times.
There are lots of great administrators out there, but also lots who never seem to understand that they are really in the school to play a support or servant role. Maybe it has something to do with a mistaken understanding of what it truly means to be a leader in an educational community.
This is the one thing that I can add to this conversation. While it is essential that principals support their staff and see that as their primary responsibility, it also should go without saying that principals also need support from people at the district office. This, unfortunately, does not always happen, in fact in my experience, board officials often did not support our efforts to do the work we needed to do. I think this takes place because there are various opinions of what administrators are supposed to do. Many believe that principals are agents of the school board and must always put the interests of the board first.

There seems to be a disconnect between what is good for the school and what is good for the education corporation – the two do not always fall into alignment.

I have always tried to put the interests of the school first, which probably explains why I struggled to work with some of the officials at the school board level.
Whatever you believe, it should be children first. We should support what is good for our teachers because they know what is best for our kids.

Technology SAMR Model for Administrators – Part 2: Community Interaction The Edutopia Series

 

I am continuing to comment on this really interesting series by Josh Work on Edutopia.  The posts read like a social media 101 for administrators!  We all should be able to measure our progress in social media using the SAMR model.  Josh is looking at specific areas that we have responsibility for and he relates each area to the SAMR model.

How do you measure up in key areas like staff presentations, community interaction, file management, classroom evaluations and staff input (Technology SAMR Model for Administrators).

The second post focuses on community interaction which to me is a key responsibility for all administrators.

It is no longer acceptable to accept the notion that parents will just naturally show up at your school.  Parents are much more discerning now, they check out your web page, your Facebook Page (do you have one?) and any other social media tools you are using.  It may a while, but your school will establish an online presence that will attract parents to your school.  I really believe that this is a key factor now that parents consider when choosing a school.

I have read lots of posts from administrators who work hard to make the learning visible to all parents in the community.  My model is Eric Sheninger, the author of Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times.  There is so much to recommend in this book – I think all administrators need to read this book if they want to stay relevant in a time of rapid change.  One thing I have learned from Sheninger and other authors is that we need to make learning visible to our parent community.  We need to use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr and any other tool that allows parents to see what is happening daily in the school.

Using these tools has an interesting impact on students, teachers and parents.  Everyone talks about the learning that goes on in the school.  Parents in our community really like Remind 101 and Facebook, the kids love Instagram.  Our role as administrators is to publish using a variety of tools so that our community can access more information on what is happening every day.

I like how Josh Work has applied the SAMR model to community outreach.  I really think we all need to be way past the substitution stage at this point.  Writing a conventional newsletter then e-mailing it out is simply not good enough.  In Canada, with the Federal CASL legislation, it is now actually illegal to send out unsolicited e-mails.

I love his idea about using QR Codes and especially Aurasma to highlight student work.  These are two communication tools that I will have to try in September!

My September plan at my new school will also include setting up a new Edublog for the parent community along with another for staff.  I will continue to use Facebook and Twitter along with a brand new Google Site as our school web site – thanks to our school board – AMAZING!  I will also continue to use Flickr to store all our school photos and of course Instagram to send daily photos to the school community.  I will not produce a monthly newsletter – this is simply not worth the time when there are so many just in time communication tools available.

As an administrator, what communication tools will you be using this year?  Where would you put yourself on the SAMR model?  Where do you want to be by the end of the year?

Looking forward to Part III.