Confessions of a Digital Leader: Rome Wasn’t Built in A Day

Everyday when I walk into my building, I feel as if the weight of the world is on my shoulders. Correction…I feel this whether I am in my building or not. My mind races a million directions…constantly refreshing ideas faster than I can blink sometimes. Every step or conversation stimulates internal thoughts about how we can be better…small, subtle changes here and there.

Confession: It’s hard for me to focus when every ounce of my being is internally screaming…”Nooooooooo”…at the celebration of things that we should be doing differently.

I cringe at the phrase, “this is how we’ve always done things”. This is the worst phrase known to humankind as people tend to allow the brick wall of sameness to halt progress.

“This is how we’ve always done things” is the ultimate destroyer of ideas, growth and future innovations.

My job in our district is ultimately to help our school communities move forward. For me, that meant that I had to spend a few months observing and living in our realities. There are so many pieces to the puzzle of “future readiness” and being in this district has reaffirmed my belief and understanding that although President Obama’s ConnectEd to the future initiative was about digital connectivity, we can’t ignore the necessity of human connections with our local communities.

At the same token, digital connectivity means that kids can connect beyond our communities and learn with the world. This is my greatest goal and challenge.

Our Realities

Our school district has a BYOD program and an extremely low percentage of computers to supplement those without. We also seem to have a low percentage of kids with actual devices. Our brightbytes data will clarify this in a matter of weeks.

Like most school districts, digital initiatives have taken a backseat to testing. We are awesome with gathering data through test prep technologies and even more awesome with administering online exams per our state requirements.

My reality is that I am here in this position because we also recognize that we can and should do much more than tech for testing. I also recognize that in a district with zero mobile devices, other than specialized departments, our “much more than tech for testing” will be a gradual process.

Building A Foundation

I am fortunate to be in a place with a superintendent who completely gets it. She understands that as great as our district is, we can be greater and she leads through action. Every school district needs this!

Last week, she started utilizing Google Classroom with our leadership staff to create a workflow for collaboration, communication and productivity. Sitting down to train her and a few of our core leadership team was soul fulfilling as in that moment, I understood where I needed to focus.

In the last few days, I’ve seen the fruit of her/our labor spreading like wildfire. Our instructional specialist are starting to collaborate digitally. Teachers are sharing lesson plans and asking that they be commented with feedback. People are excited in such a way that it is certainly contagious and also the greatest feeling on earth!

My vision for how we approach professional and digital learning is that in a space where our slate is blank, we have an opportunity to do this right. We are taking a top-down approach to leading and learning, meaning…that we will become a collective unit of digital leaders, implementing into the work of leadership…thus creating a model that can and will inspire the change that we want to see in our teaching and learning. So far…it is working.

While I am all for giving kids the tools and letting them lead the way, I also know that the greatest barriers to student/teacher innovation aren’t just their own mindsets but the mindsets of those charged with leading.  We can and will do this right with sustainability in mind.

With that said, my department is also moving with the intention of putting the world into the hands of our students and that excites me more than anything.

While I will probably always feel the weight of the world on my shoulders, I always remind myself to be patient.

Yes, I will still internally cringe at the sight of things printed that should be digital, the use of phrases like “engaging and interactive” when neither word applies, computers that barely work, spotty wifi and the focus on state testing.

I will also breathe in the realization that what makes me cringe also stimulates plans towards change…plans that become action…actions that spread over time.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is sustainable digital growth.




Comments 3

  1. I love your reaction to “it’s always been done this way.” How easily people fall into line with being a total drone, allowing their creativity to be sucked away!

    I know that deep inside people do have a desire for something better, but instilling that will to facilitate change is such a hurdle. I am currently taking a course in teacher leadership, and in the few weeks I have had to reflect on my experiences, I feel as if I am always pushing, or fighting. Have you experienced any methods, interventions, or initiatives that have gone more easily than others? How have you inspired others to be willing to change?

    1. Post

      Hi Erin. Yep, I have had interventions and initiatives that have gone more easily than others. The first was finance. Our business dept had to support what we wanted to do. The second was mindset because people really like their patterns and historical things about doing things. When I started our teacher ambassador community, it was refreshing to watch teachers embrace new challenges but at the same time, we’re struggling with when to schedule our face to face meetings because I don’t want to push them in ways that add more to their already full plates. We have certain depts that have ordered Ipads and to get them to think about creativity is going to be such a hurdle that we aren’t planning to tackle that this year. Instead, we will do it with our teachers who are ready for it and let the student work show for itself and I think that this answers your last question. I started a teacher ambassador program that contains 50 teachers from all over the district. They’re doing various creative challenges and in doing so are definitely inspiring those around them and that has been truly powerful to watch!

  2. Rafranz,
    Thank you for this post. I think that many of us that work at the District level feel this frustration and experience the inner cringe and outward smile almost daily. But you are so right that building leadership for today is what’s going to help move things forward. I think for me it’s the time thing, because I want things to change NOW. But people need to be ready for change or there won’t really be any movement forward. In some ways, being connected to awesome and forward thinking educators on Twitter, Voxer, etc… can be both rewarding and frustrating when the District in which you work isn’t quite there yet. You’re right. Rome wasn’t built in a day: intentionality, perseverance, and vision will pay off eventually!

Leave a Reply to Jennifer Casa-Todd Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *