The Six Secrets of Change

Michael Fullan’s Change Forces is one of the great educational books, and he continues to look into the subject. In this book, he looks at six secrets:

  1. Love Your Employees
  2. Connect Peers with Purpose
  3. Capacity Building Prevails
  4. Learning is the Work
  5. Transparency Rules
  6. Systems Learn

There is nothing stunningly new here, but there are some great thoughts worth remembering. In Chapter Four, “Learning is the Work,” Fullan states, “Successful organizations mobilize themselves to be ‘all over’ the practices that are known to make a difference.” I love that. I’ve seen Districts move towards this, but the Superintendent did not stay long enough to make it complete.

The Lincoln Lawyer

I know it’s summer when I’m reading a Michael Connelly novel. It’s not great literature, but it’s always fun. This is his first legal novel. By the way – Mick Haller – our lawyer hero – is not a “Lincoln lawyer” because he works in the traditions of our 16th president. He is called that because his office is the back seat of a Lincoln Continental. Classy. Good summer reading.

The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay

I just finished reading this three part series that young adults are crazy about. I can see why. It’s a bleak vision of our nation in the future, and it is a teenager who gives hope to the world. I loved it. Keep in mind, I do love the fantasy books like the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, so this wasn’t a stretch. It’s a page-turner that actually raised my heartbeat as I read it. I finished all three quickly because I wanted to get them done.  They’re not well written, but the story is awesome. The movie comes out soon – I doubt I’ll see it, but at least I’ll know what everyone is talking about!

How Will You Measure Your Life?

I had all of our administrators read this book this summer, and they loved it. He asks and advises on three questions. How can I be sure that:

  1. I will be successful and happy in my career?
  2. My relationships with my spouse, my children, and my extended family and close friends become an enduring source of happiness?
  3. I live a life of integrity – and stay out of jail?

He is a quality researcher and he wants us all to be great workers and even better people. Why wouldn’t you want to read a book on that?

Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Education Will Change the Way the World Learns

Michael Horn, one of the co-authors of this book, spoke at Manhattan Beach’s TEDx conference in 2012. It’s a book that makes predictions about where education is going. You all know that MBUSD is pursuing technology through iPads. There are those who are against it, and it is certainly a challenging transition, but there is no denying that the world of learning through technology is coming whether we like it or not. Between Khan Academy and the plethora of free online education, technology is changing the way the world learns. The role of teachers remains a critical one, but any teacher who views their main job as imparting information will become obsolete. Teachers are becoming skill builders, motivators, tutors, coaches and caring experts at determining what each child needs. It’s an exciting time, and this book does a nice job of defining the times that we live in.

 

Death by Meeting

, by  (2004)

I’ve always thought of myself is an excellent meeting manager. In fact, I’ve often joked that my ideal job would be a professional meeting runner. I believe in the theory of a well-planned agenda, an easy beginning and end, and a solid meaty middle part where difficult problems get resolved. But I’ve been in plenty of meetings that are pretty darned painful.

Like it or not, meetings are a big part of what I do. That’s how Lencioni begins. Lencioni pushes us that how sad it would be if professional baseball players said, I like my job except for the stupid games. As leaders, a big part of our job is planning, running and following up on the meetings. We often don’t do the work, we simply lead it, guide it, and make sure it happens like we want it to. If we don’t like the meetings where we discuss and lead those things, then we really don’t like the job we have.

  • Conflict. Just like any good movie is based on conflict, a good meeting is based on it as well. People have to be willing to be honest, open and willing to voice opposition.
  • Structure – Just like in TV you would not mix a movie, headline news, sitcoms and mini-series, maybe one meeting should not include all of those things.
  • Daily “Headline News Meeting” – A Daily Check-In – A 5 minute meeting where the day is reviewed.
  • Weekly 30 minute “Sit Com” meeting. Weekly staff meeting focusing on tactical issues – 30 – 90 minute with no pre-set agenda. Start with 60 second report from each person on the up to three projects the person is working on this week. Then, the team would review a scorecard of where we are relative to the company scorecard. From that point, the team would determine the content of the remainder of the meeting.
  • Quarterly Offsite Meeting: Meetings should not be a chance to step away from day to day bothers, and look at the big picture and long-term impact stuff. One to two days. Best people, strategies, successes, failures, repositioning, maybe with an outside consultant, particularly on the offsites.
  • Monthly strategic meeting. When you have topics that are about changes in strategy, new projects, and new goals, they should be saved until the monthly strategic meeting.

This book is a much needed book for any executive. We don’t think about our meetings enough. We don’t think strategically and we don’t plan the meetings. We can’t hate these meetings. Department meetings, Faculty Meetings, Principals’ Meetings and Cabinet Meetings. Not to mention, what typically are the least productive meetings of all, Board of Education meetings. All of them can be better. Plan it, give it meaning, conflict and context, and make them effective.

 

Big Green Egg Cookbook

When I’m not being a school administrator, I love to cook. I cook all kinds of things, but what I really love to do is to grill and smoke foods. For my 50th birthday, my wife bought me a Big Green Egg. It is a smoker, grill and pizza oven, and I recommend it to anybody. They are expensive, but they last forever and they can do it all. My friend Greg Geiser and I talk Big Green Egg (bge) all the time. It can become a way of life.

If you want to see my recipes, you can check them out www.principalchef.com. Really. If you want to see what the BGE can do, take a look at this book. I’m telling you, it’s great stuff.

Adventures of Huckleberry Huck Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Roughing It

My dad has always loved Mark Twain, so I reread or read for the first time – Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, and Roughing It were all wonderful. I laughed out loud on several of the passages. Common sense goes a long way, and Twain loves characters who either mock or defy common sense.