Dr. Lanoue was the 2015 National Superintendent of the Year and Georgia Superintendent of the Year. He was also named one of the nation’s top 50 educational innovators in digital learning as named by Converge Magazine.
At PDL Consultants, he works to inspire teachers and leaders to create learning cultures that help all students achieve success.
In our chat we’ll cover how superintendents can create learning centered cultures and how Dr. Lanoue and his team work with schools in the field to help them do this.
If you’re looking to get insights from a well-rounded education leader, then you’re in the right place.
- (01:07) – Dr. Lanoue’s Background
- (01:12) – What led Phil to pursue a career in education.
- (04:28) – How the wide variety of Phil’s life experiences has contributed to his educational career.
- (05:33) – Discussing his progression for teacher to principal to superintendent.
- (09:41) – Phil remembers his proudest achievements during his tenure as Clarke County Superintendent.
- (10:01) – Increasing graduation rates.
- (10:32) – Revolutionizing the way they approached their work with kids.
- (10:54) – Creating outside supports.
- (11:23) – Taking risks and letting students grow and learn.
- (12:06) – The approach to risks that they took.
- (12:30) – The example of the career academy that Phil created while at Clarke County.
- (14:04) – The example of offering biology to middle school students with the opportunity for high school credits.
- (15:21) – Serving Every Student
- (15:42) – Phil explains what learner centered culture is and the challenges school administrators face when trying to develop their own.
- (16:12) – The issues with the accountability system.
- (15:42) – Phil explains what learner centered culture is and the challenges school administrators face when trying to develop their own.
- (18:43) – Commercial Break
- (20:54) – How PDL Consultants can help
- (21:12) – Phil explains what causes a school or district to reach out to his consulting firm for help.
- (23:30) – Phil walks us through a typical engagement.
- (23:39) – Aligning belief systems with actions.
- (24:38) – Common language for conversations.
- (24:49) – Using metrics for school improvement planning.
- (25:18) – Initial evaluations of schools and/or districts.
- (25:26) – The critical nature of conversations.
- (26:27) – The response from education leaders to Phil’s consulting style.
- (27:22) – What schools and districts need to do to get the most out of his service.
- (28:41) – Parting advice for school administrators
- (29:07) – Advice Phil would have given his younger self.
- (29:07) – Patience in implementing change.
- (30:21) – Understanding people’s readiness to change.
- (31:34) – Tangible advice for superintendents and thought leaders in the education space.
- (31:58) – Reflect on how much time was spent on instruction versus ‘adult’ issues.
- (32:34) – The hard questions to ask yourself.
- (34:35) – Technological innovations to be aware of.
- (36:26) – Advice for superintendents just starting or who may feel stuck.
- (36:47) – Stay healthy.
- (37:34) – Focus on your kids.
- (29:07) – Advice Phil would have given his younger self.
- (38:39) – What do you spend too much time doing?
- (38:46) – What do you spend not enough time doing?
- (38:56) – What do you wish more people knew about your job?
- (39:16) – What emerging trends in education are you keeping an eye on?
- PDL Consultants: Dr. Lanoue’s consulting firm.
- PikMyKid (18:43): The first and only school dismissal and student safety application which sponsors the show.
- The Emerging Role of Superintendents in Leading Schools and Communities to Educate All Children. (21:46): Dr. Lanoue’s soon to be published book.
Where to learn more:
If you want to reach out and get in touch with Dr. Lanoue tune into the show for his personal email or head to PDLConsultants.com.
Pat: 0:00:00.2 Today, I’m talking with Dr. Philip Lanoue. A former superintendent who now runs the education research and leadership firm, PDL Consultants. Dr. Lanoue was the 2015 National Superintendent of the Year with the ASA as well as the 2015 Georgia Superintendent of the Year. He was also named one of the nation’s top 50 educational innovators in digital learning as named by Converge Magazine.
0:00:30.3 At PDL Consultants, he works to inspire teachers and leaders to create learning cultures that help all students achieve success.
In our chat we’ll cover how superintendents can create learning centred cultures and how Dr. Lanoue and his team work with schools in the field to help them do this. If you’re looking to get insights from a well-rounded education leader, than you’re in the right place.
0:00:54.2 Welcome to the show Dr. Lanoue.
Dr. Lanoue: 0:00:56.0 Great thanks Pat, it’s a pleasure being here today.
Pat: 0:00:59.7 Thank you, it’s an honour having you on board and can I call you Phil going forward?
Dr. Lanoue: 0:01:04.1 I think Phil works just perfect today.
Pat: 0:01:07.5 Awesome, awesome. So let’s start you know, in the beginning. What led you to pursue a career in education?
Dr. Lanoue: 0:01:12.1 Well that’s a good opening line and Pat, I got a couple of the questions here before hand so I’ve had time to think about that a bit.
And I really want to take it back further than that, because I think that’s the question all of us are asking about schools, is how did we get to where we’re at today.
0:01:34.1 And I look back at my own travels, and I’ve been very fortunate, but my travel started as a boy living in Northern Vermont in a town of 200 with parents who didn’t go on to school, and I think my grandfather was a fisherman. Probably went through the second grade.
0:01:50.4 And you have to wonder, how did you – what happened? I worked in the paper mills and mines, how did you move forward? And I look back on that and there really aren’t any – I don’t remember conversations with my parents about going on to school, but there was something inherent about it that you were going to go on.
0:02:13.1 And that’s the big question for me, and I think it’s a big question for all of us across the country, why is it that in some communities, why is it that some kids are ready to go on and other kids don’t see that for themselves.
And having worked in the highest performing high schools, leading those schools in Massachusetts to working in the most impoverished area.
0:02:36.5 The big question is why – what do we get kids to see for themselves? And what does that take? And what does that mean? Because there’s a huge disparity across this country, I think, of what kids see for themselves. And I think that’s the essence of public education and we can go back to that.
0:02:55.7 As far as myself, I don’t think there’s one of those things where I woke up when I was 12 years old and said I’m going to be a superintendent or a teacher. And I took those normal travels and when on to college.
0:03:09.3 But I had people that made a difference for me, and I think somewhere along the line I wanted to be a teacher. And it was in college. I was a pre-med student, I was a biology major and at some point in time, I continued to work with kids and I said, “You know, there’s something really tremendously about this.”
And there’s something that I think adults need to enter into that foray of how do we make an impact for children. 0:03:34.5 I’m not sure I was that deep at age 21. But as you began to move through and you go back everyday with just loving what you’re doing and not thinking you could do something else, that really led me on that track to enter into education.
Pat: 0:03:50.2 Wow, that is, that’s loaded. So a town of 200 people.
Dr. Lanoue: That was a long answer wasn’t it.
Pat: 0:03:55.8 No, that was awesome, and thank you for the background because in my research I couldn’t get back that far. So, I’m glad you brought that in.
It begs the question, a town of 200 working in a mill, now you are one of the top educators of the country.
When you look back, were there turns and twists out there which gave you the early indications that teaching was your destiny? That education was your destiny? Or one thing rolled into another and it just morphed into…
Dr. Lanoue: 0:04:28.0 I think it probably rolled into another, but I aspired and I saw people that I thought were impactful, and I took a probably unusual position from someone coming from a very modest background.
And I would look at someone and say, “I can do that. I can do that.” And it wasn’t like I was overly driven, I just said I can do that and so I taught for six years and then went into administration and took my first principalship, I was 30.
0:04:59.5 And then at age 32 I was the principal at the largest high school in Vermont of which I student-taught there ten years earlier. So, you know, I think I just probably got a little lucky. I mean I think you have to be a little lucky, but again, it’s continuing to take risks with yourself.
And that’s probably going to be another piece that we can talk about is how we begin to take adult risk with kids. Which I think is really important and I think there are probably adults out there that took risks with me and that’s why I’m here today.
Pat: 0:05:33.3 On that note, making the switch from being the teacher to principal to superintendent, how did that look like for you? I mean, were you reluctant? Were you hesitant? Was there friction or was it just a natural progression for you?
Dr. Lanoue: 0:05:49.2 I think it was probably a pretty natural progression. But as I look back on it, I’m just amazed at how much I didn’t know.
Pat: Yeah, absolutely.
Dr. Lanoue: 0:06:00.3 I mean, I look and go – I’m a principal at age 30 and my role was to pick up the pieces after a teacher strike in Vermont, and you look around and go, “I thought I knew a lot.”
