Category Archives: Managing School Operations and Resources

Leadership Framework: Developing the Organization #ONTEdLeaders

This is part three in a series of looking deeper into the Ontario Leadership Framework.  Please feel free to look at the previous posts on this page on “Setting Directions” and “Building Relationships and Developing People“.

Developing the Organization to Support Desired Practices

Under this strand, three major themes seem to emerge.  Leadership development, communication with stakeholders, and management of resources.  The interesting part of this strand is the term “desired practices”.  Who is determining what is “desired” for any school or organization?  Often the school “tail” wags with the principal and this can be either a good or bad thing, depending upon their vision.  If they believe in something, they will move heaven and earth to make it happen, yet sometimes the practices they believe in could be outdated and not serving a student’s future, but more likely our past.  This is why it is imperative that school leaders look at the work of other schools and both local and global trends.  The notion of “management” comes under the following standards”

“School leaders…manage efficient budgetary processes…distribute resources in ways that are closely aligned with the school’s improvement priorities.”

Leaders should never make decisions solely upon their own knowledge; that is too limiting for the number of people they serve.  They need to tap into a collective knowledge of their school community as well as others and it is imperative that we create a culture that taps into the expertise of our whole community.

Chosen or unleashed talents?

Great leaders develop great leaders.  This is a given and within any school, it is important to develop a culture that relies on the expertise of many as opposed to a few.  Distributed leadership is highlighted in this document:

“School leaders…distribute leadership on selected tasks.”

One of the pieces that I feel is missing is that it doesn’t focus on building upon the strengths that already exist within the building.  A great leader doesn’t simply develop talent, but they help unleash it.  This may be outlined in the following strand:

“School leaders….provide staff with leadership opportunities and support them as they take on these opportunities.”

As we look more at these ideas, I think we need to encourage our staff to go beyond leading within our own schools or organizations, but outside them as well.  For example, when many leaders look at the ideas of “leadership opportunities” this might be going to conferences and participating in sessions, yet many organizations limit their own staff from presenting at these same conferences without a ton of red tape in the way.  Not only does this show that you value your own staff’s expertise be shared with others to help further learning of all schools, it is a great way to promote your own organization through these opportunities.

When I have seen staff have these opportunities to present and share their learning with others, it does not only benefit their own careers, but they often come back learning more from the process.  To sit in a session may bring back some knowledge, but to have to present or lead a session brings a whole level of expertise.  The best leaders promote these opportunities.

What is “expertise” and who has it?

One of the standards under this strand focuses on the notion of tapping into “expertise”:

“School leaders…develop and maintain connections with other expert school and district leaders, policy experts, outreach groups, organizations and members of the educational research community.”

I have struggled with the word “expertise” for the last little while because of who this word is associated with.  We often refer to speakers at conferences or researchers as the “experts” which often devalues the “expertise” we have in our own buildings.  For example, whom are you more likely to consider an “expert”?  A researcher that looks at the practice of teaching kindergarten or a teacher that you connected with on the #kinderchat hashtag that teaches kindergarten?  In my opinion, both can be experts in different ways and we have to treat them as such.  How great would a school be if we dropped the notion of “you can’t be a prophet in your own land”?  Would we do more together if we looked at each other in our schools of having expertise?

In the past as a school principal, we defined our priorities as a school, and then had our teachers separate into groups based on their strengths, to lead these initiatives.  Not only did they create and deliver professional learning opportunities for the school, they wrote the objectives as well.  We did not have to wait for the “experts” to come into the building because we focused on making sure that we created a culture where we saw our own teachers as the experts.  You could walk across the hall and get help, not wait for an outsider to show up.  There is definite value in learning from people outside of your school, but if we are truly looking at a model of “distributed leadership”, it is essential we develop a culture of expertise within our own buildings.

Parent engagement or parent empowerment?

As it should be, tapping into our parent community is expected under the framework:

“School leaders…create a school environment in which parents are welcomed, respected and valued as partners in their children’s learning.”

A welcoming environment is essential if we are really going to tap into our parents.  The best school leaders I have seen go out of their way to initiate connections with parents through simple things such as doing morning supervision, or even doing house visits to learn more about families.  A person is more likely to feel valued if you talk to them when you don’t need to.  Going out of your way to connect with the parent community is hugely important.

We often talk about how do we increase “parent engagement” in our schools, yet I think we are often focusing on the wrong term.  What if we focused on “parent empowerment”?  If they are a crucial factor in the success of our schools, is engagement enough?  I have seen great school leaders bring parents in not to just tell them about initiatives, but to actively immerse them into the type of experiences that their children are having in schools to give them a better understanding of what school looks like now.  This “education” for parents empowers them at home and in schools.

Recently I had the pleasure of speaking at a parent-led and planned conference with Halton District School Board.  The parents of the planning committee organized the whole event to support important (to them) learning initiatives in the board.  It was heavily attended and was a powerful way to see parents empowered to support success for all students, not only their own children.  I hope to see more opportunities for parents that follow this lead.

Concluding Thoughts

Leadership without management often creates a vision that never comes to fruition, and vice-versa.  But we have to remember that management is for “things” and leadership is for “people”.  Personally, I don’t like to feel “managed” and I am sure I am in the majority.  To really push our schools forward, expertise and empowerment has to be developed at all levels (including students) and “management” comes in to ensure that people have the resources needed to be successful.  Creating a vision is one thing, but making that vision a reality, school leaders will need to utilize all resources (including people) to their fullest potential.

 

 

Blog Posts on Leadership Development

I have really focused on “innovative leadership development” in my work, and have written about it extensively in my work.  Because of this, I wanted to collect all of my posts that have really focused on leadership in a time where leadership really needs to change.  Please feel free to use the posts in any way to help you with your own development, or challenge any of the ideas that I have shared.

The posts are organized into two areas: Developing LeadershipandEmbodying Visionary Leadership“.  It is meant to help develop a vision and understanding, and then to talk about what it actually looks like. (For a static page of these posts, you can check out the “Leadership Deveolpment” page on my blog.)

Developing Leadership

Educational Leadership Philosophy – This is the post that leads to all of other things.  I think it is a great practice to be able to write your own leadership philosophy so people understand why you do what you do.  It is also something that I will revisit and tailor since a leadership philosophy should not stay the same for the rest of our lives.  It should change on based on who we serve, and what we learn.  It should constantly be pushing you to move forward. 

8 Characteristics of the Innovative Leader – As we continue to look at teachers, students, and learning becoming more “innovative”, it is important that leadership changes.  As administrators often set the tone for their district or their building, if they are saying the same, it is not likely that things are going to change in the classroom.  Leadership needs to not only “think” different, but they need to “act” different.  This post talks about some of those characteristics.

5 Questions You Should Ask Your Principal – To develop a powerful vision, it rarely starts with answers, but more often with questions. This post focuses on questions in five crucial areas: Fostering Effective Relationships, Instructional Leadership, Embodying Visionary Leadership, Developing Leadership Capacity, and Creating Sustainable Change.  How do you lead in these areas?

3 Questions To Guide Your Vision – One of the things that I feel is important in a leadership position is that you build capacity and create an environment that eventually will not need you. To create a vision, you have to think about your long term impact, and how you will develop people to create a culture that is not dependent upon a person, but on the community.

Want someone to see your viewpoint? Ask them their thoughts first. – When I believe in something,  I used to spend all of my time trying to “sell” that idea to others and trying to get them to embrace what I saw.  If people didn’t agree with me, or my viewpoint, I would often got extremely frustrated and get nowhere closer than where I was before.  I hear this same approach from so many other people who tell me about the countless hours they try to get people to “embrace change”, and what I have learned is to spend less time defending your position, and spend more time asking questions.

Embodying Innovative Leadership

4 Attributes of a Great Assistant Principal – Being an Assistant (or Vice) Principal, was one of my favourite jobs.  As a principal, my AP’s were amazing and they helped to make me a better leader. They were always open to learn and develop; not only from what I would share to them, but from the experiences that they had with staff, students, and parents.  I expect great Assistant Principals to focus on building relationships with the entire school community, are approachable, are change agents, and ALWAYS have the idea of “what is best for kids” driving their decision-making.

The Need for Courageous Leadership – This is a great example of a leader that models risks for their faculty, and leads through actions, not simply words.  Does your school have the courage to let a student tweet on the behalf of your school account? If not, why?

4 Types of Leaders You Shouldn’t Be – Working with many different organizations, I have heard either the frustration from educators within the organization that feel like they are running on the spot, while also working with administrators that are more focused on holding down the fort as opposed leading with vision.  These are some qualities that you or I could be doing, without even thinking about.  It is so important to take a strong look in the mirror and think about the things that we would hate as an educator in our building.

