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EdTech Update





BFTP: Core beliefs of extraordinary bosses

It's been so long since I've worked for a bad boss that I tend not to think a lot about what makes someone a good person for whom to work.  I do hear plenty of complaints from family members about their own supervisors, so bad bosses do exist somewhere.

My guess is that most of us have learned how to boss other people by experiencing being bossed ourselves - for good or for ill. (The term "boss" has such a perjorative slant - couldn't we use supervisor, manager, team leader???.)

Anyway this online article caught my eye: 8 Core Beliefs of Extraordinary Bosses by Geoffrey James, Inc. April 23, 2012. While James is writing about the business world, these beliefs seem especially applicable to school library and technology departments. James's words are in bold; mine aren't.

Extraordinary bosses believe:

  1. Business is an ecosystem, not a battlefield. Library and technology leaders understand this. Our departments support teachers, administrators, and students. Our own success can only be measured by how successful we make others. We need to be fighting for those we serve, not against other departments.
  2. A company is a community, not a machine. Again our success is dependent on the relationships we build with others. Whether it is with our knowledgeable and skilled technicians or our teaching staff or administrators in other departments, our codependency makes us a community. And while we would like to operate sometimes with machine-like rules for everyone, education seems to be a place where effectiveness lies in making exceptions.
  3. Management is service, not control. This is tough for many of us technology folks whose primary goals are security, adequacy, and reliablity. The more control we have over our applications, networks, and equipment, the better we seem to meet these goals. But we too often lose sight that security, adequacy, and reliability are simply a means to providing good service - and too much control can be counterproductive if the technology is not easy-to-use, convenient, and available.
  4. My employees are my peers, not my children. There are two ways of looking at treating people like children. Of course, treating anyone "like a child" is demeaning - even to children. But as more and more of the people who work for me are of my own adult children's ages, I often think about how I would like my sons and daughters treated by their bosses. I hope they have supervisors who help them grow, support their learning, enable their advancement, encourage them to tackle ever bigger responsibilities, and to find ways to make a difference. How much does a good mentor really differ from a good parent?
  5. Motivation comes from vision, not from fear. For those of us in libraries and educational technology, this one is pretty easy. The vision has to be no more complex than remembering what we do is always centered on helping kids learn. Period. As much as I would like to put the fear of god into a couple of people around here now and then, I have no clue about how to be scary.
  6. Change equals growth, not pain. Change has been constant and unavoidable in both libraries and technology for twenty years. If the new is painful to you and the members of your department instead of it being exciting, you are all a bunch of masochists and have stayed in the field too long. Go work at Wal-mart.
  7. Technology offers empowerment, not automation. Good managers understand that making decisions makes a job interesting and fulfilling. All technologies ought to help people solve problems and make good decisions and then carry them out. (Librarians, this is why information literacy skills are the most important things that technology can help teach!) If a computer can do your job - it should.
  8. Work should be fun, not mere toil. If the boss doesn't look forward to coming to work everyday (and I mean every day), how one expect others in the department to look forward to heading to the office? 

Core beliefs or attributes you appreciate in extraordinary bosses?

Related posts:

Original post August 15, 2012


#GoodNewsCalloftheDay: Guest post by Mary Casserly-Smith

When I saw Mary's first #GoodNewsoftheDay tweet, I was reminded of a practice shared by a librarian on LM_Net some years ago. She made a habit calling a parent and sharing a positive thing that has happened in the library with that parent's child the last thing she did each school day. Ah, a reason to look forward to seeing the school in the caller ID!

Anyway, Mary has taken this a step further using Twitter and I asked her to share on the Blue Skunk as a guest post. In Mary's words:

My first tweet was August 18, 2009. The reason I know this is because it was about Brett Farve signing a contract to be the quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings.  My tweet was something about how we would now be able to win that elusive Super Bowl championship.  Well, we now know we didn’t, haven’t, probably never will, but I digress.

I have long since deleted that tweet. What I did keep is my participation in Twitter. I am a Digital Learning Specialist in an elementary school and I have found it to be a very useful tool in my profession.  It is a convenient professional development tool. I have learned a lot of innovative ideas that I could implement in my classroom almost immediately.

Also, I have also found it to be a great way to connect with families by showing what we are doing in my classroom and school.  Last year I noticed my former principal tweeting what she called a, “Good News Call of the Day,” or in Twitter language, #GoodNewsCalloftheDay. She took a picture with a student each day, wrote in 140 characters, or less, what fabulous thing that student did that day, and then made a phone call home to tell the family about it. She said it was the highlight of her day, so I decided to give it a try this school year.

She was right, it is the highlight of my day. The students love getting their picture taken with me, they beam with pride when I tell them why I chose them, and then the icing on the cake is the phone call to the family.* The first minute or so is always tense. As I am telling them who I am the the silence on the other end is deafening. I can only assume that they are waiting to hear some sort of bad report, and when I tell them the reason for my call it is pure joy and happiness. I am thanked over and over for the call.  

No, we still don’t have a Super Bowl championship but I am having so much fun using Twitter it feels like I won something!

* I do check our student information system to be sure I have parental permission to post photos of the child.

Mary Casserly-Smith


Where would you be now if ...

... social media existed when you were in high school? I, for one, may well be sleeping on a Salvation Army cot.

A sobering incident involving a racist social media posting at our high school this weekend had me asking that question again. While I believe this particular student's act is a good example of Hanlon's razor (never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity) in action, it none-the-less, I'm sure, caused distress among many of students and their families. 

Those of us who grew up in the pre-Internet era, certainly had plenty of ways to do injury to ourselves and to others. Beer, gossip, sex, guns, knives, jumping off high places, and reckless driving all existed, my children, even in those medieval times of the 1960s and 1970s in rural Iowa. Our adolescent brains were no more adept at making good judgements that those young cortexes of today.

What we did not have was a means of making our idiocies immediately known to the rest of the world. With any luck, we kept our foolhardy stunts to ourselves and our hurtful comments were not recorded for later review.

Thank heavens. Our footprints were left in mud and snow and air, not digits.

If anything good can come of an incident like the one linked above, it is that it may prove to be a "teachable moment" for our students and our community: this "digital footprint thing" that teachers and librarians and parents harp on isn't just an abstraction, but reality. And once we know that our online activities can have negative consequences that will stay with us forever, perhaps we can then turn our focus on how to build online reputations that are positive and helpful to our careers and community.