Kevin Blissett: Out of the Cave

Leadership, Classroom 2.0, Curriculum, China

Facing Our Fears

denialOne of the hard lessons I had to learn as an inexperienced administrator was that I could not be paralyzed by fear in hearing bad news, nor should I avoid bearers of it. Some of us have the tendency to put our heads in the sand or work behind the scenes to correct bad news without facing those who may have negative opinions. This tactic doesn’t work. As this entry from Franklin-Covey points out, the bad news remains whether one acknowledges it or not so it is better to meet it head on, let folks know you understand their concerns, and work like a demon to correct the impression. From the blog post:

 We all can take advantage of the current economic uncertainty by contacting our most important stakeholders and looking for opportunities to grow our trust account with them. Many people are frozen and afraid to call their customers and other key stakeholders for fear of hearing bad news.  Guess what? The bad news is there whether or not you hear it. Much better to confront reality and give your customer a listening outlet to discuss challenges and feel understood than to abandon the relationship during difficult times. Now is the time to over-communicate with your customers and other key stakeholders. Give them someone they can trust by behaving in ways that inspire trust. 

Read more here.


April 20, 2009 Posted by | principal | Leave a comment

Leaving the Burrow

“OK, today I’m going to get out into classrooms, and nothing’s gonna 3016899799_ac4801b6fa get in my way!” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve uttered those words, but no matter how good my  intentions are, the “office” part of the job seems to always call for immediate attention. In this article from Principal magazine, former principal and superintendent Kathleen J. Parkhurst offers advice on how to make the most of one’s time and find space for visiting classrooms during the school day. Among her suggestions:

  • Organize a routine.
  • Keep an orderly office.
  • Delegate.
  • Answer email in chunks 2-3 times per day.
  • Have a proper filing system.
  • Get ready for tomorrow today.

I might add: escape while you can. One thing Parkhurst does not address is how to get into the classrooms when one is a teaching principal. Classroom visits clearly become more of problem when the principal is teaching 1/3 to 1/2 of the day. In this case, I just have to clear the entire slate some afternoons or mornings to make sure I’m seeing teachers and students, and they are seeing me.

Photo by ecastro

April 17, 2009 Posted by | multitasking, organization, principal, time management | Leave a comment

Suzhou Conference Tidbits

Wow, it’s been a few days since I’ve posted! I just got back from a meeting of EtonHouse-China principals in Suzhou. It was an action-packed, busy two days but we got covered a lot of territory–perhaps too much.

The agenda covered a whole range of school-related issues, including marketing, next year’s calendar, staffing, upgrading and use of technology, curriculum (language and MYP), new policies and procedures for managing budgets, etc. As I said, we covered a lot of ground.

The sessions were led by our executive principal, Paul Lieblich, who did a good job with pacing and keeping discussions from getting stuck. There was plenty of great input from all my fellow EtonHouse principals.

I guess the most valuable thing I took away from the conference was a new way to look at 2nd language assessment and how certain ways of evaluating student progress are not really so indicative of actual learning. We’re moving more in the direction of performance outcomes and assessing students strictly according to that kind of scale rather than simply giving a student an “A” because he did well on all his written and oral tests. The main focus is on communicative competency, and I am certainly in favor of that approach.

Although we principals spoke frankly of frustrations we’re having, I think that most of us left with an upbeat feeling about the leadership that Dr. Lieblich is providing. The question is whether EtonHouse corporate management will allow him and us to move things forward as we wish to.

April 10, 2009 Posted by | principal, professional development | Leave a comment

Doing Things My Way

One important thing I’ve learned as a principal is that there is no one way to do things. If I’m filling out my school improvement plan or writing curriculum, do I use an Excel spreadsheet, an MS Word table, a penciled-in form, or what? In my mind, use whatever you’re most comfortable with, and, for me, simplicity is king.

When I first became a principal, in writing my SIP, I used an Excel sheet from a British colleague. It used terminology I was unfamiliar with, and I was constantly struggling to adapt myself to the form rather than vice-versa. Now, I’m using what makes the most sense to me. If my superintendent wants information presented in his form, then I simply transfer things over from my form. The important thing is that I’m doing what makes the most sense to me and what is easily accessible to my teachers and parents.
You don’t want to use this, however.
by ClintJCL on flickr

March 22, 2009 Posted by | ms word, principal, school improvement | Leave a comment

Principals’ Training Center

I’ll be heading off to Miami this summer to attend a week-long workshop at the Principals’ Training Center. The PTC is specifically designed for international school leaders to receive further certification while dealing with the time constraints inherent in international education. They also provide the opportunity to apply credits toward leadership and administrative post-grad credits at selected university. I’m looking forward to the chance to further my training and professional friendships.

March 21, 2009 Posted by | principal, training | Leave a comment