And I really had good intentions and I think a good philosophical underpinnings of what I was going to do, but I think my skill set was still probably pretty modest.
Pat: 0:06:22.4 Yeah and at that point, do you want to touch on what the age demographic of your teachers was averaged? And how was it challenging for you?
Dr. Lanoue: 0:06:33.6 You know, I really didn’t look at it that way. But here’s what I’ve said about of going into the principal and superintendent. I never went in to the job thinking that I had to prove I’m the principal. I am the principal. And I think that’s some of the advice I’ve given to administrators.
0:06:52.4 You don’t have to prove anything. You have to be a good leader. And you have to begin to tap in and empower others to do the best work with a level of clarity. 0:07:02.0 And the other part is you can’t say – ignore things that don’t work. And that’s the hardest part.
I’ve had – probably the most difficult situation is with an assistant principal I had at Burlington High School that ten years earlier or 15 was my high school football coach. 0:07:20.9 And to make conversations about some things that weren’t working or were, were hard. The hardest conversations I ever had.
0:07:27.4 And I think in moving to the administration is not – Are you willing to make those hard conversations? But you can’t make the conversations hard. If you know what I mean. You just have to engage in them.
So I don’t know 0:07:46.3 [Inaudible – laughter] maybe that was it. I don’t know. But you’re right, when I went to Burlington High School, again, I was first principal outside the district in 70 years and I student-taught there ten years earlier and so knew people from a different light.
But I would have to say the biggest piece is a level of respect for the roles that we each had. 0:08:05.7 So it wasn’t about being vertical in that structure, it’s focusing on the work happening in schools.
And we had different responsibilities and I had one as principal and they had one as teacher or whatever role they had. 0:08:17.9 So I guess I would look back – I never really spent a lot of time.
Pat: 0:08:21.0 That’s being comfortable in your skin and being confident in what you do. I think that.
Dr. Lanoue: 0:08:25.9 Yeah. I think you have to have confidence and you have to be willing to learn. As I look back, I think some of my biggest strengths today — if you’d asked me 25 years ago, I’d say it’s by far my largest weakness.
0:08:40.7 So I think sometimes when you say you’re not really good at something, you can either be really fast action and get better at it or you get better at it methodically. And I just got better at it methodically. And that was curriculum and 0:08:51.8 [Inaudible – Cross Talk]
Pat: 0:08:52.0 [Edit Out] So you 0:08:55.1 [Edit Out – Cross Talk]
Dr. Lanoue: 0:08:57.4 I would tell people really, as we look at today, I tell people if I had teachers that taught the way I 0:09:03.9 [Inaudible – Laughter] – I’m not sure, it’s just a whole different age. So you learn.
And I think that’s some of the lessons we have to learn as leaders and as teachers is that people have this natural ability but it takes time to mature. It takes [Inaudible – Cross Talk]
Pat: 0:09:20.0 Absolutely. You had a long and illustrious run as Clarke County Superintendent for seven years right? Seven and a half years.
So if I could dig into that and if you could pick out what really stands out for you when you look back as your most proud achievement while superintendent at Clarke County.
Dr. Lanoue: 0:09:41.5 Sure. Well first of all, I think there are a lot of them and they’re not mine to own. They’re the district’s to own. But I think there are several things that happened that I feel really good about and first of all, we created cultures where the focus really was on children.
0:10:01.7 It wasn’t about excuses, and we could have easily done that with a 0:10:03.7 [Inaudible] hot lunch rate of about 88% and a graduation rate for African-Americans in 2004 that was 45%.
0:10:13.3 Could have easily looked at that as excuses, but I’m really proud that we kept focus on the conversations. We didn’t have excuses.
We allowed people to takes some risk and I’m sure that wasn’t perfect with everyone, but we created systems where leaders were the instructional leaders and that was our conversation.
0:10:32.2 The other is that they were very high tech. 101((?)) grades 3-12 and really tried to revolutionize the way we approached our work with kids. It was very, very different. We gave teachers safe landings. Do some things differently.
0:10:46.5 And I think in a high-poverty district, because Athens was the fifth most impoverished county per capita in the country, I think that says a lot about the work.
0:10:54.9 The other was creating a lot of outside supports. And that is that we looked at the work of the schools beyond the boundaries of school. And it wasn’t in excusing but it takes an approach that we’re all responsible here. And I think for too often in this recent accountability, it’s been one of those things where the schools do it all and then you look outside and sort of erase those boundaries. We’re all in that together.
0:11:23.9 And the final is, and I mentioned this earlier, is that we took risk. Adult risk with kids. I think right now we’re finally talking about what children can do differently. We’re not putting them in their lanes. We’re allowing them to not put barriers, like pre-requisites that stymie kids, but in fact let them grow and try and support them and don’t penalize them if they don’t get there.
Pat: 0:11:52.6 That is awesome. The thing is you talk about risk over and over again, and my background as a fighter pilot, we’re taught to take risk, but again, calculated risk. Not blunt risk right? That’s great. Absolutely, absolutely.
Dr. Lanoue: 0:12:06.8 They’re not random. They’re not random. They’re within – I think when we talk about risk, you have to have a set of principles. And which you work from. That you almost have to draw what you do through those.
And if those are moving to kids to places they never thought they could be, then you can’t do the work that keeps them where they thought they could be. Or other people thought they could be.
0:12:30.7 I’ll give you a good example if I can, because I think this really gets to the point. Actually there are two. One of them while at Clarke County, we had a career academy. And a career academy was really contracted out.
We worked with Athens Technical College so our kids could go to college. So, we started, we had 82 dual enrolment credits I think that opening year before the career academy. Yeah dual enrolment credits. I get college credit, I get high school credit.
0:12:57.6 And when you break that down, that was I think 13 of those went to our African-Americans, some hispanic and those to a multi-racial light. 0:13:07.7 We put this in place and there were a lot of critics said, “Why you doing that? They can’t graduate. You’ve got a graduation rate of 63%. Why are you doing this? What are you doing?”
And I said, “Well, 0:13:17.4 [Inaudible] the position or we all did, that says if we shine a light on it, we can change it. If you shine a lite, we can do it. Nothing’s perfect, but we can move the needle.”
And I would say that the last year after three years, that 82 dual enrolment credits went to somewhere around 430. 0:13:36.1 And of those 430, 220 went to our African-American students and 60 to our Hispanic students, and I’m really pleased to say that the number one student the last year we left was a migrant worker, undocumented 0:13:53.0 [Inaudible – Cross Talk] 43 college credits.
Pat: 0:13:55.8 You changed lives. Changed people’s lives absolutely.
Dr. Lanoue: 0:14:04.3 I mean there’s one other – I don’t want to take all the time, but I think this is really important, is another situation where we moved biology. You’re probably aware of this. We moved different. 9-10 grade, every five years, they move it somewhere.
So we moved biology from 10th to 9th grade and then 9th grade, we didn’t know what to do with our earth science. Well, actually with physical science.
So we just said let’s offer it in 8th grade for students to get high school credit. 0:14:34.0 But here was the difference. We had one pre-requisite. Do you want to take it? It wasn’t 0:14:41.8 [Inaudible]. And we had out of about 850 8th graders, I think we had 235 take it that year, and half of one school which was 96% hot lunch and 80% minority. Or 90% minority, over half of their kids took it.
Then our teachers said, if our kids take it, we’ll get it down. 0:15:07.5 And at the end of that first year, out of 235 kids, 229 passed the state entrance course and 190 scored 90% or better. Pre-requisite, do you want to take it?
Pat: 0:15:21.2 That really makes the pine. So I know you’ve listened and spoken a lot about developing learner centred cultures to better serve our students. Right?
First, what exactly is learner centred culture and what challenges do school administrators face when trying to develop their own?
Dr. Lanoue: 0:15:42.5 Sure. Let me sort of preface this, because I think it all ties back to the most recent accountability systems, whether it’s NCLB or the Student Success Act or whatever state legislators have on your plate.
And I worked in very high-poverty, and I will share with you, I think standards are really important in closing the achievement gap and I think accountability is. I don’t think schools as a whole were as accountable as they should be. 0:16:12.6 They’re accountable to some students but not others.
And so I think this accountability factor changed the game, but if you look back on that, most of that is about teaching and supporting standards, tests, remediations, all those terms that went into this cycle.
