Transformation School Leadership Center - November Newsletter
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News from the Santa Fe Center for Transformational School Leadership
November 2016

October is our favorite month in Santa Fe.  We had another beautiful  fall —bright, big skies, the aspens turning ,and warm days and cool nights. It's a real change from the busy summer months.  Two of our consultants, Linda Henke and Lee Ann Lyons, held a very successful two-week writers workshop for Santa Fe teachers. Consultant  Kevin Grawer has written a provocative article on “high school  design and transformation."  The  Ferguson-Florissant project started smoothly with a summer institute held at Washington University.  As usual ,we also have some new book recommendations.
We hope your school year got off to a smooth start and these fall months have been productive. We offer this “e-blast” to assist you in your work and to keep our connection with you.   

Habits of a Systems Thinker

Systems thinking is a powerful tool for the transformational leader.  Here is a link to the Apple apps store to obtain from the Waters Foundation a handy online set of aids. It is also available at the Google store:
Click here to learn more!

Dresses for Dreamers
The Guatemala literacy project, Open Books Open Minds, sponsored by the awesome Global Learning Exchange continues to grow. Linda will return in January to train another cohort of teachers, and the current teachers using the curriculum report significant results.
We have the whole family involved.  Linda’s 92-year-old mother who still lives on the family farm in northwest Iowa, loves to sew and has been making dresses this past year for the project’s students !  Marigene Lennon poses here with some of over 100 outfits she has made for our Guatemalan students. For more information on the program, visit
A Discussion with Linda Lambert, Co-author of the New Book Liberating Leadership Capacity: Pathways to Educational Wisdom
By Linda Henke
Linda and I sat on our back deck drinking our favorite beverage, bubbly glasses of prosecco, enjoying the lovely New Mexican sunset, and chatting about her latest endeavor in a long line of powerful leadership books that she has written over the years. Liberating Leadership Capacity, co-written with Diane Zimmerman and Mary Gardner, was something of a surprise to me when Linda mentioned she was returning to leadership writing a year earlier.  I thought she had retired from research and non-fiction writing and moved on to creating a rich collection of fiction.  I am so glad, however, she chose to return to her familiar haunts, but with some new and even richer perspectives to help us inform our practice. Linda’s work over the years has been seminal to my own leadership thinking and practice, and the ability to dive into her thinking one more time has been exciting.
Henke: You just finished the gargantuan task of writing a fictional trilogy (The Justine Trilogy)…what prompted you to return to writing about educational leadership?
Lambert : When I finished my textbook (Leadership Capacity for Lasting School Improvement), I thought I had written what I had to say.  So I turned to fiction. But ten years out, I continued to hear from people all over the world who were basing their work on The Constructivist Leader and the leadership capacity books. I decided to contact many of these people and ask how their learning had advanced over the years. Many had developed rich veins of theory and practice that furthered my thinking and genuinely excited me. I was drawn to further exploration.
I learned a lot by writing fiction—Justine, my protagonist, rides with me as I revisit my mistakes, my meanderings.  As she went though her arc of development, I was going through this with her.  In many ways the trilogy is a memoir.  I was writing the fiction as I was hearing from people about their leadership explorations—it created dissonance.   So Justine’s learning, my learning, all of these colleagues’ learning contributed to something of a caldron of new learning for me. When I revisited The Constructivist Leader, I saw it as pivotal to an emerging definition of leadership. The old ideas of leadership were simply out of date with the convergence of new thinking. Things were beginning to change.  I traced what was happening in many places: Australia, England, health care in Oklahoma—I saw complexity theory played an essential role in what was happening.
Most of what I have learned in life had little to do with the field of education—it came from other sources—from science, anthropology, archaeology, psychology—all pathways to understanding systems. My journey to The Constructivist Leader  then, led me to the Santa Fe Institute in the early 90s. I became enamored with the idea that when things interact something new is created.   The notion of the melding of disciplines, the historical place carved out by the information age….these are creating a rich soup that leads to new thinking about leadership. Now, a quarter century later, I came to further understand that evolution. Those understandings culminate in Liberating Leadership Capacity.
Henke: Your books perhaps most especially The Constructivist Leader really shaped many of us as leaders…how has your thinking evolved as you developed Liberating Leadership?
Lambert: The books on leadership capacity sold really well but I didn’t think they created enough fusion between constructivist leadership and capacity building; this is a part what propelled the writing of the new book.  The Constructivist Leader definitely opened new ways of thinking.  The capacity books were more about intervening—were a more elemental way of seeing the system.
In the end, it’s not just participation—but skills, understanding, world views--these all influence the work--not just who is at the table but how they are at the table.
