According to Ravitch, who reviewed the biography for The Washington Post, “The most chilling episode in Richard Whitmire’s biography of Michelle Rhee occurs near the end, when Rhee says to a PBS camera crew, ‘I’m going to fire somebody in a little while. Do you want to see that?’ Of course they did, and they taped the chancellor of the District of Columbia public schools firing a principal. The victim’s face was not shown, but the episode revealed a woman who relishes humiliating those who have the misfortune to work for her.”
It’s not surprising that the school leadership tenures of both Rhee and Black should come to an abrupt end, given that both exhibited a profound lack of empathy for their employees.
As author and motivational speaker Simon T. Bailey explains, to be a successful leader during times of significant change, you have to make sure your employees are working in an environment where they feel supported enough to be creative—and that means getting them comfortable with adapting to change.
One way to do this, Bailey told attendees of a recent ed-tech conference, is to be generous with your praise; another is to listen instead of hear.
“I know you’re busy, but take five minutes a day to really connect with someone on your staff,” he recommended. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
One group that has listened to the needs of educators is MetLife, which sponsors an annual “Survey of the American Teacher.” In the latest of these polls, educators said they believe the ability to differentiate instruction for their students is essential for students’ success—and they said more access to technology and collaboration with their peers will help them do this.
In fact, creating opportunities to collaborate with—and learn from—other educators was cited as one of five keys to improving teacher and school leader effectiveness in another recent report.
That report looked at the lessons the U.S. can learn from Finland, Ontario, and Singapore, whose achievement has consistently ranked near the top in international assessments and who attribute their success to their efforts in recruiting, preparing, and retaining highly effective teachers and school leaders.
“All three jurisdictions provide considerable time for teachers to work collaboratively and learn together during the regular school schedule—as much as five times what U.S. teachers receive,” according to the report.