21st Century Schools or 21st Century Learning? – The mass purchase of devices for schools is happening way too much without the crucial conversations about what learning should look like in the classroom.  This is actually frustrating many teachers that I have spoken with; it just becomes another thing that has been dumped on educators, not something that is going to make learning better.  There is definitely some value in playing with a device and figuring out some of the amazing things it can do, but should we really be doing that by buying devices en masse? Shouldn’t we try to figure out what the learning look like and then discuss the device? 

3 Things We Should Stop Doing in Professional Development – There are a lot of things that we have just accepted as “norm” in our professional development, but we should always deeply look at how we spend our time with staff.  Time is the most valuable currency we have in schools so it is important that we get the most out of every interaction we have together.  In this post, I look at three things that we should not accept as simply the norm.

5 Characteristics of a Change Agent – As a leader, it is not just teaching “stuff”, but it is helping people to see the importance of embracing change in our work in schools today.  We often lament at how people are terrible at accepting change, but in reality, many leaders are just poor at delivering why change is important or crucial. All people want to do something better, but what are the characteristics of leaders that successfully move people along?

Hopefully there are some things that you can take away from these posts, or share with others.

The Value of Everyone Else

I have the honour to be working for the next couple of days with a variety of people that are connected with education but not “educators” with the Peel District School Board.  This would include, but not me limited to, secretaries, finance department, IT staff, facilities, communications departments, and so many other people that do things to help create the best opportunities for our students.

Talking with them, I remember thinking about my school janitor from when I was a kid named Mr. Rohrke.  He was someone who not only kept the school clean, but was someone we loved talking to and connecting with every day as kids.  He was one of those people that made your day better.  He could have easily ignored us and did his “job”, and there were probably many days he had to stay later because we could talk his ear off, but he always loved talking with us.  His job was to make the school a great place to be and he did not that by only keeping the school clean, but also by taking the time to make us always feel welcomed.  If anything, I am glad that he made that time and from people I know that are involved in education, the kids, no matter their position, are part of the reason that they show up everyday.

So when we talk about all of the great things that are happening in schools, let’s just remember that there are so many people behind the scenes that never seem to get the credit they deserve to help us create the best conditions to serve our kids.  I know that I have been guilty about complaining about the WiFi not working but also on the other hand, not thanking the same people I have complained to when it works.  I need to get better at that.

With schools changing so much and it happening at an extremely rapid pace, let’s just remember the value of everyone else that are NOT educators that we so often tend to forget.  The more they know they are a valued part of our team, the better we will all be for kids.

A Long Minute

As I stood speaking in front of a large audience, my computer went to sleep and I had to log back on.  I went back to show them teachers different examples that were housed online, but realized that my WiFi had disconnected and tried to get back on.  A simple issue to deal with when I am by myself, all of a sudden seemed to be terrifying in front of 100 plus people as I was not able to connect.  The crowd, although being patient, started to talk while I was dealing with technical issues.  By nature, when I am nervous, I begin to sweat, and when I  realize that, my heart begins to beat significantly faster.  I obviously was getting nervous, but fortunately was able to get back online and continue my lesson. That being said, the loss of momentum in what I was trying to teach also led to a loss of attention from some of the participants.  They were physically there, but their mind weren’t coming back. Those few members of the audience were done listening to me for the day.

It is important that teachers exhibit resiliency in the face of adversity and understand that not everything is going to work, all of the time.  But it is also important that in our work as school administrators, that things work as best as possible to not only serve our students, but also our teachers.

One minute in front of a classroom when something is not working, can seem like an eternity.  Those “minutes” need to be as few and far between as possible.

 

 

 

A Closer View

I tweeted the following yesterday:

This was not directed to any specific leadership group, but to all levels of administration.  As I talked to someone involved in “decision making” as they shared their plan, I outright said teachers will hate the decision as they will feel handcuffed and suggested that she take some time in the classroom before any policy was created.

What I don’t get is how a decision that impacts teachers in their classrooms could be made by someone sitting from an office that doesn’t at least spend some time observing in a classroom.  I am not talking about a “walkthrough” or an evaluation, but actually just sitting in the classroom and getting a feel for how decisions impact students.  As an administrator, you want to become “invisible” in that environment so you can see what happens on a regular basis.  This only happens when a visit is not a “major” event.

A trustee from another school division said (paraphrased) that teachers wouldn’t necessarily want a board member in their classroom.  I know that not all teachers would be jumping on this opportunity, but in reality, not all teachers could have this due to time constraints.  That being said, I know many educators are welcoming to anyone that wants to see what they do on a day-to-day basis, especially when they know that it is about an opportunity to improve what happens with students.

For example, I have heard the argument on technology purchases that the current computers with all of their network protocols and security features, only take “two minutes” to logon.  The difference is they take “two minutes” for an adult, and usually one that is good with technology. Times that by 25 students, with one teacher in the room, and “two minutes” can become an eternity.  The question then would become, how do we keep these computers secure while also ensuring we are creating the most amount of instructional/learning time for our schools.  Sitting in another building and making these decisions, you often don’t see the impact, and that is where tension usually begins.

So as we head into 2014, if you are in the position to create policies, take some time just sitting in a classroom and see what a day looks like.  You might still have to make some type of policy or procedure that is not necessarily loved by all, but you will both build relationships in this process (strengthening trust), while also truly understanding differing perspectives.

If we are true leaders, we are looking to unleash talent, not control it, and we have to do what we can to take the handcuffs off the people that are working closest with kids.

Inequity and BYOD


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Tim & Selena Middleton

Often when speaking to groups about technology and “Bring Your Own Device” initiatives, I will have someone challenge the thinking and say, “Well…what about inequity?”  To break down this question, what is often meant is that you will really shine a negative spotlight on the kids who do not have devices and they will feel worse about their situations.

Sometimes I feel that this argument is a reason to not even try by some that are making it.  But for some, it is a legitimate concern.

Here are my thoughts…

If we are really wanting to help these kids that might be coming from poor situations, we need to rethink the practices that we already have in our schools to provide for them.  For example, many schools have “computer labs” where we take kids once or twice a week, to do something with technology or allow them to type out an essay for us.  This is not a good use of technology anymore and we should know better now.  Technology should be at the point of instruction and be as accessible in learning as a pencil; it shouldn’t be an event. How many pencil labs do you have in your school?

So why are we not taking those labs apart and using those devices for the kids that don’t have the technology readily available.  If you have 15 students in your class that have a device, and five that don’t, can we find a way to provide for them with the technology that already exists in the school?  This is not as good as a student owning the device, but if their family is not able to afford one to bring to school, many times they are not able to afford one at home either.  You are then ensuring that the student does not have access to the biggest source of information in the world either at home or school.  If this true, then what are we doing to break this cycle for the child?  If you do not have a strong understanding to leverage the world at your fingertips, then you are going to be at a disadvantage going into a world with people that can do it with ease.

Now you may not have the technology in you schools to provide for the students that don’t have them now, so what are you doing to find a way to provide them?  The technology that we have purchased in schools before has been at an inflated price because of the need to attach them to a network, make them “secure”, and add a bunch of stuff that is honestly probably not needed as much as it once was.  All of those little add-ons, often not only make the computer more expensive, but slower.  So you are paying more for a slow computer? Makes sense.

The less we trust, the more it costs. 

With the infrastructure of many schools going to open WiFi networks, it is now opening the options of what they can buy.  Before, we were only able to access the Internet in our schools through the division network, but now any device can connect to the Internet, whether it is a school purchased device or not.  This is giving us more options.  WIth open WiFi, you are no longer limited to the $750 laptop, but can buy a $250-$300 Chromebook, Netbook, or tablet.  I am not saying that these are the best devices, and simply looking for cheap is not a solution, but with what much of what is happening in schools, a Chromebook is actually a pretty great option.

If we are start looking outside of the box that we have traditionally been held to within our schools, we have many more options on how we can provide more for the students that are not in situations to provide for themselves.

Learning From Eric Sheninger

It has been almost one week since I spoke at #Edscape in New Jersey, and it was a tremendous honour to have that opportunity.  Not only because I was able to connect with amazing educators in the area, but because I was asked by my friend Eric Sheninger.  Eric speaks around the world, inspiring people all over, has written books, and is one of the most known educators in social media.  For him to ask me, was a great honour.

But what was fantastic about the experience for me was, as it is always, the opportunity to learn from so many other educators, and to be able to spend time with Eric.  There is so much that we learn from informal conversations, and to be able to have three days with Eric, both professionally and personally, I learned that he is the real deal.

Here are some of the things that I was most impressed with.

The first night I connected with Eric, he took me to a restaurant in the community near to the school and it was fantastic to see how close he was with people in his community.  The owner of the restaurant came over and talked about how Eric always brought them opportunities to the school, and in return, the restaurant put money back into the events that were happening.  It isn’t one taking from the other, but mutual support.  

The focus on community continued as Eric took me to his school’s football game late on a Friday night.  This had nothing to do with me being in the area.  In fact, Eric gave me one choice about what to do that night; go to the school’s football game.  This is vital to his work.

As you go into Eric’s school, you see a VERY old facility (I think he told me it opened in 1929), that has a lot of desks and looks nothing like some of the innovative spaces that I have seen in my time.  In fact, some of the spaces seem so old that it was criticized by someone on Twitter about the 20th century space.  The thing is, while so many administrators focus their funds and efforts on redesigning classrooms spaces and bringing in all of these other amazing elements in the classroom, Eric has put money and time into people.  

Unfortunately in education, we sometimes have to make some tough choices, but the best answer is always put time and money into people.  The other things we can get later, but if people do not understand why or how to use these things, it doesn’t matter.  We need to create such a deep understanding of the opportunities that technology and innovative school design create for students that we create a need for these things in the classroom.  This is what Eric focuses on.

What I loved about #Edscape was that it was exactly what the people there needed.  It was not necessarily the same types of conversations that happen at Educon (which is another amazing conference), but it is what the people are interested in that are at the conference.  Many people that attended are just jumping into using technology in their classroom and are shifting their thinking about what they are doing as teachers and learners, and the feedback from their experience was fantastic.  

The vision of the conference, created by Eric and his staff, was to start with where people are, but to push them to their next level.  The best leaders have a larger vision, but they break it down into smaller steps so people develop confidence and understanding along the way. That is what happened in the sessions at Edscape.

As all leaders, Eric focuses on relationships first, and builds from there.  Seeing the growth and development of his school, you see how vital this is to growth.  But what I also loved about Eric is that he knows there is still a lot of work to be done, and that the best organizations continuously grow and learn.  The best leaders celebrate their accomplishments, but build off of them.  As soon as you spend too much time patting yourself on the back, you find that you become Blockbuster.  Eric was proud of where his staff and students have come, but also has a vision of where they can still go.

I learned a lot from my time with Eric and I hope I have been able to share a few of those “nuggets” with others.

The big take-aways from spending time with Eric:

1. Focus on relationships and building community.
2.  Change can happen in “old” environments if you focus on changing mindsets and developing educators as learners first.
3. Start with people where they are at, but help them get to their next level, wherever that may be.

Thanks to Eric and his school community for putting on a great conference and leading by example!

How big is your room? #CEM12


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Dr. Warner

Working in Ontario the last week with teachers and administrators, with many conversations revolving around digital footprint and the impact it has on getting a job, this is a question that popped up in my head, and ultimately our conversations, several times:

It sparked a lot of conversation and strong thoughts on Twitter from many educators who are obviously connected.  Here are some of mine.

Many believed that having a Twitter account and blogging do not make you a great educator. Agreed.  Hence the reason that I try to qualify that you had two great teachers, and if they both had similar qualities, but one of the candidates has a social media presence, does that put them ahead in a competition?  But due to the character limit of the tweet, and pointed out eloquently by others, it depends on how you are using your social media presence.

Obviously no one wants to hire a “Carly Crunk Bear” as an educator simply because she has a Twitter account.  I have said often that social media can create many opportunities for people but only if they do great stuff.

Another great point was that there are many other ways that educators can connect (many pointed out in this great post from Kelly Christopherson).  Ultimately, is it having a blog and using Twitter that are important?  To me, it is that the educator is a constant learner who is connected to others and can learn about whatever he or she wants, whenever he or she wants.

I also would look for candidates that want to share their work with others.  We often think that administrators should have (and rightfully so) a transparency in their work; teachers should be no different. This willingness to learn shows me that they have the “sponge” attitude, and are more likely to be a self-starter.  These are things that I am looking for in a strong teacher candidate.

If you are looking for innovative teaching and learning, I want people that are networked and willing to create on their own, as research shows that the more networked someone is, the more likely they are going to come up with great ideas.  It is also important (to me) that individuals are willing to model the learning that they want to see in their students.

So what if all of the blogs and tweets that show innovative teaching and learning are lies?  That could be very true, and some people that are very intelligent on “paper” are not always great teachers.  Reference checks, interviews, and all of the other things that are part of the hiring process should all be important, but doing a Google search on someone is also a new imperative in our world.  Not in the sense that we are looking for something bad, but that we might just find something good.

The idea of someone having and using a Twitter account effectively to improve their learning will also tell us that they are displaying many of the “21st Century Literacies” as defined by the NCTE.  I found one comment interesting: that they prefer the “Face to Face” interactions as online has too much “noise.”