0:16:33.7 In fact, I would question those that talk about the testing cycle and the industrial model. When you go into a heavy testing cycle, think about it, it’s about as industrial model as you’re going to get.
The kids come through the lines, if they don’t pass the test, you send them back through the line. Or you send them – you do something with them. You don’t send them out the door. So it’s really the biggest factor.
0:16:59.5 So, what I’m saying is, let’s go to a learner centric model. In the old model I used to say this, “That every data point had a face.” And I was really proud of that. And I’ve changed that. And now I go, “Every face has multiple data points that we have to understand.” 0:17:16.1.
And it’s a huge shift into that learner centric about how do we tap into student’s individual interests. And we’re starting to have the tools, with the adaptability tools, to begin to understand those leaners.
So in fact, I’ve just wrote a line in the book I’m writing, I was just doing the summary, I did it yesterday thinking a lot about it, so it’s a really good question.
0:17:38.0 And what I really said is, “We have to focus on instruction. But if we don’t focus on what kids need and who they are, not what they know, then we’re going to minimize the outcome.”
0:17:52.8 So when we talk about learner centric, we’re talking about choices, we’re talking about focusing in on the attributes of what that student is interested in and then using that to stimulate the work that we know within our standards.
0:18:08.5 And so when I say learner centric, what I’m really saying is we’re probably going to go to a much more competency base, we’ve got to let kids move through on their own time, we’ve got to give them choices, we have to understand what metrics we’re going to use for content, and move in a very, very different way. But the focus here is to learn 0:18:29.8 [Inaudible – Cross Talk]
Pat: 0:18:29.8 [Inaudible – Cross Talk] Thanks for putting that in such a succinct manner. So before we get into PDL Consulting, is what you’re doing now, I just want to spend a minute talking about our main sponsor here, if you may humour me.
0:18:43.8 So our main sponsor, I want to thank PikMyKid. I want to take a minute just to explain what they do. Well, you know there’s absolute chaos which happens in schools when kids get out at 2:30.
Traffic jams, kids getting into cars, buses, traffic around school neighbourhoods, pedestrians all over the place, so what’s on the hearts and minds of all of us is the safety of our children.
0:19:08.8 But using walkie-talkies, clipboards, sticky notes, bullhorns, is not the best use of today’s technology. So what PikMyKid did, is provide a comprehensive set of tools to schools and school districts to manage all aspects of school safety.
They have a real-time parent notification system, a panic button feature, visitor management and a complete set of suite of tools to manage the entire dismissal process. Parents are able to stay engaged on the platform, because they get real-time push notifications about the status of their children, whether their kid is in a car, going home by bus, or walks home.
So the biggest win for schools and school districts with PikMyKids adoption is more on efficient levels of dismissal, optimal use of the staff and also safety of the children. Ends up in better communication and to sustain a strong community.
So that is what PikMyKid is all about, I think they work from a school to a district level and now they’re in about 25 states and growing pretty rapidly.
0:20:17.1 Alright, we got that out of the way, what do you think about that?
Dr. Lanoue: 0:20:22.3 It’s interesting 0:20:25.5 [Inaudible – Cross Talk]
Pat: 0:20:28.2 [Inaudible – Cross Talk] two and a half years and we’re in about 25 states now and yeah, growing pretty decently.
Dr. Lanoue: Good. Great. I mean it sounds – I think the relationship between schools and businesses is paramount if we’re going to work in this tech space. 0:20:51.7 [Inaudible – Cross Talk].
Pat: 0:20:54.8 I would love to hear more about how PDL Consultants helps districts and leaders improve.
What typically causes a school or a district to reach out to you and how you can help them. If you can just walk us through down that process.
Dr. Lanoue: 0:21:12.0 Sure. And I will certainly do that. But let me just start by – think what’s most important is how we build capacity in leaders. I work closely on our webpage, you can see with Dr. Sally Zepeda 0:21:23.0 who from the University of Georgia who is renowned in curriculum and instruction, and we’ve been spending most of the last six or eight months on a book we’re putting together.
