Unlearning Leadership Planning – Article in IL ASCD Journal Summer 2017

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ”
Alvin Toffler

 

In this blog post I’m sharing an article published in the Illinois Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ILASCD): The Unlearning Leader’s Guide to Strategic Planning, Summer 2017, Volume 63, Number 1, pp. 8-16

Podcast Interview about The Unlearning Leader: Leading for Tomorrow’s Schools Today

“You must unlearn what you have learned” – Yoda

As the school year comes to an end and we in schools get a chance to reflect upon successes and learn from opportunities for improvement, it’s a good time to find some books to read for energy, inspiration, and recharging.

As readers of the blog know, I recently co-authored a book with Nick Polyak. In this post I’m sharing a link to a Podcast Interview about the book. If you like what you hear you can choose to purchase the book, read it, get energized, and then you can leave us a review on Amazon so we know what messages resonated with you! 

 

 

Season 3: Episode 13 – The Unlearning Leader with Mike Lubelfeld and Nick Polyak [Podcast]

Audio Player

In this episode we are chatting with superintendents Dr. Michael Lubelfeld and Dr. Nick Polyak, authors of The Unlearning Leader: Leading for Tomorrow’s Schools Todayand co-founders of the Twitter chat for school superintendents, #suptchat.

Mike has served as a public school superintendent in suburban Chicago, Illinois since 2010. On July 1, 2013, he became the superintendent of schools in Deerfield, IL (DPS 109). He’s earned his Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction from Loyola University of Chicago and is an adjunct faculty at National Louis University in the Department of Educational Leadership. His 25-year educational career has included serving as an assistant superintendent, a principal, and middle school teacher. Mike is an advocate for integrating educational technology throughout instruction.

Nick serves as superintendent in the Leyden Community High School District 212. He earned an undergraduate degree from Augustana College, a Masters from Governors State University and his Ed.D. from Loyola University Chicago. Nick has previously served as a classroom teacher, coach, building and district level administrator, and school board member and a superintendent for the past seven years in both central Illinois and suburban Chicago.  Nick has earned an IASA School of Advanced Leadership Fellowship and he also graduated from the AASA National Superintendent Certification Program.

Here is what we talked about:

  1. What’s the big question behind The Unlearning Leader?
  2. Technology and social media have had a significant impact on who you are as leaders and how you connect and learn with others. What do today’s leaders need to unlearn about connection and how the role of leadership can be transformed by rethinking this idea of connection.
  3. What has been your greatest unlearning leadership challenge? When did you realize that you needed to unlearn and how did you move through the process?
  4. We have been thinking about how we unlearn our current ways of professional learning and learn a new way – such as competency-based learning and badging. What work have you done in the area of reimagining professional development, and what have you had to unlearn about traditional professional learning?
  5. The title of your book includes, “Leading for tomorrow’s schools today.” What do you think tomorrow’s schools will look like?
  6.  What’s next for Mike and Nick? What are you both currently working on?

Join in the conversation!

Each episode we leave you with a question or two to think about with the idea of provoking conversation.

This week’s questions:

  1. What is your vision for learning and what have you identified as the areas that will need unlearning?
  2. What can you do tomorrow to become a more connected school leader?

You can join the conversation by leaving a comment below or by using the hashtag #TLTalkRadio on Twitter.

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Teacher & Edu Staff Appreciation Day/Week – Thank You #Engage109

This is teacher, nurse, educational support staff (and administrator) appreciation week! We can never say thank you enough to our educators!! THANK YOU!

I’m sharing a quote I have held closely for many years and I’m sharing two notes I recently sent the DPS109 community.

“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes.”
Maya Angelou


Dear District 109 Families and Community Members,

At its last meeting, the Board of Education declared Tuesday, May 9, 2017 as Teacher Appreciation Day in District 109. Please join the Board of Education and the District administration team in applauding our teachers and all of the educators and support staff throughout District 109 who work so hard each day. We have high-achieving, nationally recognized, innovative, warm and welcoming schools because amazing teachers engage, inspire and empower our students – your children, grandchildren, and the children of your friends and neighbors!

I encourage you to find a way to show your support to your favorite teacher, or any school staff member who makes a difference in the lives of the children in our community. Whether you write a heartfelt, handwritten note, have your child create a work of art, or just go out of your way to say a personal “Thank you,” you are giving a great gift. They deserve all the thanks that we can shower upon them!

Sincerely,
Mike


“If we neglect our gifts and talents, they, like an unused muscle, will atrophy and waste away.”  Stephen Covey

Dear District 109 Teachers and Staff,

The Board of Education recently approved our 2017 Strategic Plan. The planning process was both reflective and forward thinking, and very eye-opening to me. I realized how much we have accomplished in four short years.  I also acknowledge and thank you for being open to change. I know that’s not easy. Your leaps of faith and constant hard work have allowed our students to thrive, and schools to achieve local, regional and national recognition. In the strategic planning process we should all be proud of the input and impact of that input. Your voices and your input helped shape the goals, objectives and plans. I look forward to working with you and for you to achieve our goals in the coming years.

