In response to my comments on the post “Spoke Too Soon,” a reader writes:
“One of the Cainism’s I love involves students and times. I once heard a school board ask Cain if it was possible to go slower in order to give adults time to adjust to best practices. Cain’s response was great. Cain argument goes like this:
‘Sure, you can go slower. But understand this. Teachers are educated, trained professionals. They have contracted with your district to provide a service. They have cashed their checks. Now you want to give them time to either get used to, or to decide if they want to, do the services you have contracted and paid them for. That’s OK if that’s what you want to do, but understand that while the teachers are burning time trying to decide whether or not they want to do their jobs, the students pay the price. Every day you wait to implement the best practices that you have already contracted and paid for, understand that it is the students who buy you that time.’
This is a very powerful argument. Recently, I have used this same line of reasoning with a board president, in a private conversation. She told me she wanted to do what was right for kids, but was not sure she could take the heat from the teachers and community if she did so. That is the bottom line.
Districts that take five plus years to get it right for kids are not committed to kids; they are committed to the whims of adults. Actually, I know for a fact, as Cain pointed out, that significant progress can be made in a single year if the students are the focus of the district and not adults. The question comes down to the issue of courage. Does the Board, the Superintendent, the Principal, the Faculty, and the community have the courage to do what is right for kids even if it makes contracted and remunerated adults uncomfortable? Now we are back to the issue of district DNA.”
What the writer begins to illustrate with my comments to that board, is that systems fail students because leadership fails the system. Teachers, as a group, do what the system expects of them. If the system is OK with subpar instruction, the system will produce subpar instruction. The challenge for a leader then is to demand more from your part of the system. The weaker your system, the more you have to lead “up” and well as lead “down.” Again, this why the principalship is the second most important position in a school district.
Think. Work. Achieve.