Category Archives: resiliency

CALIFORNIA, THINKING, AND THE WILD WILD WEST

gretzkyCorporate CEO’s and forward thinkers like to use the Wayne Gretzky analogy.  Gretzky scored 940 some goals in his 20 career in the NHL.  But he never skated to the puck in order to take his magic shots.  If he skated to a hockey puck angling off the boards at 100 mph, it would be gone by the time he got there.  So Gretzky was as good as any hockey player that ever played the game… at skating to where the puck was going to be.

That’s forward thinking. Broad vision.

timeSo in light of the Wayne Gretzky analogy, this week’s lead story in TIME Magazine is reassuring.  California, it seems, is not falling off into the Pacific Ocean after all.

Oh sure, there are earthquakes and wildfires and crazy environmentalists chaining themselves to the railroad tracks in defense of the ecosystem.  There are gangs and home foreclosures, long unemployment lines and long lines at the frenzy-producing freeway merge.  There may be shuttered businesses and legions of workers whose origins are driving Lou Dobbs nuts.

But in general, there is enormous up-side in the Golden State and its powerhouses of innovation that are skating to where the puck is going to be.

Michael Grunwald writes:

It’s still a dream state. In fact, the pioneering megastate that gave us microchips, freeways, blue jeans, tax revolts, extreme sports, energy efficiency, health clubs, Google searches, Craigslist, iPhones and the Hollywood vision of success is still the cutting edge of the American future — economically, environmentally, demographically, culturally and maybe politically. It’s the greenest and most diverse state, the most globalized in general and most Asia-oriented in particular at a time when the world is heading in all those directions. It’s also an unparalleled engine of innovation, the mecca of high tech, biotech and now clean tech. In 2008, California’s wipeout economy attracted more venture capital than the rest of the nation combined. Somehow its supposedly hostile business climate has nurtured Google, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Facebook, Twitter, Disney, Cisco, Intel, eBay, YouTube, MySpace, the Gap and countless other companies that drive the way we live.

Innovation implies the flourishing of  ideas that haven’t even been launched yet, defying the status quo.  It rewards early adopters and those who integrate technology in the most unlikely of ways.  Like Kogi, writes Grunwald, the Korean taco truck that announces its location via Twitter. “The beauty of California is the idea that you can reinvent yourself and do something totally creative,” says Kogi’s Roy Choi, a former chef at the Beverly Hilton. “It’s still the Wild West that way.”

But as forward leaning as the TIME Magazine piece on California is, it missed a chance to recognize that our schools have also evolved at light speed from the Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

When Grunwald celebrates the culture of innovation that produces breakthroughs in chip-industry, solar, LED lighting, green materials, the digitized grid, biotech, algae-to-fuel experiments, synthetic genomics, carbon-capturing-cement, sugar to diesel, semiconductors, and energy-efficient windows… he could have been a game changer himself… the first to recognize the relationship between innovative public schools and the fast companies they serve.  Instead, he states that California public schools “pose a real obstacle to the dream of upward mobility” and that they have been “deteriorating for years.”

Really? Deteriorating?  You are clearly thinking of Spicoli’s public schools.  Not mine!

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California passed its charter law  in 1992, one of the first states in the country to do so.  There are now 750 charter schools serving 276,000 kids. 90 new charters opened in 2007 alone.  There are charters of every kind from High Tech High to El Milagro.  They flourish in a state that is unique for its size and diversity. Where 64% of its student population are children of color… third, only behind Washington DC and Hawaii.  A state where nearly half the students qualify for free or reduced lunch and where 1 out of 4 are English language learners.  A state that invests only $9,152 per student  (while New York invests  $15, 981 per student).  And where we don’t make excuses.

And while other states are relaxing their standards or lowering the cut point that determines grade level proficiency, California remains one of the most difficult states in America to test out at grade level.  The expectations here are sky high.

There are still many underperforming schools… but I don’t know where they are.  And if I did, I wouldn’t defend them.

I do know however, that schools like El Milagro continue to compete in an environment that is destined to change.  We will not be able to sustain schools as test prep academies to the exclusion of the real skills and talents that will feed into our innovative industries.  Solving energy and the riddles of biomedicine can not come from multiple choice tests.  The future demands creativity.  Critical Thinking. Resilience.

So you can be sure there are schools like mine, skating to where we envision the puck will be.  That’s California too.  Revolutionary thinking and the wild, wild west.

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Filed under California budget, California charter schools, charter schools, El Milagro, innovation and change, lou dobbs, public education, resiliency, school reform, technology in schools

WHY PRESIDENT OBAMA WILL BE OUR GUEST SPEAKER AT EL MILAGRO

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On Tuesday morning President Obama will be speaking to children in schools all across America.  He will deliver the messages that we have spent our careers delivering to our students:  stay in school.  Work hard.  Take responsibility for your education.  Do your homework.  Dream big.

He’s the perfect person to sing such a hopeful tune.  By now we all know from whence this man has come.  Born to an immigrant father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas, he grew up, at least for a time, in poverty.  He struggled as a youth to maintain a focus on his education. But ultimately, he graduated from some of the most prestigious universities on the planet– including Harvard Law School.  He became a community organizer to parley his education into some good for others.  He served his community.  He ran for public office.  He expanded his influence.  And in one of the most inspirational stories in our nation’s long tradition of resilient  citizens, he rose above the odds to become the first African American President of the United States.

He’s the guy that wants to step into our classrooms and tell kids that if they work hard and persevere and not make excuses they too can achieve their dream.  He’s an orator.  He is a poet.  He is compelling.  He is engaging.

Tuesday morning when the sun rises on the first day of school across most of America, children will meet their new teacher and new classmates and the televisions will click on and the President will welcome them back.  At least some of them.

gunzjpegAs is the case with all things now in American politics, this too has been spoiled.  The President has been demonized and his intentions sullied by another fight.  The same group of unhinged people who question our President’s legitimacy as an American citizen (Dred Scott?), who challenge his authenticity as an elected official, who carry guns to his public appearances, who freely and publicly characterize him by the twin hot button n-words: “nigger” and “nazi”, who muse that he “is not one of us”, who simultaneously suggest he wants to kill our elders… now suggest he wants to get his hooks into our children’ minds. Christians… sowing the seeds of hatred.

beckKnuckleheads from the far (and not so far) right wing of the Republican Party have managed to cast so many shadows on the President’s address to school children, that most will never hear the message.  Even elected officials have gone so far as to suggest that the president intends to use his “bully pulpit” to foment socialism and spread his radical ideologies  to an unsuspecting captive audience of school kids who just want to know where to store their lunch pail in their new classrooms. 

“As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology. The idea that school children across our nation will be forced to watch the President justify his plans for government-run health care, banks, and automobile companies, increasing taxes on those who create jobs, and racking up more debt than any other President, is not only infuriating, but goes against beliefs of the majority of Americans, while bypassing American parents through an invasive abuse of power. While I support educating our children to respect both the office of the American President and the value of community service, I do not support using our children as tools to spread liberal propaganda.”  —  Jim Greer, GOP Chair, Florida

“As far as I am concerned, this is not civics education — it gives the appearance of creating a cult of personality. This is something you’d expect to see in North Korea or in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.” — Oklahoma Republican State Senator Steve Russell

North Korea?  Are you freakin’ serious?

What is it about these people?  How far does their hypocrisy go?  I remember when their guy was in office… if you questioned his judgment (?)  or direction you were no less than a traitor to America.  I remember him trying to string two coherent sentences together on any topic.  I remember all the members of his party suddenly running for office on the “family values” ticket… then demonstrating none of the values most families I know would ever espouse.  