I believe that when we can get together, it is better than connecting online, but we always don’t have the option.  Filtering through the “noise” is a skill that we need to have and work with our students to ensure they also have this ability.  When you have access to all of the information in the world, how do you find it, know if it is useful, and create something powerful from it?  If I hired someone with this skill-set already, my guess is that they could help navigate students in this world as well.

Here are some interview questions that I have been thinking about:

What is your favourite Ted Talk? What did you learn from it?

Who are some educators that you connect with through social media and what have you learned from them?

Would you ask these questions? What would they tell you?

Honestly though, many administrators out there would not care about those specific questions and answers.  Why is that?  Is it because they believe it is not important or that they don’t know the power that connecting with others outside your organization creates?

I remember being asked in my interviews, “How do you continuously learn?” I gave answers about a book I read a year before or attending a conference that every other teacher in my district had attended.  My answer would be much different now, and honestly, much better. Not just in terms of what I use, but in how I use it, and how it has changed my thinking on teaching and learning.

This quote from Will Richardson says a lot in the new standard that many people are looking for when they are hiring someone to their organization:

“…And truth be told, teachers should be responsible for their own PD now.  Kids wouldn’t wait for a blogging workshop.  Adults shouldn’t either.”

Being connected does not make you a great teacher, but in the long run, it can sure help.  If you truly believe that “the smartest person in the room, is the room,” doesn’t it make a difference on how big your room is?

People-Driven Decision Making


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by epSos .de

I am reading a few books right now, and one of them is Phil Jackson’s, “Eleven Rings: One Soul to Success“.  To say that I respect what he has done (as a coach) would be an understatement, but what I find really powerful is not what he has done, but how he has done it.  As the winningest coach in NBA history (11 championships), I loved this quote:

It takes a number of critical factors to win an NBA championship, including the right mix of talent, creativity, intelligence, toughness, and, of course, luck. But if a team doesn’t have the most essential ingredient—love—none of those other factors matter.

As more businesses are seeing the importance of focusing on the human aspect of their organizations and seeing the value of people, there is a trend that seems to be happening in education to move towards turning everything into “numbers” and become “data-driven”.

So what happens when your sole focus is on numbers?

“…it’s institutionalized with No Child Left Behind/Race to the Top; teach to the test – worst possible way of teaching. But it is a disciplinary technique. Schools are designed to teach the test. You don’t have to worry about students thinking for themselves, challenging, raising questions. And you see it down to the lowest level of detail. I give a lot of talks in communities and places where people are concerned about education and I’ve had teachers come up to me and say afterwards, you know, I teach sixth grade. A little girl came up after class and said she was interested in something that came up in class, and wanted to know how to look into it. And I tell her, you can’t do it; you got to study for the test. Your future depends on it; my salary depends on it.” Noam Chomsky

When we always focus on numbers, we have kids learning about things that they don’t care about, in hopes that they will get a certain “grade” to justify our work.  The problem is we lose to many kids when we focus on them as a number, instead of just focusing on them.

Data is important, but schools should always be “people-driven”.  It is at the heart of what we do, and who we are.

The Layover Test


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Satish Krishnamurthy

I recently saw the movie “The Internship” (which was a great movie in 2005), that had some funny moments, but actually shared a really cool practice done at Google when hiring new applicants called “The Layover Test”.  In an interview about the movie, Shawn Levy (the director) discussed the process:

It’s something they actually have in their interview process and it is at the end of the day, beyond what school the kid went to, beyond GPA, etc., who would you rather be stuck in an airport bar with on a six-hour flight delay?  They call it the layover test…So Google often accepts people employees and interns with kind of outside that Silicon Valley box way of thinking…

This made me think a lot about the way that we hire in education contrasted with the talking of being creative in the way that we teach school.

As a university student, I remember people in my class that were “average” in their marks, but were amazing teachers.  Yet when many of the jobs opened up, the students with the top marks in school would often get interviews and positions.  Seeing some of these candidates teach, they knew all of the right answers, but they had a lot of trouble relating to people.

When I ended up in administration, that memory stuck with me, so I wouldn’t even look at marks (other than that they graduated), and I would just talk to them.  I had a few questions, but I wanted my time spent with them to be a conversation.  It was more important to get to see how they interacted, as opposed to how they answered questions that often had a generic answer.  I guess at the time, I was trying to do a shortened version of the “layover” test.  Those “interviews” were an opportunity for me to not only learn about the candidate, but hopefully learn.  I wanted to hear some new ideas and grow from the experience as well.

Shouldn’t that we be the type of people that we want to hire? The one’s that push our thinking not the one’s that are able to recite it?