Walking the Path in Person

HeatherLyke
Posts: 34
Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2016 7:01 pm

Walking the Path in Person

Postby HeatherLyke » Tue Apr 12, 2016 12:05 pm

It's far too easy to send an email, to put a note in the mail, or to place a phone call. Truth be told, the power lies in the face-to-face visits, the one-on-one meetings, and the in-person observations.

I experienced this recently at the 1AA Section Speech Tournament (side note: we are sending 5 students to State and the team brought home the 2nd Place Team trophy!) when the Northfield Activities Director and High School Principal greeted each team at the door. Our students instantly felt important and respected--all from this simple act. In comparison, it took Sandy Nieland (fellow veteran coach) and I eight years to get our school's AD at the time to even attend a Speech meet--and, of course, he is no longer our AD: our most recent AD, our current interim-AD, and our District-wide 'Head AD' have never attended a Speech Tournament where JM students were competing. Sure, they occasionally send an email of congratulations or re-tweet our tweets when they come across their Twitter feed, but that feels much more superficial than the simple face-to-face greeting we experienced at Northfield.

Likewise, at this same tournament, the AD from Faribault had driven up to Northfield to observe how things are done in the Speech world. Working for a District that has not had a team in over 5 years, he was curious as to how to reestablish this program in his own district. He attended a round of Discussion and a round of Dramatic Duo as a way to see the variety of skills that students can develop, he shadowed me and one other coach in the TAB room so he could see what happens behind-the-scenes, he turned each small pocket of downtime into an opportunity to talk to various coaches and chat with them about how they built a program. It was refreshing and inspiring to see this AD, actively and in person, teaching himself all that he could so that he could in turn recruit and hire a coach suitable to build a strong Speech program in his home community. Again, this is such a contrast to the ADs I have worked with. At John Marshall, we have had a strong Speech team for over a decade, building our team from roughly 20 students in 2000 to the 68 students that we have this year; however, the other two Rochester high schools have struggled to build their programs. Century had a relatively strong program until 2002 but then lost their long-time coach, since then the team has been passed around to 7 different coaches--none of them staying on for more than two years: currently, they have a team of 6 students. Yet, their AD has never taken the time to shadow Sandy or me, to observe one of our tournaments, or even have a conversation with us about what he could do to help build a program. Similarly, Mayo has not had a strong team since the '90s and in recent years the team has been passed around to various staff members with limited knowledge of the 'Speech World': currently, they have a team of 4 students. Still, their Principal has shared with me his frustrations about the small size of their program, yet I have never seen either their principal or their AD out at the local tournaments nor have either one of them reached out to Sandy or I for suggestions, ideas, or advice.

In this one day that I spent in Northfield, I ascertained that leaders really should (and I am going to intentionally alter an idiom here) put their time where their mouth is. In this case, if you want to build a program or support a program, you need to get out there and see things in action firsthand. You need to ask questions in person, experience things one-on-one, and feel the aura around you. Of course, this would apply outside of the extracurricular arena as well. An administrator wanting to support a new course should sit in during part of the curriculum writing process and/or observe the class in action while the course is in its infancy. An administrator wanting to support a new District initiative should join the committee created to mold the details and/or meet one-on-one with teachers who would be most impacted by it. An administrator wanting to support a book study designed by his instructional coaches should first read the book and then join the lunchtime discussion groups and/or weave elements of the text into staff meetings.

Ultimately, your staff has to see you walking the walk in order to be assured that you know the path.
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Dave Pugh
Site Admin
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Joined: Sun Jan 17, 2016 1:41 pm

Re: Walking the Path in Person

Postby Dave Pugh » Wed Apr 20, 2016 4:29 pm

What would be the outcry if our district AD said "I don't go to sports events."
HeatherLyke
Posts: 34
Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2016 7:01 pm

Re: Walking the Path in Person

Postby HeatherLyke » Sat Apr 23, 2016 1:15 pm

Well, the last two ADs who valued spending evenings with their families rather than always at games were either fired or encouraged to look for a new job... Ahem...values.

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