2 Ways Future-Focused Superintendents create Innovation

Future-focused superintendents create habits that lead to their success.  Creating a “space” where educators take the time to think about their practice and the implications for their communities is a vital aspect of a future-focused superintendent.  If you are not careful, you will find yourself “ping-ponging” from one activity or crisis to another throughout the day. The opposite of this is being intentional. Intentional about where you want your organization to go; intentional about why you want your organization to go there; intentional about how you will make it happen.  Intentionality only occurs when you give yourself time to do it.

Future-focused superintendents do not allow themselves to become close-minded.  Public education is inexorably linked with society.  Society is currently undergoing a dramatic shift. Society is transitioning from an industrial society to a postindustrial society.  Institutions that were created to compliment an industrial society suddenly find themselves with less influence or completely outdated as we transition to a postindustrial society.  As an example, think of how much the news industry has changed in the past 20 years.  Newspapers have seen their influence diminish in direct proportion to the rise of online media. 

The public education institution is also being affected by the transition from an industrial society to a postindustrial society. Future-focused superintendents take time to consider the ramifications of the changes in society. They engage in “environmental scans” of the public education ecosystem and the interplay with their communities and society at large. They are proactive instead of reactive. Superintendents stay future-focused by creating a space for thinking to occur.  There are two spaces that future-focused superintendents create to remain future-focused.

  1. They create a space to allow their staff toinnovate.  They create “spaces of hope”where educators have time to interact in a meaningful way around a topicimportant to them and their school.  Isuggest convening a meeting of teachers (in can be a small group or as many as20) whose task it is to redefine education. Review with them the interplay between the changes in society and theimpact on education…become a teacher again!  Ask them the following questions:
    • What are the three biggest trends in societythat are impacting public education?
    • What strengths does your school have right now?
    • Where are the opportunities of growth availableto your school?
    • If you could change three things in your schoolthat would help address the trends you identified, what are they?
    • How can you leverage your strengths andopportunities for growth to make these changes happen?
    •  What isone small thing that you can do tomorrow that will lead to these changesoccurring in your classroom, school or school district? 
  1. They create a space for themselves to intentionally reflect, learn and grow.Allowing ourselves to become intentionally future-focused will lead to ourentire school system to become future-focused. I know my day can become a blur of meetings and “hair on fire”decisions.  I wake up at 5:00 in themorning, leave for work at 6:30 and sometimes do not get back home until 9:00at night.  At the end of many of thosedays, I look back at what I accomplished and I cannot even remember what I atefor lunch let alone what I have done intentionally to lead my organization in afuture-focused way.  I am confident thatthose of you reading this have had similar experiences. Future-focusedsuperintendents do not allow these kinds of days to happen too often, and evenwhen they do they have practices in place that mitigate the damage of justfloating through the day.  Here are threepractices you can do to assure that you are future-focused even on crazy days.
    Sign up for a Twitter account.  Once you have an account, follow leaders in the field.  Here are my favorites:
    (I could go on and on here, but the point is that you can follow the people and organizations you think are important in education and keep up to date on what they are thinking.  You don’t have to retweet or engage at all, just observe.)
    • @stanfordREDlab
    • @TED_ED
    • @knowledgeworks
    • @Christensoninst
    • @reinventschool
    • @DianeRavitch
    • @tombutler10
    Download the Audible app (www.audible.com) and start listening to books through the app.  As you travel to and from work and even during trips you make for your work you can use the time in the car to learn by listening to books.  In the last two years I have listened to over 100 books in this manner and have learned so much.
    Read!  Read books, blogs, white papers, research papers, web sites anything that will help you stay connected in the important space between public education and society.

About Tom Butler, Ph.D.

I believe that public education is for the public good and that education should be uncompromisingly learner-centered. The New Learning Ecosystem points us away from the old model of education that does not serve kids well. All educators regardless of where they work can help lead and contribute to the New Learning Ecosystem.
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