You can delegate authority, but not responsibility.
You guys suck.
I read these words as I was cleaning out my email box, going through the responses of folks who had unsubscribed from the Big Fresh. When you edit a newsletter with 50,000 subscribers, there is a lot of churn — new people sign up and recipients drop their subscriptions every day. Educators retire, switch jobs, lament over full mailboxes, or their needs change. We give subscribers the option of letting us know why they are canceling delivery, in hopes it will help us improve our service. But in six years of editing the newsletter, I’d never had someone write “You guys suck” as a reason for canceling a subscription.
I noticed the email was from a school address, and after a 30 second online search I discovered the author was a first-grade teacher. She had posted many warm images of frolicking with young children, wrote about her husband who was a school administrator, and shared cheerful notes about her love of teaching. The images just didn’t match the message sent from her email account. So I wrote her a nice note letting her know we’d deleted her subscription as requested, but also checking to be sure her email account hadn’t been hijacked.
The teacher wrote back, mortified, and asked to be put back on the mailing list. She explained the district tech department had been given the task over the summer of deleting any spam they found in school email accounts, but hadn’t requested any guidance or criteria from the teachers. I suspect the tech department had delegated this task to student interns, and envisioned some high school kids having a little fun at their summer jobs. While I chuckled at the thought, it also made me think about the times I’ve paid the price for delegating a task in the wrong way or for the wrong reasons. There have been moments I’m so frantic for help or overwhelmed that I threw off work on others in a way akin to using a teacup to bail out a leaking dinghy. Whenever I delegate work and end up with poor results, it’s because of one of three reasons:
1. I didn’t explain the task well to the person I asked to help.
2. I waited so long to get help that the assistant was instantly as overwhelmed as me in tackling it.
3. I gave the task to someone without the expertise or interest to care enough to do it well.
In an ideal world, the time to think about delegating work is always long before it needs to be given away. Even in the real world, we can consider who might enjoy the tasks that are starting to take up too much of our time. Who in your orbit is ready for new responsibilities? Who cares as much as you to do the work well? Leaders are always in the process of letting go of some of their responsibilities, so that they can shift their time to emerging priorities.
This week we’re featuring resources to help you inspire young writers. Plus more as always – enjoy!
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Aimee Buckner explains there are “waders” and “divers” when it comes to launching writing notebooks in classrooms. In this article from the archives, she explains how both approaches can be successful early in the school year:
Many classrooms have student-generated codes of conduct. Stacey Shubitz at the Two Writing Teachers blog has advice and guiding questions for creating rules for writing workshops with students:
Kate Messner has compiled a terrific Pinterest board of writers sharing what real revision looks like. The posts include print articles, podcasts, blog entries, and videos:
Vicky Vinton provides mentor texts and creative ideas at all grade levels to help students write better informational texts:
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Ruth Ayres explains how she sets realistic goals for her own learning during the year in On Perfection and Goals:
Mandy Robek uses the advice of wise teachers to revise her writing conference form:
Are your book displays enticing to the boys in your classroom? Tony Keefer has suggestions for making classroom libraries more appealing:
The choice between whole-class novels or independent reading can be a false one in many middle school classrooms. In this week’s video, Katie Doherty’s sixth graders discuss their reading together of a novel in verse, and Katie explains how some shared whole-class texts can support independent reading:
English language learners may have some of the quietest voices in schools. In the poem and narrative Without Answers, Stella Villalba shares the power of finding ways to bring those voices out in your classroom:
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That’s all for this week!