The best failing school turnaround interview I’ve ever heard

School turnaround is a huge issue in education. I have just found and listened to the most incredible podcast from John Merrow where he interviewed three “turnaround specialists” – Catharine Thomas, J. Harris Coleman, and Michael McClellan– I found it through itunes. (I don't have an ipod but I find and listen to all of my podcasts here.)

For you like minded cynical-consultant type people like me, this podcast is not what you think. It is real principals who have a winning record talking about the realities of school turnaround. You should listen and take notes. If you are a superintendent, you should forward it to your principals because it exposes a lot of realities that I hear administrators deny but they need to understand.

Here are my favorite quotes:

“You must be commpassionate and understanding of the people involved.”

“You cannot change people but you can create an environment where people are willing to change.”

“Over time, staff gets beat up!”

“You've got to create a place where students and teachers are nurtured and cared for.”

“You have a faculty meeting but the real meeting takes place later in the parking lot.”

“You must build relationships before you can enact change.”

They talk about what it FEELS like in a failing school — “emotional wasteland” “group think” and “toxic” are words they use.

As a general manager, I know that it is often HOW you do things that is more important than WHAT you do. Relationships and people are what being in administration is about.

Have a great listen.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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1 comment

Twiaina March 13, 2007 - 3:28 pm

thanks so much for this information…this was my first search attempt at finding info on failing schools turning around…continue doing great work, your community is lucky to have you!

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The Cool Cat Teacher Blog
Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere