“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.”
– Mark Twain
Dear Readers of this blog – thank you for reading the various musings I have shared with you via this blog in 339 posts since 2013.
As you may know I’ve been a blogger since 2010, when I first became a superintendent of schools; and I have enjoyed each and every blog post, comment, conversation, experience, etc.
Over the past few years I have been blessed with the motivation to write, to share, to blog, to journal and to publish. My writing motivation is now moving more into the book publications realm than in the blogging realm.
With this final blog post (for now) I bid blogging a fond farewell (I may re-brand the blog or start a new medium for personal professional communication after July 1st, when my leadership journey takes me into a new venue in North Shore School District 112).
Thank you for supporting the blog and please consider reading one or more of my publications and sharing your feedback with me.
Thanks for your support and for your interest in my journey. Please continue to Engage, Inspire, Empowerand do all you can for all students and members of your community.
by Michael Lubelfeld, superintendent, Deerfield Public Schools, Ill., and Nick Polyak, superintendent, Leyden High School District 212, Ill.
The purpose of the AASA Digital Consortium is to support school district administrators as they scale successful models in support of engaging, effective learning experiences using digital media in order to be the leading national voice for digital innovation in our nation’s public schools.
We have often written about the power and value of professional associations. We are grateful to the coaching, guidance, mentorship, feedback and opportunities that these associations afford leaders in the practice of education.
As co-directors of the AASA Digital Consortium we have the honor of gathering with 40-50 superintendents and educational leaders from around the nation in support of leading digital innovation in our nation’s schools. Since 2014, the consortium has visited exemplar school districts from coast to coast (Maryland, California, North Carolina, Illinois and Washington, and our next visit in April 2018 will be to Missouri).
Typically, we engage with a team of superintendents and school leaders for two days of intense leading, learning, fellowship and calls to action. Key to the influence and success of the Digital Consortium are friends like Horace Mann, Discovery Education, Google, Google Chicago, Education Reimagined, McGraw Hill, Fuel Education, Rethink Education and other leaders in the edtech space.
We work through exercises and planning under the powerful frameworks for leadership and change like the one found in Education Reimagined. We have worked with thought leaders from around North America as we support one another on the journey toward change management and maximized impact of digital transformation.
During our visits, tweets are shared under the #AASA_DigitalConsortium. Our challenge and charge as a group of leaders is to continue to lead with passion, energy, focus and partnership. As critical friends, we affirm that which is good and best, and we constructively critique that which can be made better.
AASA will feature blog posts from the various leadership consortia as part of its ongoing outreach and support of leadership and education. In addition, through partnerships with the Center for Digital Education and Discovery Education, for example, a number of case studies and white papers have been written by or about Digital Consortium leaders.
Mike Lubelfeld is the superintendent of Deerfield Public Schools in Deerfield, Ill. Nick Polyak is the superintendent of Leyden High School District 212 in Franklin Park, Ill. Lubelfeld and Polyak serve as co-chairs of AASA’s Digital Consortium and co-moderate #Suptchat, a monthly, hour-long conversation via Twitter that engages superintendents and other school system leaders worldwide about the most critical issues in education. The program occurs on the first Wednesday of every month, beginning at 8 p.m. (ET).
Great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.” – Steve Jobs
Every day in every classroom everywhere, student voices should be filling the halls, rooms, gymnasiums, cafeterias, playgrounds, buses, everywhere with “WOW” language.
At some recent professional leadership learning conferences I was WOWED with the experience, the possibility for extending that “wow” to all of the students and staff I serve, and reminded we CAN and we MUST WOW our communities!
As educators we have a gift in our calling to serve, teach and lead. The gift is creating the WOW every day for every child. Each child has but one year to spend with us (typically we have children in our grade level for one academic year). We adults get “do overs” annually but the children have but one time to be a 1st grader, an 8th grader, etc. Thestudents do NOT get “do overs” – we owe them WOW moments.
I believe we owe the students WOW moments all the time. My role as a superintendent of schools and a national leader affords me incredible opportunities to both have and create WOW moments. Wow moments for my own development as a leader, wow moments for colleagues and peers through national, statewide and regional leadership, and most important – helping others create WOW moments for students and staff.
Todd Whitaker (highly respected educational leader, professor, author, and speaker) says “10 days in a row” – meaning we must engage, inspire, empower – every day – every child – every learning encounter. In education our profession is too critical to mess up – to create wow moments 7 out of 10 days for example. 10 days in a row … we must do this because the students rely on us to be ready for them and to provide limitless opportunities for them every day.
The past few weeks have been quite busy for me professionally as I have participated at the state superintendent conference, an executive briefing at Apple in Cupertino, CA, I also attended a Visible Learning conference with John Hattie (himself perhaps the greatest research aggregator of our modern times), and I co-led the American Association of School Administrator (AASA) Digital Consortium Fall Conference in Seattle, WA with my good friend Nick Polyak.
At the Digital Consortium Fall Conference we spent time at three schools in the Highline School District; we also spent time at the Museum of Flight and Boeing in Seattle, WA.
So at Apple and at Boeing we educational leaders got to learn first hand what jobs are needed today as well as tomorrow at two of the planets most impactful companies. We got to see what a modern, contemporary workspace looks like. We got to see what a factory in 2017 looks like – it’s a lot different than the factory of 1917 for which the foundation of US public schooling is built. We thought leaders are doing great work disrupting archaic organizational structures in preparation for 2017 – and for 2020, 2025, and beyond.
At Apple and at Boeing I was WOWED around every corner – I cannot share photos because we are not permitted to take or share photos (corporate protection is real and necessary) though I can share with you how and why I was wowed – but more importantly and far more impact-fully I can share how and why we can and must provide WOW moments for every student every day.
I can share photos from the Museum of Flight – I am sharing photos throughout the text of this post.
While we were engaging in US and world history discussions as well as science and technology history discussions and math and engineering discussions, we were WOWED.
We learned about sociology, manufacturing, coding, computer programming, photography, digital photography, national security and more. We were engaged in our learning. We were provided both whole group and small group learning experiences. Our docent was able to differentiate, individualize and even personalize our experiences. We were learners – we were learning – we were engaged, inspired, and empowered. We connected our own interests, knowledge, and thoughts with the content (the exhibits). We were able to imagine, think, … learn.
In our 30-60 minute lesson at the Museum of Flight, and during our visits to the innovative schools in Highline, we were wowed and we saw wowed lessons and experiences. These experiences included students explaining to us what competency based learning means (i.e. take a year of Spanish in a few months for credit and advancement at the high school); what individualized pacing with artificial intelligence looks like (i.e. with advanced curricular resources); in addition, we learned about how the principals and teachers were building cultures of excellence and managing change. On behalf of Students, Staff, and community!
Like the quote above, I work for those I serve – I write for those I serve. The story of the success of the Deerfield Public Schools District 109 (main content for many of my writings) is written for the thousands of students, teachers, support staff, board, administrators, parents, and community members whom I serve.
Another passion of mine is using social media tools for leadership, communication, and progress. To that end, I have published an article in the latest School Administrator Magazine about the social media tool Voxer – see the images below (each is linked to the article/journal).
“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
– A.A. Milne
The Unlearning Leader: Leading Schools for Tomorrow Today is about how today’s leaders need to connect for success. The premise of this book is that we all need to unlearn. In order to change and prepare for tomorrow, the authors submit that much of what leaders have learned must be unlearned as we aim to create a new tomorrow for our nation’s children.
The learning purposes of this book include:
Energize people to think, act, and lead differently
Embody innovative mindsets
Model and share new ways of leading from within the organization
Put forth the power and positive impact and legacy for leadership
Unlearn old truths to lead in new ways
Leverage connection opportunities like #suptchat to lead and learn for tomorrow
The Unlearning Leader: Leading for Tomorrow’s Schools Today is a book that will make a difference. Unlearning implies relearning, and that relates to change. The once constant in education today is change. Leaders must know how people learn, communicate, and think. Nick and Mike are energetic, innovative, creative experts in promoting effective leadership that embraces today’s vastly different environment. This book is not an option – it is fundamental to building educational attitudes and behaviors that produce exceptional learners. Jim Burgett, Author, Speaker, President of the Burgett Group, IL Supt of the Year
Please listen to a Podcast interview (below) with me and Nick Polyak (the authors) with
(b) a unique end of chapter feature SUPTCHAT: Stop, Understand, Plan, Think –where suggested actions and reflected questions will help readers take action and connect with various Twitter chat communities
“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” – Marcus Aurelius
From time to time people ask why I strongly and frequently advocate for the leader’s use of social media so often. Others inquire as to why I share so much about my district and professional views publicly on Twitter, via this blog, and in other communication media. Still others ask how does this use of social media tools improve learning for students and staff.
For the first blog post of 2017 I decided to concentrate on the “why” – the why I blog; this year I plan to write about the why I lead, the why I advocate for all children, the why I do what I do and I believe what I do.
Communication is an evolving process reflective of the needs of the community, and as such, this blog and the district’s methods of communication – pushing and pulling – speaking and listening – are likely going to change and evolve as a result of needs and actions of the district and the superintendent’s office. I welcome and encourage your comments and input!I am grateful to be a part of the educational system and the community! I am grateful to work with an outstanding group of educators, community members, parents, students, etc. I am grateful to learn and grow and support the learning and growth of others as the chief educational leader in the community!