I remember their education showhorse called No Child Left Behind.  It was going to spur school reform in America once and for all.  It was going to resurrect our schools and get us back to the basics.  We would be able to expose those schools that aren’t taking care of children– fire the teachers and the principals and allow parents to cut bait if need be and send their kids to schools that were really teaching.  We would even close the achievement gap across racial and socio-economic lines.  And the truth would be told in test scores.

And it was.  And the truth is that No Child Left Behind was never intended to close the achievement gap nor improve the quality of public education for children in all communities across America– which may explain in part why it has done neither.  

So while parents fret over whether they should “allow their child to be exposed to the message from the White House” on Tuesday– the irony is most schools won’t have time to air it anyway.  

And the “lesson plans” and other prepared materials designed to assist teachers in framing class discussions after the President’s address?  The one’s that really have created a collective aneurism among Republicans?  The ones that actually have the audacity to challenge kids to think… that prompts them with such radical questions as “How might you help the president?”  

I can guarantee that schools won’t have time to delve into those either. They will be far too busy with drilling students on basic skills and jumping through the hoops crafted by NCLB.  They will be preparing students to answer the standardized test questions that they will confront in May.  

obamaWhat a shame.  What a loss for those children and their naive parents.  They will miss the point that Barack Obama did not rise to the station of the American Presidency because he can take standardized tests or survive a curriculum so narrowly tuned to reading and math.  He rose to the presidency because he can THINK. He is a reader, a writer, an orator, a lover of art and music and people.  He is a leader.  Spiritual.  Self disciplined and self made.  He is the embodiment of Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. He is the very model of what our public schools should strive for. And perhaps that is the biggest fear of all for those on the right:  That our public schools might actually work!  That we might, if untethered from the yoke of mindless standardized testing, reach across the great socio-economic divide and actually raise children from every community and race and ethnicity and gender group– to compete.  Anywhere.  Against anybody. Even to be President of the United States.

DSC_0260This Tuesday the televisions will be on at El Milagro.  We told teachers if they can fit it into their schedules they should.  But it is up to them.  And if parents don’t want their children exposed to this man…  they can opt out.  It is their call.  Their conscious. They can be complicit in the very blatant educational malpractice that began during the Bush presidency if they so choose.  Or they could actually seize the teachable moment and model for their own children that rarest of gifts these days:  the ability to THINK for oneself.

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Filed under El Milagro, President Obama, public education, resiliency, school reform, standardized testing

DANCING FOR FUNHOUSE MIRRORS

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I just looked at the calendar on my IPhone and it says I am supposed to go back to work on Monday.  So be it.  I haven’t really left my work anyway… I have been messing with stuff for the past month:  developing our new program at the Chula Vista Nature Center, researching elements of our plan to eliminate grade levels, writing about how we  raise resilient kids, brainstorming strategies to focus our teaching.  Blogging.

money bagsjpegMeanwhile, I noticed that the state of California still doesn’t have a budget agreement and that there is now a $26.3 billion deficit!  The system is broke and it doesn’t appear that we are even structured to fix it

I noticed that the U.S. Department of Education now has $5 billion in special funding set aside to promote  the development of new innovative practices and I wonder if they are really ready for the innovations we have in mind!

I notice that Arne Duncan and President Obama are tweaking the NEA, the national teacher’s union, about the need for merit pay and opening up more charter schools– and that now they are both on the union “list”.

I notice that the NEA has been adamantly opposed to more charter schools… but they would like to unionize the ones that exist and steal their very best ideas! (By the way… the NEA is more than welcome to replicate our best practices!!!)

I notice that there is still some forward momentum around the effort to create one set of national curriculum standards and simultaneously wonder if that is really what is missing.

