Yesterday we wrapped up another school year at NAHS. The class of 2014 exited our school district 12 days ago with an indoor graduation and five great speeches by our selected students, Principal, and Superintendent. The class of 2014 was led by a strong set of class advisors and officers. They had a fun and exciting senior week that I was fortunate to be a part of. It was great to see the growth in students as people as they said thank you to their favorite teachers, coaches, or counselors during their last few days. I was amazed at the strength of the Leibowitz family that were our guests at Awards Day to receive a yearbook that was dedicated to Joe, who we lost to Cystic Fibrosis almost two years ago. Graduating seniors have a wonderful way of being able to reflect on their time during their final few weeks. It’s always fun to take pictures for and with many students that I’ve spent time with over four years. I often wonder if some of them will make it or if they will be ready academically and socially for the next stages of their lives. I was proud to see a group of students that had grown as citizens walk across the stage and receive their diplomas. They seem to have the foundation to be prepared for whatever changes they will encounter in their near and distant futures.
Change is constantly happening. At North Andover Public Schools we are transitioning to a new administrative structure and welcoming two aspiring high school leaders as our K-12 Curriculum Coordinators for STEM and Humanities. The move should give our teachers and schools some much needed support with vertical alignment, interpreting data for curriculum and instruction decisions, analysis, and continuing the proper focus on looking at student work during collaboration time. With these additions we have a structural shift at our high school. We are down one building administrator and we said goodbye to our last three department chair positions. Over the next month, we will welcome five Facilitators of Collaborative Inquiry to our leadership team and continue preparation for next year. Change, change, change. It can be scary to lose great workers, friends, and leaders that you’ve been with for a number of years. However, we must continue to stay focused on improving as administrative teams, collaborative cohorts, and as individuals so that the students can continue to achieve and become better citizens.
Supporting teachers and leaders while reshaping what our leadership teams will look like is very important. Fortunately a friend and colleague recommended a book called Switch How To Change Things When Change Is Hard by Dan and Chip Heath that has helped me continue to grow and improve. The book was a quick read and focused on human behavior. It gave some clear examples and strategies to help prepare and deal with change. The book was very positive and I think about the strategies covered in the book often when making decisions at home and at work. Here is a one page summary of the strategies from the book. As a leader, one of the biggest areas I can focus on with team members is eliminating the ambiguity in a change. We have had a lot of ambiguity in our school over the last six months. I find that people are always appreciative of colleagues taking the time to clear things up for them. It also helps all of us see connections to visions, school improvement plans, and assists in answering why we make certain decisions. The authors of Switch point out various things centered around ambiguity that makes sense and that I found helpful. Here are a few of them:
What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity.Ambiguity is exhausting to the Rider, because the Rider is tugging on the reins of the Elephant, trying to direct the Elephant down a new path. But when the road is uncertain, the Elephant will insist on taking the default path, the most familiar path. Why? Because uncertainty makes the Elephant anxious. (Think of how, in an unfamiliar place, you gravitate toward a familiar face.) And that’s why decision paralysis can be deadly for change-because the most familiar path is always the status quo.Many leaders pride themselves on setting high-level direction: I’ll set the vision and stay out of the details. It’s true that a compelling vision is critical (as we’ll see in the next chapter). But it’s not enough. Big-picture, hands-off leadership isn’t likely to work in a change situation, because the hardest part of change-the paralyzing part-is precisely in the details By helping to script the critical moves and by providing details within the vision (need to have a vision, should have a shared vision) we can allow people a chance to embrace the change.Ambiguity is the enemy. Any successful change requires a translation of ambiguous goals into concrete behaviors.-Switch How To Change Things When Change Is Hard by Dan and Chip Heath
As we prepare initiatives for strategic plans, identify focus areas, agree on team SMART Goals, and work to build from a group to a team I am planning on doing my best to eliminate the ambiguity with my colleagues and for our teachers, parents, and students.
I’m hoping for a great summer with colleagues, friends, and family. I look forward to forming new relationships, enhancing existing relationships, reading, reflecting, and having fun.