Continuing on the subject of why I blog I consider other social media tools that support my growth as a leader. First I look to blogging and next I look to #suptchat, the international monthly Twitter chat I co-facilitate with Nick Polyak. From #suptchat I learn many leadership tips and ideas and I gain access to resources from a large PLN (personal learning network).
In addition, from other social media sources and through personal professional relationships, I continue to learn so much from contemporary leaders, like Chris Kennedy in West Vancouver, British Columbia, Joe Sanfelippo in Fall Creek, WI (#gocrickets), Jeff Zoul right here in Deerfield, and so many other leaders and educators featured in and through AASA, NASSP, NAESP, and many other professional communications.
In addition, the social media connections and relationships are enhanced and humanized through conferences and workshops and from books and literature. I find great value in reading currently published and recently published books from members of my PLN (Sanfelippo, Zoul, Gustafson, Creasman, Burgess, and so many more!)
One of the ways I learn evidence based ways to support leaders in my organization is through reflection, review, study, connection, and learning from others through various connection modes. One of the ways I share reflection is through blogging!
Let’s begin with some definitions. A bit dry, we realize, but this is a necessary evil. First we’ll define the word this whole site is based around – blog.
A blog is a frequently updated online personal journal or diary. It is a place to express yourself to the world. A place to share your thoughts and your passions. Really, it’s anything you want it to be. For our purposes we’ll say that a blog is your own website that you are going to update on an ongoing basis. Blog is a short form for the word weblog and the two words are used interchangeably.
With this first 2017 blog post I’m also sharing my thoughts on what constitutes effective blogging from an article published this month in the January 2017 edition of the AASA Magazine.
What Constitutes Effective Blogging? By Michael Lubelfeld/School Administrator, January 2017
A superintendent plays many roles and wears many hats — chief educational officer, chief spokesperson and chief communicator to name a few essential and high-profile roles.
Social media as a communication medium has proven to be an effective tool for school leaders. In particular, blogging is an effective mode of communication, and something I have been doing since 2010 when I first became a superintendent in suburban Chicago.
Like other forms of social media, blogging allows for a blending or integration of professional and personal messaging. The district website and official e-mail systems are 100 percent work-related and represent the official statements and positions of the school district. A blog allows for the representation of the district while enabling the superintendent to be a person, a professional with human emotions and interests who can share using her or his own voice.
An effective superintendent blog is updated at least monthly. Blog posts should have links, photos and videos relating to the topic being discussed while showcasing learning and leading. Photos and videos showing the schools and communities tend to have a greater viewing impact than generic, nonrelated imagery.
The blog itself should be visually attractive and easy to locate and read with an ease for sharing comments. I follow several blogs because I find the communication timely, relevant and valuable, and I aim to improve my own craft as a blogger by learning from others. The blog should have compelling and well-written content that is fitting for the local audience as well as the profession. It should be a blend and balance of personal reflection and values while serving as a communication arm of the district.
Since the start of the school year, I’ve used my blog to comment critically on the failure of our state to adequately finance public schooling and to reach back to my 8th-grade teaching days to share a homemade vehicle for improving teacher-parent communication in the pre-electronic mail era.
I reflected in another recent post on a life-changing experience participating in a Lifetouch Memory Mission to the Dominican Republic. Several of my narratives attracted comments of followers.
Two superintendent blogs I follow and recommend are the Culture of Yes (https://cultureofyes.ca) by Chris Kennedy, superintendent in West Vancouver, British Columbia, and the Superintendent’s Corner (https://superintendent.hcpss.org) by Renee Foose, superintendent of the Howard County, Md., schools.
In the Culture of Yes, the reader will find timely and appealing posts relating to education, leadership and highlights of the West Vancouver district. I enjoy the 500- to 1,000-word posts that are easy to read, force me to think and allow me to apply concepts to my own practices as a leader. Foose’s blog is visually unique in that the posts appear as
blocks on a page with images. This distinctive look allows the reader to consider the intended message before reading the posts. Foose generally writes shorter posts than Kennedy and hers typically offer photos or other media capturing students and community.
A Public Journal
I blog out of a desire to share, from a balcony perspective when appropriate, and from the “dance floor” when apropos for describing what is happening in the 3,000-student system I lead. I believe it is useful for the superintendent to share publicly his or her in-depth educational philosophies. Reflection is a valuable skill for all, and blogging serves as a public journal for public reflection.
My social media use enables me to share deeper connections. Because social media drops barriers and boundaries, I am able to learn and grow and communicate with leaders all over the world. In addition, the stories of my schools are shared widely thanks to the ease with which one can connect using social media. My blog shows how professional learning of the superintendent relates to best practices in school leadership, instruction and innovation. The blog is another tool for communication in the modern school leader’s bag of tricks.