I notice that there has been no revision to NCLB and that we are still rolling up all our eggs in a very inadequate assessment basket called the California Standards Test.  And since we are not likely to have hit all of our AYP targets for the first time, and since we chose not to spend valuable learning time teaching our students how to take the test... we will have to be prepared to defend our teaching practices and explain why our kids didn’t score at a level that NCLB demands.   And, of course, we will have to demonstrate — to somebody– that we have a coherent plan for whatever ails us.  And the people we will have to answer to are the ones that can’t seem to do their own job… which is to manage the state’s budget and provide for the needs of children!      

IMG_3762As a matter of fact, I notice that the further away you get from actual classrooms where children and teacher live every day, the more delusional leadership becomes– like dancing in front of funhouse mirrors.  

So… much has changed since we sent our students tumbling into a very brief summer recess back in June.  And yet nothing has changed at all.  Real change and innovation still has to come from within the walls of the school.  And that is why I already set my alarm for Monday morning.

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Filed under California budget, California charter schools, charter schools, El Milagro, innovation and change, resiliency, school reform, standardized testing, teaching

THEY SERENADE THE HABITATS

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In the summer heat the cicadas sing in harmony, their collective voices rise and fall… rise and fall.  As if the Bayou breathes. And of course it does.  And they are matched in the distance by the pounding of hammers that rise and fall. Rise and fall.  Six houses in a clearing… and one small story in the resurrection of New Orleans.  DSC_0156

This past week, Anne and I lent our voices to the cicadas and our arms to the six houses. The habitats.

Habitat for Humanity is an amazing organization on so many different levels:  but especially the mission.  And the people. 

We continue to find models and metaphors for leadership in the strangest of places and this time in New Orleans we found Terry Cooney.  He was sent from New Jersey to New Orleans by the Red Cross 18 hours before Katrina came to shore.  He fought his way into a hurricane… upstream,  against the long lines of citizens fleeing their doomed city.  Then he fought against the storm itself, staying on his feet when the buildings shook.  floodThen he fought against the rising waters and pulled bodies from the canal.  Then he fought against the bureaucracy and incompetence of state and federal organizations to create food lines for people who had otherwise been abandoned. childjpegThen he fought against a police force in chaos– marauding officers that looted the Red Cross food supplies so they could stock their own hunting lodges.  Then he fought against the mounting anarchy– that moment in a crisis when good people bet the strength of their own resiliency against whatever force is trying to assure their destruction.

Then he fought against the corruption that rendered Katrina “catastrophic”.

In time the flood waters receded and the city was left in ruins.  But Terry Cooney stayed.  He could have returned to New Jersey, but he decided to do what he could to help in the long, long process of salvaging one of our nation’s most sacred treasures.  Eventually, that meant working with Habitat For Humanity and the many volunteers that come from across the country to help rebuild a community– one house at a time.  

This was our second opportunity to build for Habitat.  Last April we worked in Musician’s Village with a team of Anne’s co-workers from Intuit. After two full days of work, we managed to hang only the facia on the front and side of one house. That’s it.  But volunteers do what they can do and having never hung a facia, or worked on a roof, or swung a hammer clinging to the top level of an extension ladder– that was the contribution we could make.

This time we arrived on a site already buzzing with multiple teams of volunteers and Americorps workers and high school kids earning their way in this world by building houses and good karma.  And this time the six houses were on the other side of the river on the West Bank.  They were in a more advanced phase of construction and so our role was to hang the siding.    

DSC_0114Habitat for Humanity provides some basic tools and building materials for their volunteers.  And they provide a site foreman like Terry Cooney who has to take a very diverse group of people with different work ethics and skills and physical fitness and preparation and experience and lead them to some level of productivity.  He has had all kinds of volunteers from celebrities to church groups to not-so-motivated teenagers to company CEO’s and corporate superstars that haven’t done a day of physical labor in 20 years– if ever.  

Somehow, even with all the disparate daily tasks and oddball day laborers, Terry Cooney gets his houses built.  And they are strong enough to withstand hurricanes. 

How?

Fortunately for  the mission of Habitat for Humanity and all their volunteers– fortunately for the City of New Orleans– Terry Cooney possesses a few skills that prepare him for the job.  And not just construction skills. Those of us who study organizations and group dynamics noticed his style of leadership.  

Here is the Terry Cooney Way:

• Keep the mission crystal clear for every volunteer; 

• Make sure that every volunteer has a healthy regard for site safety;

• Quickly assess the volunteers to determine if there are any experienced builders and who has skills with power tools and who hates climbing up ladders– then turn them lose on whatever stage of the project they can do;

• Provide enough basic instruction to get groups started on their projects for the day;

• Encourage and support every effort– but don’t do their work for them;  

• Never ask people to do anything that would compromise their safety or the safety of others;

• Never ask anything of your volunteers that you wouldn’t do yourself;

• When it is steaming hot outside and the morning hours drag on, tell ’em about “the giraffe that walks into the bar”;

• Demonstrate a genuine appreciation for every individual’s contribution, no matter how large or small; 

• Honor their service.

DSC_0127On Tuesday morning one of the high school groups was packing up to leave.  They were exhausted.  They gathered for their  group meeting along side the circular saw and waited for Terry to release them.  Then a sudden piercing hum rose well above the cicadas and construction sounds.  And around the corner came their leader, with bagpipes wailing the Marine Corps Hymn.  All other sound and activity momentarily ceased.  

And when he played the last note, Terry  rested his bagpipes under his arm and gave the workers a send-off speech fit for William Wallace:

DSC_0132“You should be proud of your work here,” he told them.  “I know your parents would be very proud of you too.  On behalf of the Habitat for Humanity organization and the people of New Orleans, I want to thank you for your service. You made a difference here.  I want to play another song that is dedicated to each and every one of you.”

And then he played “Amazing Grace” in tribute to a group of kids that would have likely found lots of better things to do this summer than swinging hammers in 98% temperatures and 90% humidity!  

I think when a city floods a lot of stuff gets shifted around and some gets left behind and some gets washed away altogether.  Sometimes the waters bring reconciliation and sometimes they bring the likes of Terry Cooney.

There is healing in this stifling heat. Each nail, each river of sweat, each silent tear shed for one man’s Amazing Grace, each hammer swing– a labor of love.  

In that instant of stillness after the bagpipe drones go silent, we hear the eerie cicada rhythm resume again.  Back at work… they serenade the habitats.  It is as if,  like Terry Cooney, their song is never done.

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WHAT’S MISSING IN THE PRESIDENT’S VISION OF SCHOOL REFORM

At this defining moment in our history, America faces few more urgent challenges than preparing our children to compete in a global economy. The decisions our leaders make about education in the coming years will shape our future for generations to come. Obama and Biden are committed to meeting this challenge with the leadership and judgment that has been sorely lacking for the last eight years. Their vision for a 21st century education begins with demanding more reform and accountability, coupled with the resources needed to carry out that reform; asking parents to take responsibility for their children’s success; and recruiting, retaining, and rewarding an army of new teachers to fill new successful schools that prepare our children for success in college and the workforce. The Obama-Biden plan will restore the promise of America’s public education, and ensure that American children again lead the world in achievement, creativity and success.

President Obama’s education initiatives are broad-sweeping and on the mark.  Yesterday he presented his plan to make college more affordable and student loans more available to students who really need them.

in-schoolsBack on March 10, he described his “5 Pillars of Education Reform”.  His speech on education highlighted his k-12 agenda, where he intends to

  • Reform No Child Left Behind
  • Support High-Quality Schools and Close Low-Performing Charter Schools
  • Make Math and Science Education a National Priority
  • Address the Dropout Crisis:
  • Expand High-Quality Afterschool Opportunitie
  • Support College Outreach Programs
  • Support College Credit Initiatives
  • Support English Language Learners
  • Recruit Teachers
  • Prepare Teachers
  • Retain Teachers
  • Reward Teachers

If we go there– if we improve educational access and opportunity at the pre-school level as well as the K-12 and post-secondary levels, he can leverage the reform he is looking for.  At least in some small degree.   The problem is, for all the detail and ambition, the Obama education vision still does not reach far enough.  His education plan is still missing one critical component– without which–  the success of all these other reforms will be compromised.  Partly because this list of initiatives has already been implemented. There are examples and best practices of these approaches all over the country, and yet, the academic achievement gap persists.

