I am a Larry Cuban fan. I have been for over a decade after having met him many years ago at Stanford’s School of Business Executive Leadership Institute and was an instant admirer. He has the voice of a passionate, thoughtful educator, and he has been a teacher, administrator, and superintendent. It is evident in his views. He has the pragmatic viewpoint that can only come from someone who has actually walked in a public educator’s shoes.
I follow his blog at http://larrycuban.wordpress.com/. I was recently intrigued by his August 21, 2014, post School Reformers’ Pledge of Good Conduct. In his post he cites the work of Charles Payne and includes an actual pledge of good behavior for those who work in school reform. While I did not include the pledge here, I did include Cuban’s statement on the importance of such a pledge to those who seek to transform schools. Cuban states:
This device of a constructed Pledge seeks to alert wannabe reformers and active policymakers who authorize changes to think first, consider what else has been done, and not repeat the errors of the past…
While we are not reformers, the Horry County Schools Learning Services’ Team read the pledge and immediately made connections to how we can be more effective. How many times have we worked with consultants, reformers, experts, and the list goes on and on who seemed to have forgotten how hard the work can be in pubic education- especially for those educators who work in a school directly with students each day.
Today I had a good reminder of the demands of working in a school setting. I sat in the lobby of a middle school today waiting for a videography team to arrive to tape footage in classrooms. I accompanied this team because my phone calls to check the status of being able to accommodate this group were unanswered. Upon arrival I learned that the phones were down and the administrative team was short by one member.
My wait was approximately forty minutes and while I was there, these were some of the occurrences I observed. The phone system kept going down and as a result the buzzer on the entry door did not work consistently. The receptionist was at lunch, and the school principal was out of the building due to illness. The bookkeeper had to keep an eye on the entryway, answer the phone (when it was working) and assist parents. One assistant principal was in the lunchroom on lunch duty, and the second assistant principal was working to locate a student who did not report to class. A family came in who spoke no English and the bookkeeper had to find a translator to interpret so that there could be a conversation between the family and the school. Approximately thirty people transitioned in and out of that office within the time I was there, and all needed assistance that required staff. When the film team arrived I decided to accompany them myself. How could I possibly ask school staff who were already so incredibly busy and short on help to stop attending to “school life” to tour these individuals?
I say all of that to say this. The people with whom I work at the central office are not reformers, but there are lessons in the School Reformers’ Pledge of Good Conduct that we can all build upon. We acknowledge that as we work with schools and school staff we all need to think before we speak or act. We decided as a Learning Services Executive Team to draft our own Learning Services Pledge of Professional Behavior. The first draft is below. This is far from final. We will take it through multiple departments in our division and ask for discussions and revisions to make it stronger, but our intent is clear. We must acknowledge the rigors and demands placed on those who work with students each day and realize our jobs are to support and assist them. It is important that we stay focused on a service mindset in doing our work.
* This is the first draft to take out for the entire Division’s reviews and input. With the collective wisdom of that group I am certain we will end up with a much better product. This blog can help us track our work.
Learning Services Pledge of Professional Conduct
I will be respectful to teachers.
I will be respectful to principals.
I will be respectful to all staff.
I will be respectful to parents, and seek to understand their concerns.
I will have my work team’s back.
I will seek first to understand and then be understood.
I will strive to communicate within 24 hours by following up on email and phone calls.
I will not initiate drama.
I will not equate disagreement with “resistance.”
I will not expect change overnight.
I will not try to scale up prematurely.
I will not over promise.
I will take seriously what people in the schools tell me, as I am not in the field myself on a daily basis working with students, parents and the public in that setting.
I will give school people realistic estimates of how much time and effort it takes to implement new programs.