DAILY INSIGHT: The administrator superhighway, part 1

By Jon Castelhano, CIO Advisor

Have you ever driven on a freeway system that is so confusing due to the complex looping off-ramps, the over and under, and super high-speed lanes that require exotic foreign sports car to navigate? Even with GPS I seem to add a few extra miles onto each destination when I venture out of AZ and into other states with more freeway twists and turns than I am accustomed to. As an administrator in today’s K-12 environment, there are many different off-ramps and high-speed lanes to choose from when considering your leadership goals and how it will influence your organization.

Visionary Leadership ISTE NETS for Administrators (NETS•A): Educational Administrators inspire and lead development and implementation of a shared vision for comprehensive integration of technology to promote excellence and support transformation throughout the organization.

Sounds simple enough, right? Any successful organization probably has a leader that can inspire, create vision and put practices in place to reach a goal, but how many other “leaders” are influencing that person? In my position as Director of Technology in the Apache Junction USD, I feel the Superintendent has created an environment that allows departments, school staff, and students to collaborate, share, and influence the direction of the organization. Let’s take a closer look at a few areas that support the road to visionary leadership.

Fear of Failing

There are a number reasons why people are afraid to change, try new things, and influence others around them. Two specific reasons that come to mind are:

  • The fear of failure itself
  • Staff members are not encouraged to fail

The end result of the fear of failure can lead to a stale environment and innovation will be put aside for sustaining old practices. Learning how to fail while maintaining the confidence to adjust and move forward is essential to creating a successful learning environment. I want to share an experience that Tracy Watanabe, Technology Integration Specialist for the Apache Junction USD, shared with me about failing.

“Early last summer, I was asked to do a presentation in a short webinar. I had never been involved in a webinar before, but figured it would not be very different from all of the professional developments I facilitated every week. Boy was I wrong. My computer froze 10 minutes before I was supposed to start, and my backup computer did the same. I was so nervous by the time my computer was rebooted, that I didn't remember what I said, how fast/slow I was talking, and couldn't read my audience, which is something I rely strongly on. I felt like I let everyone down. I was ready to write off webinars as something that was not for me. Luckily, I'm surrounded by others who believe that failing is just a milestone on the path of improvement Fail, Learn, Try Again.

"When I shared my webinar experience with my boss and other peers, their feedback was encouraging and inspired me to try again. Recently I facilitated a webinar as part of the Edublogs Serendipity webinars. It wasn't perfect, but that didn't seem to bother anyone, including myself because it's part of the learning process. Next time is an opportunity for improvement. Isn't that what it's about? You see, to grow and improve is like a journey. Failures along the way are just milestones on that journey. Failures aren't the destination, and a journey without failures means you're not traveling far from the safe zone. It takes venturing out of the safe zone to grow and improve."

Jon Castelhano is director of technology for Apache Junction Unified School District in Arizona. This blog is cross posted on his blog, This and That.