So what is that one, profoundly  revolutionary change that will finally transform public education in America?

roceli1Universal health care.   

Just as his plan to revive the economy hinges on health care, so too does any significant hopes of educational reform.  

It’s the health care.  And the reason is quite simple: 

American schoolchildren should not have to suffer through illness or medical trauma while our health care system shuts their family out from the treatment they require and deserve.

They should not have to come to school with teeth rotting in their heads for lack of dental care.

They should not fall behind in reading (never to catch up), simply because they have undiagnosed vision problems that are often easily corrected with glasses.

They should not suffer in silence, as a first grade child at El Milagro did two year ago, while we negotiated for hearing aids with Childrens Hospital.

They should not have to endure the physical discomfort nor the  social alienation associated with childhood obesity.

They should not have to manage the debilitating side effects of poor nutrition or childhood hunger.

They should not be denied access to mental health treatment, or counseling, or therapists or specialists available to other students whose parents have complete health coverage.

Learning is hard enough to do for students, especially in a climate of ever-tightening accountability.  But where there are inequities in academic outcomes, we almost inevitably find families in economic distress.  While parents struggle to maintain their homes, keep their jobs, make a living, make a life…  they should at least have the confidence that the health care needs of their children are provided for.

If President Obama can deliver on the promise of universal health care for our children, and if public schools fully harness the power of that reform, we will see a significant reduction in the academic achievement gap that has perpetuated the inequities across socio-economic levels for decades.  

The Obama doctrine on education states:

At this defining moment in our history, America faces few more urgent challenges than preparing our children to compete in a global economy.

“Preparing our children academically to compete in a global economy”, hinges on their ability to come to a safe school, to focus, to work hard, to believe in their own capacity as citizen-learners.  It hinges on their physical, emotional and mental health.  In fact, if he can provide all of our students with HEALTH CARE, President Obama will prove to be the most influential leader in public education in our lifetimes.

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Filed under charter schools, El Milagro, health care, President Obama, public education, resiliency

MUSICIAN’S VILLAGE

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Spring Break just ended and I have now gone the longest I have ever gone between posts.  It is bad practice, no doubt,  to miss my weekly publishing day (which is normally Saturday!).  But I have a good excuse.

dsc_04111Anne and I have just returned from New Orleans where we volunteered for service with Habitat for Humanity and helped build homes in Musician’s Village. That is, we helped in the way that volunteers help when they have limited experience with actually building, using power tools, climbing ladders or hanging from roofs. But we helped. 

And as always, the ambiance of New Orleans was amazing.  

But so is the heartache. And so are the wonderings.

And so I wondered, 4 years after Katrina, why there are still hundreds (thousands?) of homes with holes in the roofs and boarded up windows and debris piled in the yard.

dsc_0376_2I wondered why so many  of those uninhabited houses still bore the crimson “X’s” spray-painted by search and rescue teams and framing the cryptic code for the number of  victims still inside.  And I wondered how those search tattoos worked on the psyche of children and adults alike.

I wondered why in some neighborhoods, all of the properties are restored, while in the poorer, more segregated neighborhoods, entire block are still abandoned. (Actually, I didn’t really “wonder “why this is happening at all.  These are the same people that were abandoned from the day the hurricane hit. They were left on bridges and rooftops and dumped into sports arenas.  And they still aren’t getting much help.)

So I wondered if the guy they keep trotting out as “the next Republican contender for president, the governor of Louisiana, has been in the Lower Ninth Ward lately.  I wondered how you can approach the problems and challenges of the presidency if you can’t tend to the needs of your own community.

