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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. 

My guess is that most of us learn 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 are not. 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 children's ages, I often think about how I would like my own kids 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 a masochist 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? And if we work for someone who does not understand these core beliefs, how do we help reshape their mindsets?


Related posts:

Original post May 29, 2012


Life as story

The happiest people in the nursing home are the ones with the best stories, not the ones with the most money. My biases

When I get an idea for a blog post, I often just create the title, leaving the content field blank. Now and then I write a title and have no idea what in the hell I was thinking when I wrote it. In a sense, this works as what we English teachers would have called a writing prompt. So this post has been sitting around for a bit, just being prompt-ish.

I thought about though when I read one of those click bait articles on my Facebook page called These are the Top 37 Things You'll Regret When You are Old by Kasim Khan on his EducateInspireChange website.

Judging from Mr. Khan's site photo, I am not sure what qualifies him to create a list from a geriatric perspective. In a couple weeks, I qualify for Medicare and I don't necessarily feel I am old enough to state what "old" people regret having done or not having done. Nor I am convinced that there are any universal human regrets.

That being said, it's pretty hard to fault the 37 things Mr. Khan lists (Neglecting your teeth, Working too much, Staying in a bad relationship, etc.) Personally, I regret the days when I have not in some way been productive - having accomplished a task, written a few words, seen or read something actually worth seeing or reading. Looking back, I am guessing those evenings spent in the recliner watching a stupid movie eating a frozen pizza will be those times for which I would like a do over.

Any time spent with loved ones; time spent recreationally, especially outdoors; time spent reflecting; time spent teaching; time spent learning; time spent problem-solving; time spent repairing or maintaining or cleaning, I doubt I will rue.

But as the opening quote suggests, the things one does that make the best stories may be the very best ones. Seeing the big rattlesnake on the trail; surviving the bike ride through the thunderstorm; narrowly avoiding disaster though plain dumb luck; traveling to a place that is worthy of a National Geographic photo-shoot. (See my friend Cary's story Surviving Cascade for a great example.)

My best guess that if there is regret involved it will be that I did not experience enough events that would make great stories in the nursing home.

So what might you regret in your dotage?


Statistical literacy

In my school days, "consumer math," was a euphemism for dummy math. If you couldn't hack algebra or trig, Consumer Math class was for you. Ironically, today's graduate needs "consumer math" a heck of a lot more than trigonometry. In such a course I would include: 

  • Calculating interest rates on credit cards and other consumer loans.
  • How to do your own income tax returns - state and federal.
  • Determining both the rate of return and maintenance cost on mutual funds and other investments.
  • Reading and interpreting statistics in the media.
  • How to spot a Ponzi scheme (or how to run one).
  • Applied statistics: chance of wining the lottery, odds of paying higher taxes because you make over $250,000,  likelihood of inheriting a large sum of money when none of your relatives are rich, etc..
  • Creating a personal budget and retirement plan.
  • Understanding the current federal, state and local tax codes and determining the percentage of total income paid by different levels of income earners,
  • Doing cost/benefit comparisons of medical, life, health, car and home insurance policies.
  • Converting measurements from metric to English - applied especially to medications.
  • The fundamentals of entrepreneurship
  • And just a dose of bullshit literacy for good measure.

I'm sure you could add to this list rather quickly. I don't know who is qualified to teach it - maybe curmudgeons after retirement? Can we please get alternative licensure? If they let me design the math curriculum, Blue Skunk blog, February 8, 2011.

I need to add another competency to my math literacy curriculum: statistical literacy. While I mention interpreting and using statistics above, I think I give it far too short shrift. Increasingly statistics should be a class required of all educators in their well-intentioned attempts to use "data-driven" decision-making.

I shudder when I see educators make critical decisions on numbers derived from test scores, survey data, course completion rates, etc. without understanding and being able to use concepts like:

  • statistical significance
  • valid sample size
  • standard deviation
  •  mean and median
  • data bias
  • correlation and causation
  • graphing accuracy

Now I am not claiming that I personally have these abilities myself. The graduate stat course I took was about 37 years ago. It was an excellent class, taught by a middle school math instructor teaching adjunct at the University of Iowa.

But what has stuck with me from that class is the importance of viewing numbers as somewhat tricky beasts. W.I.E. Gates is attributed with the old saw "Then there is the man who drowned crossing a stream with an average depth of only six inches." When we as decision-makers refuse to admin our ignorance, we become dangerous to those who depend on our good judgement.