Henke: In Liberating Leadership Capacity you suggest that a new century of leadership has dawned.  What are the critical components of this new paradigm?
Lambert:  I believe we are shifting away from the traditional roles of leaders—moving to a much bigger focus on culture, process, and complexity theory.  We are increasingly focused on space among and between people, driven by the energy in these spaces.  Space and time sensibilities all take on different meanings as we make this shift.  Our work in community needs to follow the energy of relationships. Three dynamics need to be in play to start this energy flow:
  • One has to affect the actual relationships;
  • One has to affect the content—what the organization is about; and
  • One has to be about the place. 
All three of these must be considered if this energy is to become a force; all three build capacity of the organization.
Henke: So, do you have any advice for leaders out there facing the complex challenges of education today?
Lambert: In the epilogue we write about wisdom. We are self-organizing, self-propelling individuals; and at the same time we are this insignificant blue dot.  We are both powerful and insignificant—we westerners have trouble with these two concepts.
So my advice is to stay in conversation.  Establish reciprocal relationships. Be patient with chaos. Know that causation is not self-evident, and most answers are multi-faceted.  Relinquish punishment for restoration.   Venture out rather than pulling in.
And so one of my most important mentors moves my thinking forward again. Linda Lambert’s work reminds us all of Emily Dickenson’s sage advice, “Dwell in possibility.”  When I am reading Linda’s work or discussing her rich concept of leadership on the back porch, I do find myself dwelling in possibility.
Featured Project: Santa Fe Writing Project
This summer the Santa Fe Center for Transformational School Leadership partnered with Santa Fe School District by offering a summer institute on the teaching of writing.  Twenty teachers and two facilitators came together in a single meeting room that was transformed from a non-descript meeting room into a small community that included a coffee shop, library, study and conference room. The room was filled with art and the aesthetics that make creating something new flow a little easier.  Entering the room, teachers immediately saw evidence of the transformation that would happen here. They knew they were in for an intense experience.
It was a cool July Santa Fe morning, where the crisp azure sky demonstrates the promise of a new day.  Along with the promise, for many, there was a sense of dread that first days often bring. For some, the dread was of an interruption to summer where one could finally relax enough to sleep a whole night through.  For others the sense of dread came from the fact that they would be put in a vulnerable position and be expected to write when they did not see themselves as writers. Not only would they be asked to write, but they would also be asked to share their writing with others. The question loomed in the recreated room - what will we create together?
All teacher understood they would spend an intense nine days focusing on the teaching of writing in the elementary and middle school using the Lucy Calkins Units of Study curriculum.  Indirectly, they had agreed to become a part of a collaborative culture we would build together.  By showing up, all of us were making a promise to each other to learn and grow and create together.  This is how transformation begins.
Some teachers had begun using the Units of Study curriculum, and some were thinking about using it for the upcoming year.  They understood that as strong as the curriculum is, it can not stand by itself.  Those who had been using the curriculum knew that Units of Study presuppose that teachers are writers, and yet few teachers see themselves as writers.  As one participant stated, “I think I was a little hesitant about being a writer during this workshop…that I didn’t really identify myself as one.  But you guys were right! If you write, it will come.  And boy did it ever!  It was awesome to see my VOICE on paper and to hear it out of another’s mouth.  It gave my words power, in turn, giving me power.”
 Those familiar with the Calkins curriculum understood that almost one third of the mini-lessons in Units of Study require the teacher to use his/her own writing as the basis for instruction with the students.  They knew they needed a powerful professional development experience that would allow them to achieve maximum benefit of the curriculum. This must include an opportunity to build relationships with other teachers to form a strong collaborative cohort committed to peer-to-peer professional growth and high quality writing instruction.  Another participant shared, “After experiencing people’s response to my writing and exploring others’ writing, I began to believe in myself as a writer.  I felt a connection to fellow writers that experienced difficulty in the process as well.  This is exactly what I want my students to experience, empowerment through experiential growth.”  Another shared, “Linda and Lee Ann provided very focused, inspiring, direct feedback on all we wrote and said.  Invaluable!  We have also formed a community of writers to support each other throughout the year and in our next two meetings.” 
On the afternoon of the ninth day, the art and books started disappearing from the room, turning it back into the drab meeting room.  Yet, something remained in the circle of teachers.  Teachers shared hugs, good-byes, and promises to stay in touch, clear evidence of what we created together.  A community of writer was born.  These Santa Fe teachers were forever changed into committed, confident writers.