I wonder how many people moved back into homes that they shouldn’t have moved back into.  Homes where the walls are filled with mold and the cockroaches prop up rotting foundations on their backs.

I wondered why so many schools still aren’t operational yet and how much longer it is going to take.

But then again, I wonder what we can all learn from a resilient city that has bet the majority of its waterlogged educational system  on the promise of charter schools .

I wondered, with the return of so many musicians to New Orleans, could the city’s full revival be far behind?

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And I wondered how the children are since Jazz Became Hope.

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STIMULUS: 20 Leadership Lessons From Barack Obama

stimulus | ‘stim yul us
noun (pl. -li | -,li)


• a thing that rouses energy in something or someone; an interesting and exciting quality

pres1On this, the thirty-day anniversary of the historic Inauguration of our 44th President, this much is clear: when it comes to leadership, Barack Obama has some game! In just four weeks (about the time it took most of us to figure out where the restroom was in our new school), President Obama has named and re-named cabinet members, passed a nearly $800 billion stimulus package, flown to Denver, Phoenix and Ottawa, launched Hillary into the Far East, visited a Washington DC charter school and took Michelle to dinner on Valentine’s Day. Whether you agree with his policies or not, there is much to learn from this president’s powerhouse approach to governing.

Metaphors for leadership abound– in Fortune 500 Company CEO’s, NBA basketball coaches, and admirals who have captained naval ships. You can find their books in Borders or read about them in Fast Company. Or you can follow CNN on Twitter and study how one man, our president, has approached his first month on the job and confronted the most complex and urgent crises of our generation.

So whatever your role in schools might be, here are “20 Leadership Lessons” from the dynamic presidency of Barack Obama:


1. Keep your eyes on the prize: There is nothing like a wordle to know you are consistently ‘on message’.

2. Invite them to the barbecue: Stepping outside of the hallowed halls helps to build social networks with allies and adversaries alike. Kegger at the White House!”

obama_running_blueflys_blog_flypaper_123. Don’t wait: Hit the ground at a sprint and knock over the furniture. Launch and learn!

4. Keep your family first. Period.

5. Feed your inner gym rat: Stay fit!

6. Bipartisan “process” is secondary to doing the right thing: So do the right thing.

7. Be resilient: After the inevitable setbacks, betrayals, and disappointments… you have to bounce back stronger.

8. Don’t be a sap: “I am an eternal optimist,” said the President. “Not a sap!

9. Read stuff!

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10. Don’t give up your Blackberry: Especially if it is your link to the only people who will tell you the truth.

11. Speak to the conflict: When you speak from the heart to the needs of people that didn’t vote for you, that’s real Servant Leadership.

12. Have some courage. Enough said.

13. Sneak out to dinner: (But leave your Blackberry at home.)

14. Change the culture to change the outcomes: Replace the curtains hung by your predecessor and then make up your own rules.

lincolnjpeg15. Stand tall on the shoulders of giants: Don’t wobble, they became giants for a reason.

16. Appreciate the ghosts. (If I lived in the White House I would walk around at night and listen to the spirits whisper.) Our schools have a history too.

17. Surround yourself with the best people you can find: Build your own team of rivals.

18. You belong in the room: So when you feel like you are over your head, it is good to remember that you were hired for a reason.

19. Communicate… communicate… communicate: Make it your gift.

And finally, whether you are an urban school district superintendent, the assistant principal of a small elementary school, or the most powerful leader of the free world, one month on the job–

20. Remember that HOPE is what brought you here.

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(Cross-posted at Leadertalk, a blogging community for school leaders hosted by Education Week.)

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Filed under President Obama, resiliency, spiritual intelligence

ALONE FROM EL MILAGRO AND INTO THE BORDER WAR

trolleyjpegWhen the bright red San Diego Trolley pulls into the San Ysidro station at 4:30 on a weekday afternoon, it opens its doors to thousands of people coming or going into the early dusk.  This is the Tijuana border crossing.  The busiest international port in the world.  Mexico’s day laborers silently shuffle across the footbridge to the caracol.  Their heads bowed.  Their eyes, darting nervously.  No matter how many times they have made this crossing in the past five or twenty or fifty years, this is no time for complacency. 

carsJust moments ago they were in America.  They were tending the landscape or working in fields or changing hotel linens or cooking in restaurants or cleaning homes.  Service, labor, business. They are cogs in the wheel of an ailing international economy.  As they cross into their homeland, they are no doubt welcomed by the unmistakable aroma of Mexican gas, street corner taco stands and open fires.  There are miles of choking cars and buses and taxis.  And there are too few police.  

It is no comfort to the border crossers that two more police officers turned up dead this morning. They had been bound, gagged, tortured, and executed. And even more chilling, they had been warned by the drug cartels in a brazen threat broadcast over their own police radios to the beat of narcocorridos.  Tijuana is a war zone.  Tijuana is out of control.  

And if it is no place for adult citizens who have made the silent journey to their jobs in America every day for decades, it is certainly no place for Jorge.

Just an hour ago he was leaving Mueller Charter School– El Milagro—  by way of our back gate. When the three-fifteen bell dismisses a thousand kids into the afternoon, there is an explosion  of energy.  There is running and boys chasing each other into the grass. Parents line their cars up all the way to Broadway to pick up their children.  And the parents will wait because God knows they don’t want them walking home alone.  Too dangerous.

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But Jorge carves his way through the playful chaos.  Quietly.  Silently.  As if to mirror the faceless adults who have been his anonymous companions on his daily commute.  He walks down the back driveway of the long apartment complex.  Passed the trailer park.  Across H Street and into the Trolley station.  Every fifteen minutes another trolley stops and he looks for the Blue Line running south to San Ysidro.

Jorge may be Mueller Charter School’s most resilient child.  And we are filled with resilient children.  We grow resiliency.  We study it and foster it and promote it and we have teachers and counselors who are authorities on it.  We are frequent conference presenters on resiliency.  Ryan is focussing on “resiliency in immigrant children” as a potential doctoral dissertation.  I am writing a book about it.

But nothing prepared us for seeing the very personification of resiliency in the dark eyes of Jorge. We had him on our radar screen.  We had discussed him a few weeks earlier at our quarterly Resiliency Monitoring session with his classroom teacher.  We categorized him as a “Quadrant 1”. In our system, that means Jorge is facing dire life crises.  He is in immediate need of urgent care. gunmanjpegHe is in our version of ICU.  There had recently endured unspeakable family tragedies including the decapitation of relatives in the border war.  

But now America’ imploding economy was closing in on him even more.  He and his mom had recently been evicted and they had to return to living quarters somewhere in the squalor of Tijuana. She couldn’t ask for help because she was afraid that Jorge would be disenrolled if we discovered they were living back in Tijuana.  California law is clear.  Not even charter schools can serve children living across the border in Mexico.

So every day, Jorge climbed the trolley and made the trip to Tijuana alone.  He struggles in math. He struggles in reading and writing.  He struggles with English.  But he never misses school.  He finds a way to get here, even if he has to step over bodies piling up on the border to do so.

And that is resiliency.  Jorge is 8 years old.  His story brought tears to our eyes when we talked about him in our staff meeting on Friday.  

We will be able to get his mom relocated and help them with housing and other basic needs. Our efforts will not be reflected in our API because Jorge will tank on that test.   But we owe him for what he has taught us about ourselves.   About how children, even as young as eight, are willing to rise above adversity for this opportunity to learn.  Jorge is a child worth fighting for.  Regardless of his standardized test score, he is one of our most gifted children.  It is called the spiritual intelligence.

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Filed under charter schools, El Milagro, resiliency, spiritual intelligence