Season 3, Episode 1:
Covid. Book bans. Polarizing legislation. The last few years have been relentless in their efforts to pull district leaders’ attentions away from the normal business of running schools. But some leaders have remained a true beacon of light, keeping everyone’s eye on what is best for students. They remind educators that it is not SEL, or academics, or inclusion, but all of the above if we want an effective response to current challenges. That courage is the trait that precedes all others when deciding how to respond in a crisis. Listen as four leaders from all over the country show how they use their “spirit” to stay focused, build belonging, and successfully lead their schools.
Michael Fullan, OC, is the former Dean of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and Professor Emeritus of the University of Toronto. He is co-leader of the New Pedagogies for Deep Learning global initiative. Recognized as a worldwide authority on educational reform, he advises policymakers and local leaders in helping to achieve the moral purpose of all children learning. Michael Fullan received the Order of Canada in December 2012. He holds honorary doctorates from several universities around the world.
Mark Edwards previously served as school superintendent in Danville, Virginia, and in Henrico County, Virginia, where he was named the Virginia Superintendent of the Year in 2001 and received the Harold McGraw Prize in Education in 2003. He later served as superintendent of the Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina. Edwards was named the North Carolina Superintendent of the Year as well as the AASA National Superintendent of the Year in 2013. He received North Carolina’s prestigious Order of the Long Leaf Pine Award in 2013 and the Public School Forum of North Carolina Jay Robinson Education Leadership Award in 2014. He has been recognized as a pioneer in one-to-one computing and as a collaborative leader in public education. Edwards has published three books, Every Child Every Day: A Digital Conversion Model for Student Achievement, Thank You for Your Leadership: The Power of Distributed Leadership in a Digital Conversion Model, and co-authored The Power of Unstoppable Momentum with Michael Fullan.
Dr. Joris M. Ray has served Memphis-Shelby County Schools (MSCS) during one of the most challenging times in the history of education. As the largest school district in Tennessee and the 23rd largest in the county serving over 110,000 students, Dr. Ray’s innovative leadership has catapulted MSCS into the national spotlight as a district breaking barriers inside the classroom and the community. Dr. Ray continues to place a laser-like focus on removing all barriers that hinder student success.
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Peter DeWitt (Ed.D.), a former school principal in Upstate, NY, previously taught elementary school for 11 years. His syndicated blog, Finding Common Ground, is published by Education Week and he is a freelance writer for Vanguard Magazine. Peter has traveled the world, developing content, visiting school sites, influencing policy, and presenting with John Hattie. He has worked with educators at schools, districts, educational service centers, and educational organizations, including the Council of Chief State School Officials. His presentations focus on school leadership, school climate, as well as safeguarding LGBT students and other social justice topics.
COVID-19, racial inequity, polarizing politics, mass misinformation, and myriad other challenges have made the future of education seem bleaker than ever. Spirit Work and the Science of Collaboration speaks directly to leaders' hearts and advocates for the development of two qualities that will bring back hope for the future of education: "spirit work" and the science of collaboration. Spirit work centers love and care for students, staff, and communities as the impetus for creating a positive culture, while collaboration is the vehicle for manifesting that spirit work. Through powerful case studies and vignettes, the authors show how spirit and collaboration represent revolutionary potential for education.
We cannot allow our best advocates for children to be consumed by today’s challenges. Spirit work and collaboration can pave the way to a brighter future.
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