This year, I'm excited to be part of the Urban Superintendent's Academy, co-sponsored by the University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education and AASA (the School Superintendent's Association).
Teamed up with some two dozen other leaders, we're spending the year looking at issues of leadership in urban school districts. And the need is certainly there. Not only are urban school districts large and vastly different than smaller districts, but the average tenure of a superintendent in a large urban district is less than 2.5 years.
At our first meeting, we visited the Marshall Experiential Learning Center. Two and a half hours later, we emerged a strong team, having accomplished the goal of trading all of our chips in less than a minute.
Now keep in mind....every single one of us is a leader. And sometimes leaders don't like to be led.
Fortunately, that was not the case with this group of school administrators, mostly from California and ranging in positions from principal to interim superintendent. This group was made up of open-minded, team-focused, goal-oriented individuals.
In a very short period of time, we had to use chips we were given and trade them in in groups. Experienced in poker? It wouldn't have helped!
It took our group 6 rounds to trade in our chips and obtain dominoes so that all were utilized. And it wasn't easy. Each time we had a round, if there were team members who didn't have a domino in his or her possession for protection, that member died. You can see that we weren't terribly successful early on......16 died in round one out of about 18 of us. Ooops!
But as we progressed and debriefed, we noted how we were confused and talked through it. We noted our listening improved and the goals shifted from individual survival to group survival. In rounds four and five, we were close....fewer and fewer died. Our communication and teamwork excelled, even to the point where when offered extra time, we declined.