A collective poem written by members of the 2016 Santa Fe Writing Project
Where Do Poems Hide?
Our poems hide
In strange and wild places,
We seek them out, relentless in our efforts,
But they are fleet and sneaky,
Sneering at our stealthy efforts to capture them
With two cupped hands and glitter pens,
We scoop them into blue Ball jars,
Carry them to our writing class, and whisper
to our fellow writers, “These poems hide!”
We found this one in a cargo pocket, and
this at the bottom of a good cabernet,
We’ve found poems in the steep arroyo behind the school, and
In the garden near the purple cabbage,
We felt three beneath our beds one night when it was far too dark to see, They pulse in electric toothbrushes in the morning,
And our lips spew haiku and rhyme
In a milky bubble spray.
Poems hide in the secret corners of our hearts,
In our brains and veins and arteries and muscles,
Our poems hide beneath our skin, in family secrets
And dusty portraits hung in bedrooms,
Behind the rusty pipe cutters in the garage,
In the conversation of wind and tree on a gusty night,
Beneath the stack of “must do’s” and under our lazy fingers,
In the tracks of the skunk across our yard,
In the exhale of breath on freezing mornings,
Our poems hide in the pits of our stomachs
Where they slosh with pain and bad timed booze,
then slowly drip onto the page,
A surprise,
Even for us…
the catchers of the poems.

High School Design and Transformation: One Size Fits Each
By Kevin Grawer, Principal of Maplewood Richmond Heights School District in St. Louis
In order to create a more responsive learning environment for our students and staff, we designed our high school schedule strategically to meet the challenge of consistently providing high quality, personalized programming for a diverse student body. We know, for example, that not all students learn course material on the same timetable.  Despite the fact that all students are required to have the same amount of seat minutes for each course they take, not all students require the allotted time to master the standards--some students need much less, and others need much more time to do so.  
To provide appropriate scaffolding for students who need more time, we developed literacy labs and math labs where students get specific support for their work in the course they are struggling with and continued development of their overall skill set in the area.  This lab serves as elective credit for our students.  We also created credit support classes to assist our struggling learners.   In other words, if a student fails Algebra I with a 54%, what is the sense of requiring that student to repeat the entire year’s worth of class?  Our school data clearly shows that failing students tend to be even less successful when we put them back in the same exact class for the second time.  Instead, we analyze which standards students fell short on and create a The question then arises, “What about those students who need a greater challenge within the regular curriculum?  What do we do to support and challenge them?”  Our response to this question was to create honors options sections within our courses.  Students who want or need a greater challenge within our course offerings can willingly opt into this level of work.  The honors options students are in the same classroom with the non-honors options students and study the same standards.  However, the honors options students are charged with a 25% “advanced differentiation” workload.  Consequently, these students do more/different readings, class projects, presentations, off-site visits, and have more varied assessments than the non-honors options kids.   We ensure at least three honors option students are in a section so they are able to collaborate.  We believe this approach works much better than traditional tracking because top students stay in the regular education class and provide examples of what high quality work looks like, a key problem with tracked courses.
High schools hear a lot of talk about their role in ensuring that students are “college ready.”  Of course, we work hard to do so by instituting a clear set of focused strategies:

Ensuring our students have dual credit options, not just in the core areas, but in the fine/practical arts and tech-related courses;
  • Offering an “open access” approach to dual credit options and certifying that our pre-requisite courses are aligned to, and prepare our students for the dual credit level workload;
  • Creating support classes for our most rigorous courses to ensure our students have intentional academic scaffolds;
  • Implementing a daily schedule that allows for easy access and enrollment in academic supports and rigorous courses;
  • Analyzing our data regarding who is enrolled in our most rigorous courses and developing strategies to ensure our dual credit enrollment mirrors our student demographic enrollment.  
The icing on the cake to our college/world-ready programming is our response to our school metaphor, “School as Apprenticeship.”  As apprentices, our students are learning a skill set each hour from their mentors (the teachers) on a daily basis.  Still, this interaction is not enough.  We endeavor to insure our students have access to the real world of work and exposure to the talents and preparation required to perform skillfully and successfully on the job.  We have invested in our metaphor by creating the position of “Director of Career Connections.”  This office handles student job shadows, internships, meetings with professionals, and career interest inventories via our Naviance system.  Moreover, each classroom teacher must have an apprenticeship-related goal each year.  For example, the 2nd year English teacher included as part of his apprenticeship goal this year the following:
  • Inviting professional writers into class to discuss their career trajectories and college course of study;
  • Creating NPR Story Corps interviews related to the themes of Hamlet and Lord of the Flies.  
With our Career Connections, we add another layer, exposing students to future careers and a deeper analysis of their interests and strengths.
Finally, we tweaked our schedule and the way we look at our school day to guarantee that each student will have a schedule that fits his or her needs and goals.  In Missouri, students are required to earn 24 credits to graduate.  This means the average student earns 3 credits per semester or 6 a year.  We, however, offer our students 8 courses each semester meaning they can possibly earn 32 credits during their 4 years with us.  The difference between 32 credits and 24 is rather large but also speaks to the individualization we can offer each student.  Not every student needs to enroll in 7-8 classes per semester as it may not be in their best interest or fit their learning profile.   
Many students simply cannot handle the 8-course workload; others crave it.  When we recognize that there is value in creating a more open and free flowing system within our schedule, we can truly support students and their individual goals while more closely mimicking a college schedule.  The student that wants to be a fireman may take 5 or 6 academic courses per semester (rather than 8) and leave early (or start later) to intern at the local fire department without endangering his progress to graduation.  On the other hand, the student who wishes to earn a maximum amount of college credit while in high school may opt to take the full 8-course load from 9-11 the grade, thereby getting ahead of the credit earning game, and allow time for internships, college visits and job shadows during the 12th grade year.  The days of every student having an 8-3 schedule are archaic, simplistic and downright hurtful to students who have outlined their future goals.  “One size fits each” is our motto, not “one size fits all.”  
When we attempt to homogenize our educational experience for all students, we end up limiting their creativity, restraining their ambitions, and promoting bitterness among our students and parents that leads to mistrust in our relationship.  By tweaking our school designs we can not only improve our relationships within our school community, but also give our students (the reason for which we all have jobs) deeper insights into who they are and who they are becoming.
Action Research in Ferguson-Florissant School District in St. Louis, Missouri
by Susie Morice,
Santa Fe Center for Transformational School Leadership

In the Ferguson-Florissant School District in the
suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri, more than a dozen
schools are engaging in the processes of action
research. The Santa Fe Center for Transformational
School Leadership is partnering with Washington
University to support the district as they tackle
challenges in the aftermath of the tragic death of
Michael Brown that shook this community’s culture to
its bones. This is a strong and geographically large
district with 23 schools working for 11,000 children. Much is at stake, and multiple goals are at play. Action research teams, supported by coaches from the district’s new Transformation Project, are learning to use Systems Thinking and Design Thinking tools to examine ways of effecting positive change. Not only do these educators hope to see school cultures shift, they are also embracing a new way of examining problems with an action researcher’s eye.

Typically, a problem bubbles up, and we hustle to put a cap on the symptoms. Picture a bottle of Pepsi. If we drop the bottle, let roll across the garage floor, and immediately try to open it, we get a face full of carbonated spray. Even when we successfully recap or try bottle-tapping tricks, the soda goes flat, and it doesn’t really satisfy the thirsty drinker. So goes the problem that too quickly falls prey to the fast fix. With action research, we alter that pattern.

Using a Plan/Act/Reflect cycle, educators can figure out ways to re-see and rethink trouble spots. With the shaken Pepsi, if you wait two minutes, the soda won't be flat. The pressure difference between the headspace and soda will over time cause the CO2 to re-dissolve until the pressure is equalized. Warmer soda means less CO2 can be dissolved. Educators, too, may get more lasting, positive results when part of the solving process is stepping back a bit.

With action research, dedicated administrators and teachers in the district are joining hands and minds to approach problems with a mindful researcher’s toolbox. Instead of attaching ourselves immediately to a possible outcome, we open ourselves to other solutions, ones we often cannot see when we work in isolation or in a state of impatience.

The action researchers at Commons Lane Elementary School, a dedicated group of a dozen educators, are digging into the ways they might generate positive behavioral changes among their students. Noticing that there is an up-tick of students demonstrating hands-on negative actions such a pushing, shoving, fighting, these action researchers are looking for answers. An important part of their current energy is looking to what other professionals have to say. Action research avoids jumping to solutions without mining the field for two things nested throughout the culture in the school:
  • underlying issues that exist and 

  • patterns and connections that are emerging.

For example, if a student is acting up in one spot, why is it that the same student does not act up in another? What are the adults in the building doing that show connections to various behaviors? Are those things affecting students and how? The team begins to pose many questions related to the problem, recognizing that underlying issues almost always affect what is visible on the surface. 
Action research is a powerful way to acknowledge the current realities in the building. When we peer beneath the surface to examine peripheral factors, we see a more complex picture of how connected all our actions are. The Commons Lane goal is an aspiration to bring students to a place of peaceful interactions among all people in the school. Action research is helping these educators find avenues to making a sustainable, positive change in the behaviors of students and adults alike. 
At McCluer North High School, an action research team comes together to examine the culture and the potential ways that the existing culture might become more resilient, compassionate, and empathetic. Through this year-long endeavor the team is 
using Systems Thinking and Design Thinking to enrich their own toolboxes for making a difference. Basically, Systems Thinking pushes the team to recognize the connections within the school. When any decision is made, it has an effect on not only the target issue, but also on issues around the corner that might otherwise be unrecognized. Designing ways to solve problems means the team is building skills in acknowledging the patterns and connections within multiple layers of the school culture. 
A grade level principal at McCluer North, David Arledge, for example, points out the need to continually examine data and make adjustments as more information is brought to the table. A student might have an attendance problem, and the more data that is examined, the closer he can get to building effective solutions with that student. “We examine the data, go back and make adjustments, and try to figure out what is working and what isn’t,” Arledge notes. Collecting data, whether it be interviews with students or photos taken in class or the halls, helps inform the plan. Acting before we have data information of various sorts, almost guarantees that our solutions will fall flat. 
Digesting professional literature on important issues affecting students and teachers is a key piece of action research. While it might be easy to preach, “Be nice!”, building a safe culture that supports resilience, compassion, and empathy requires teasing out a lot of underlying issues. Joe Harter, social studies teacher at McCluer North, after some professional reading points out that “toxic stress leads to physiological and neurological problems, affecting workingm memory, attentional control, and cognitive flexibility.” Erin King, math teacher in the school, adds, “Stress is the major contributor to students being able to regulate their own emotions.

When considering intrinsic versus extrinsic rewards, ONLY intrinsic really works in changing behaviors over the long haul. While I was reading this, I felt like the writer was in McCluer North... this so reflected what I’m seeing...stressed kids are a very real issue here.”
At Commons Lane, the action researchers, with the guidance of their coach Lee Ann Lyons, take time to read and deconstruct professional readings on empathy, a powerful pathway to positive culturebuilding. Third grade teacher, Tanya Parson notes, “’Two types of empathy, cognitive and affective, develop at different times for boys and girls, boys being a couple years behind girls.’ What is troubling is that we, as a society, have a tendency to tell boys to be tough and not show their emotions,” thus we shut down these boys’ need to practice and develop empathy in a world that needs just that. As action researchers expand their own learning and share that experience with their team, new understandings, possibilities, and varied solutions can emerge. The capacity to build a stronger school -- a transformed school -- becomes more than an aspiration; it can become a reality.
Resources: Books For Your Reading

Leading with Questions:  How Leaders Find the Right Solutions by Knowing What to Ask.  By Michael J. Marquardt
Most of us have worked for a supervisor or boss whose conversation was full of requests and demands more than inquisitiveness.  Some how too many leaders have concluded that asking questions is a sign of weakness, an indication that he/ she is not in control or knowledgeable.
Michael Marquardt bashes this notion and provides leaders with a wealth of insights in how to energize their organizations by purposeful inquiry and powerful listening.  As he writes, “Questions can elicit information, of course, but they can do much more.  Astute leaders use questions to encourage full of participation and teamwork, to spur innovation and outside-the-box thinking, to empower others, to build relationships with customers, to solve problems and more.”  Indeed they can and such a mind-set goes to the heart of being a transformational leader.  We highly recommend Marquardt’s treasure of a book.
How to Create a Culture of Achievement in your School and Classroom.  Douglas Fisher, Nancy Fey and Ian Pumpian.
Culture is the new buzzword in organizational study. One hears of “toxic cultures,” “creative cultures “and football coaches who change the “culture of the locker room.”  But just what does this mean for the leaders charged with improving schools?
 Most school improvement efforts focus on academic goals, but too often it’s the intangibles that block meaningful and lasting improvement. Authors Fisher, Fey and Pumpian believe that no school improvement effort will be effective unless school culture is addressed.  Their book provides a useful way for leaders to weave into their efforts ways to address the invisible yet critically important component of organizational effectiveness.  
Eight Myths of Student Disengagement:  Creating Classrooms of Deep Learning
Jennifer A. Fredricks.
Fredricks writes, “Student disengagement is one of the biggest challenges teachers face each day in their classrooms.  This disengagement can take many forms, including lack of participation and effort, acting out and disrupting class, disaffection and withdrawal and failure to invest deeply in the academic content…”
Her book presents a “multidimensional construct” addressing behavior, emotional and cognitive aspects of the solution and she argues that there is no quick fix but rather all three dimensions of disengagement must be addressed.   She has provided practical ways to implement practices to increase student engagement. 
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