by Peter DeWitt
Flipping leadership has one of those names that puts it at risk of seeming like more of a gimmick than something worthwhile for leaders to do in their leadership practices. Truth be told, it will be nice when the day comes when we don’t have to say “Flipping” because it has become a natural way that all leaders…lead.
Unfortunately, we are not there yet. Too many faculty meetings and professional development sessions are less about collaboration and more about compliance. Too many leaders look at faculty meetings as something they should control and not something where there should be ongoing dialogue.
In our leadership training, we learned that we must be visible. Visibility is a good start, but we need more than visibility. We need to go deeper. Walk the talk or whatever catch phrase we want to use, but we need to be the lead learner that, as John Hattie suggests, puts learning at the center of our focus.
It’s not enough to be visible. Being visible can be “fake” because it just means stakeholders see us, but not necessarily engage with us. We need to engage our staff and provide them with the learning opportunities they want, and not just the ones we think they need. And when we provide those opportunities, they need to be about collaboration and not “sit and get.”
When I presented at NYSCATE 2014 with Tom Whitby, Tom suggested, in only the way Tom can, that “professional development sucks.” Although not the wording I would use, I agree with Tom. The problem is that the lack of great professional development has helped create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Teachers now show up expecting to be told what to do, instead of being asked for their input on what they should be diving into in the first place.
From my perspective, there are four things that every leader should know about flipped leadership. They are:
1. It won’t be perfect. It’s funny, but leaders are concerned about taking risks in front of their staff, and yet they want their staff to take risks. The reality is that we are not Steven Spielberg, nor are we Ron Howard. The videos that leaders create do not have to look like Hollywood had a hand in the production, but they do have to be engaging, and less than five minutes long.
Keep in mind that sometimes the videos will not look as good as we want them to. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we fall flat on our faces. The important thing is that we pick ourselves back up and try again. In a post by my friend Jenny Nauman, Jenny writes about how her meeting fell flat. But Jenny did something vitally important. She reflected on what went wrong, and moved forward in an effort to make sure it didn’t happen again. Sometimes failure is our best teacher.
2. There needs to be a reason to do it. If you’re asking people to view something before a meeting, they need to know why they are doing it. If the leader cannot articulate why they are flipping, perhaps they need to do more reflection on why they are doing it. Flipping without understanding the compelling reasons behind it will only perpetuate the thought that flipping is a gimmick. Flipping is a process that takes a lot of dialogue before the first faculty meeting is ever flipped.
Things to do:
- Write a narrative about flipping and send it out in an e-mail to staff or parents.
- Provide some blogs or articles explaining the process so they can read about the experience.
- Discuss it at faculty meetings and ask for questions. Discuss the obstacles!
- Make it a natural part of your leadership practices.
3. Do it your way. There is no one way to flip. If leaders can create a great video on their tablet using a free app like Touchcast or something else, go for it. If they prefer to send out a link to a blog or article that staff reads before they dive down deeper into a discussion, do that. The important thing is to create opportunities for ongoing dialogue around topics that the staff decide are important.
For example, a leader may be sitting in an informal meeting with a teacher and a topic comes up such as “how to provide effective feedback”. Find blogs and articles about effective feedback to send to staff. Perhaps another teacher is doing a great job providing effective feedback. Let that teacher run a faculty meeting. Do an activity, and look at examples of effective feedback.
4. Dialogue and not monologue. Flipping a meeting should be about increasing opportunities for building dialogue, not more monologue. This is meant for parent meetings as well. For example, send out information in a short video that parents can view before open house, and send report cards home a week before parent-teacher conferences so that that parents can come with questions.
Flipping doesn’t mean creating videos that get sent out to staff highlighting the activities of the day. We spend too much time talking at each other and not enough time talking with each other. It’s too easy to blame teachers for being quiet at meetings when we have built a climate of sit and get. Discuss, dissect and debate – the 3Ds – must be a natural part of our meetings. If leaders are afraid of questions, perhaps it’s because they don’t know the answers. But leaders don’t always have the answers…which is why the 3 Ds are so important.
In the End
Leaders need to go deeper with their meetings…the ones with parents and the meetings they have with staff. They need to cover the 3 Ds because those will make any idea stronger or provide the necessary pause before moving forward with an initiative that doesn’t make sense.
Flipping is a philosophy and a practice. It takes time to nurture it and make it better. Leaders must involve stakeholders in the process. I had faculty meetings that were horrible, and professional development sessions that were too much about sit and get. We need to change the dialogue about faculty meetings and parent meetings, and include dialogue in those meetings.
Reprinted with permission of the author. Peter DeWitt will be a speaker at Plain Talk 2015.