On April 24, the Board of Education declared Tuesday, May 9, 2017 Teacher Appreciation Day in District 109. The community will celebrate you throughout the week. To show our thanks, the District administration and Board will provide a gift and special treat at some point during the week. They are small tokens of our boundless appreciation of you and your continual work to engage, inspire and empower our students, their parents, your colleagues, and our community.

So THANK YOU, from me personally, and from the Board of Education and District leaders, for allowing us to work with the best team of educators in the nation.

Sincerely,
Mike

The Rear View Camera – Powerful Invention & Metaphor for Leading #engage109

“Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”
– William Faulkner, American writer and Nobel Prize laureate

One of the coolest inventions of the modern times is the rear view camera. It’s safe: the rounded view shows people and images as they approach. The camera is also integrated into other safety features like “collision avoidance”. In my car (a VW Passat) for example, if I am going in reverse while a person/vehicle is moving behind me, if I don’t brake – the car brakes automatically!


History of Back Up Cameras (from Wikipedia):

he first backup camera was used in the 1956 Buick Centurion concept car, …. The vehicle had a rear-mounted television camera that sent images to a TV screen in the dashboard in place of the rear-view mirror.[8] The first production automobile …was the 1991 Toyota Soarer Limited ..The system was discontinued in 1997. In April 2000, Nissan’s Infiniti …introduced the RearView Monitor on the 2002 Q45 flagship sedan at the 2000 New York International Auto Show. .. operated from a license-plate-mounted camera in the trunk that transmitted a mirrored image to an in-dash (7-inch) LCD screen. It was available as optional equipment upon North American market launch in March 2001.[9][10] The 2002 Nissan Primera introduced the RearView Monitor backup camera system to territories outside Japan and North America.


In addition to the artificial intelligence “seeing” possible safety issues and “taking over” the automobile preventing accidents and injury (and being really cool technology); there is something powerful from a leadership perspective as well.

From a leadership perspective, the rearview camera can be a metaphor about being able to learn from the past (behind) to guide us with confidence. The camera let’s the driver see behind himself in order to guide and direct his actions and behavior. The rearview camera allows a driver to back up into a parking spot safely, accurately, with confidence and with more safety than the mirrors or eyesight (vision) of the driver (leader).

Philosopher George Sanatayana is credited with the quote: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Think about it: the past is represented by the rearview camera- images and sometimes hazards looking behind us/the camera guides are actions and driving with accuracy, with guidelines, with support—the rear view camera is a powerful invention & metaphor for leading. Be sure to look back in order to guide your forward! As we lead our organizations forward and as we forge new and better futures for those we serve, it’s incumbent upon us to honor the past and learn from and seek guidance from the experiences of the past (as guidance) so we learn and create new future realities!

Technology is not always new (first back up camera 1956) and our ideas are not always new (stay in education long enough and the pendulum swings back and forth). The juxtaposition of looking back to move forward resonates with me just like the accuracy and confidence of backing up into a parking spot using only the camera and the screen (technology and not my mirrors); and the accuracy and confidence we can lead forward is in front (or in back) of us with support. New and better is innovation.

Innovation is the greatest invention of the present – the gift we leaders provide to those we serve.


Modern technological advances can represent efficiencies that reflect the past, explain or define the present, and help support our leadership for the future.

I welcome your feedback, comments, ideas, reactions!

I Voted Today! What does this mean? Decision Making #engage109

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”
– Andrew Carnegie

Democracy is a value ingrained in the “DNA” of Americans. Our entire education system is based upon democratic principles, our Declaration of Independence from the British Monarchy declares our rights to be independent (men and women).  “…certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Liberty is the right most closely aligned with voting. The right to give input is a foundational right we enjoy. We apply and extend democratic principles all through the tapestry of our society.

Ten year olds “vote” for the student council (a governance model in the image of our government). Associations vote their members in for leadership positions. In the USA, we feel it is normal and just to vote for pretty much anything.

Some of you reading this will remember commercials where people voted for the better tasting soft drink on TV. Often couples will vote on which restaurant to attend. Families may vote on what colors to paint their rooms. The concept of voting, choosing, giving input is almost an assumed right as an American. The will of the majority rules so many of our institutions of government and society. The majority rule, though, is not the only rule in democratic societies. The rule of 3/5 or “super majority” as well as the rule of “plurality” (the number of votes cast for a candidate who receives more than any other but does not receive an absolute majority.)

In leadership, though, even in a democratic republic, sometimes the elected representatives vote in a different way than their constituents. This does not mean theydisregard the input, it simply means that multiple factors influence decisions.

In general, if you don’t vote can you really complain about the decisions made on your behalf? No, I don’t think so, that’s why I vote; I want to have a voice, whether it is a large voice or a small voice, whether my candidate choices win or not – at least I can say I voted! I went to the table to give my input and in some small way I contributed to our democratic way of life.

I vote for candidates who I believe will represent me, my values, my interests, and the choices I would make if I were in their shoes. I don’t expect the folks for whom I cast a ballot to always agree with me, at times, perhaps often, they will be better educated on the particular issues than I.

In the United States our government and ways of life are more Roman than Greek. That is to say we follow a republican form of government (not the political party) but it’s a representative democracy concept. We don’t employ a direct democracy where everyone gets one vote; we have a representative democracy. This means we vote for people who will represent the views of groups of people. For example, members of Congress are assigned to districts, geographic areas, representing certain numbers of people. This is why the decennial census (the population count every 10 years) is so important to political map-makers.

  • I vote in every election.
  • I vote because I can.
  • I vote because I am a free man.
  • I vote because it is my civic duty.
  • I vote because it is my responsibility as a free man to exercise this powerful right – the right to give input as to whom should represent me and my interests.
  • I vote because I hold great value in the power of representative democracy.
  • I vote because I would like to have my input considered.
  • I vote so I can share my views and values and be a responsible member of society.

One of the tenets of voting that some people overlook is that their vote is going to elect others who will represent their interests. Will those for whom I cast a ballot always vote the way I want them to? No – of course not.

Will they take my follow up input under consideration? Yes – that is the beauty of a democratic republic, the type of society in which we live. I would like everyone I vote for to become elected. But that is unlikely since there are many other voters and that is not a realistic wish. I understand this and I’m ok with this.

As a regular part of my role as the superintendent of schools, I regularly give input to our elected representatives in Washington, D.C., and in Springfield, IL. I would like them to consider my input even if they disagree with it. They may disagree in principle or they may disagree because they are better informed, or they may disagree for political reasons. They also may take my input and form, reform, or transform their beliefs!

I vote for school board members (even my own bosses!); I vote for village trustees and township trustees; I vote for friends, neighbors, colleagues, folks about whom I know a lot and at times, I vote for folks about whom I do not know a lot, but who are aligned with a political coalition I support or understand.

Many voters select based upon political party or candidate gender or candidate ethnicity. It is free choice; people can literally vote for anyone who is on the ballot (and at times they can enter a “write-in” candidate too). That is the beauty of living in a free society.

What does democracy mean in the workplace?

I consider myself to be an inclusive and collaborative leader. I seek input and views and votes from the people likely to be impacted by a decision or set of decisions. I work in an industry full of committees, viewpoints, processes, procedures, etc.

I work for an elected non-partisan school board made of seven citizens who, with me, form a governance team of 8 to manage and govern the school district. I seek input from the nearly 500 employees whom I serve and employ.

Do I always agree with every one of their votes? (no) Do I always do what the will of the majority requests? (no) The plurality (the larger number of votes when a majority is not there)? (no)

Or do I consider their input with care, concern, and respect, and make a decision based upon the combination of input, voice, votes, research, evidence, etc. YES – As a leader I truly have to balance the will of the many with the right decision – often equal or congruous with the will – but not always.

The paradox of leadership is leading with an inspired vision and per a collective plan, mission, agenda, vision, etc.

Seeking input, empowering people yet “at the end of the day” realizing that “the buck stops here” and the accountability and responsibility rests with the leader.

Not following the will of the majority is not rejecting input. Not following the will of the majority is not “not listening”. From time to time the leader must seek input, gather facts, anticipate impact and … well … lead. Sometimes leading means helping the group see a different reality than the one they think they want or the one they think is right.

Recently as part of our work, I shared committee recommendations and my administrative recommendation to the Board of Education (there were sometimes differences in the committee recommendation and my ultimate decision). These examples about which I refer are from the 2013-14 Superintendent’s Task Force for Middle Level Education. This coalition of students, parents, teachers, administrators, community leaders, and board members, a 140 member stakeholder community engagement group, made recommendations for improvement to our middle schools.

I took input from many, shared the input publicly, reviewed a number of factors, synthesized the priorities and make a recommendation. For the elective areas I took all the votes/input and I made a recommendation with some differences. The input continues to guide decision making and resource allocation. The STEM team recommendations were accepted 100%.

The challenge of a leader in a democracy is to respect input and consider the votes and then decide what is in the best interest of the many and to lead. The leader may know more and be able to see around corners the people cannot yet see. The leader often needs to have vision beyond the past experiences and limits of the group. The leader needs to lead and challenge the process and manage the change process.

Does your vote and your input guarantee that your choices will be advocated? No – just like the village trustee for whom I cast a ballot will vote his/her conscious when employees give input, or vote, if you will, they are giving input to the representatives who will ultimately decide what action to take. Your vote does guarantee that your views will be at the table and respectfully reviewed and considered!

What does a leader do when the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and the future for which he is leading requires systemic unlearning? Well … with compassion and conviction, he leads.


I’m proud I voted today.

I’m proud that the educators with whom I work continue to share voice, vote, values, viewpoints and vision.

I’m proud to share the Deerfield Public Schools District 109 new Strategic Plan later this month.

The mission, vision, guiding principles, portrait of a graduate, goals, objectives and action plans have been carefully prepared, reviewed, planned, and considered.

The Strategic Plan is created by reviewing input of more than 1700 stakeholders – those who voted in surveys have their voice represented. Those who participated in focus groups have their voice represented. Those who Engage, Inspire and Empower have their voice represented as we “rebrand” and “re form” our educational organization for the next several years.