0:21:33.2 We have a contract with Rowman & Littlefield and that hopefully – hopefully that will be on the shelves or online in June. And it’s called, The Emerging Role of Superintendents in Leading Schools and Communities to Educate All Children. 0:21:46.4
And so what we’re doing at that particular time – in this time, is really beginning to redefine what leadership looks like if we’re going to make a difference. And so the bulk of our work in this arena has been – we have to begin the design in architects schools for the world in which kids will live in and not ours.
0:22:05.4 And right now I think most of our schools are designed in the way the schools looked for us ten or 15 or 0:22:14.1 [Inaudible – Terrible Recording] years ago. Even though we may change, we may work around the edges, such as changing periods or time schedules, etc., but the reality is they’re pretty much the same.
So, we’ve been doing the bulk of that work, and then the work in schools that we’re doing is really talking with and working with leaders to want to be the instructional leader, because that’s what I believe is important for all leaders to be, is the lead learner in their school.
0:22:45.9 And we’ve got some things written and work with schools around conversation 0:22:49.0 [inaudible – recording] of how do you begin to have the right conversation with teachers about the work in safe setting, number one to produce better results, but more to produce more effective teaching and more engaging work with kids.
0:23:01.8 So that’s been important. And the other is working with districts that – around how do you align the strategic plan. What does that say and what I’ve said is with a strategic plan is draw a line from everything you say you’re going to do and draw a line to every student and every seat in your district and if they aren’t getting exactly what you said’s going to happen then that’s an adult issue, and there’s a lot of adult issues in the public education system. That’s what we work with.
Pat: 0:23:30.4 So can you walk us through a typical engagement? How does it come about and how does it come about?
Dr. Lanoue: 0:23:39.5 Sure, I mean I just did the most recent and again, we’re still new and fresh at this, so we have a cohort of individuals depending on what schools will need.
I just did one in particular at a leadership conference where their piece was, “How do I as principals begin to engage with my schools to work.” And so it started around beliefs. So we do a lot of work in that. “What do you believe about kids?”
And here’s the hardest thing, is are the actions that you have in your school align to your beliefs or not? And so we really begin taking the processes – you know, it’s pretty inexpensive and pretty easy 0:24:20.2 [Inaudible] to make that happen is really hard at the leadership level.
0:24:22.5 So number one you have to – the whole point is if you believe it, you need to lead it, and you can’t delegate it. 0:24:27.4.
So, so we really began to work within the schools, “What do you really believe in? What does that begin to look like?”
24:38 And then do we then have a common language that we can use around our conversations in our schools. Most of the time I would say this, that leaders ask teachers to do things that they themselves don’t even know what it looks like, or very little consensus.
0:24:49.8 So, we then work with school improvement planning, what kind of metrics do you use to give you information to make mid-course changes. And then how to be flexible. How to actually really be flexible.
And so that’s the last piece we walk you through in training and then we’ll do some follow up. 0:25:09.4 But again, we’re still at the entry level of this, so we do a number of different 0:25:14.2 [Inaudible – Cross Talk]
Pat: 0:25:18.3 So up front, before you engage, do you do some kind of evaluation as a need analysis before you take on clients?
Dr. Lanoue: 0:25:26.9 Right now at this point, we’ve been working closely with the district without going into the district beforehand. My recommendation as we move into this foray. I think what we have come to believe is that conversations are critical.
And we’re working really hard to provide structure and get structures for schools about what conversations.
0:25:52.1 So we just wrote a piece for ASCP that talks about conversation walks. Which is really just – it seems informal, but the informality has really powerful impact when you can walk into a school and jointly understand what do you see.
And if it’s something that isn’t where you want it to be, how do you construct conversations to make it different? 0:26:13.5 And so, yeah, our recommendation – the next point is simply that, let’s just come in and walk with you. That’s all. We’ve got some people, let’s just talk, let’s have a conversation so we can begin to find out where people are at 0:26:25.5 [Inaudible – Cross Talk]
Pat: 0:26:27.7 That’s what I wanted to ask you, do they normally take your advice? Is there pushback? How do they implement? Do they run with it?
Dr. Lanoue: 0:26:36.8 I don’t think – I think for leaders, what we found with leaders is they’re not going to take everything and run with it, and should not. But what we have said is, free to find and where your principals are, your belief structure are, do you know what I mean, and then began to move the needle, but you have to be deliberate about it.
0:27:04.2 So you really have to – when you set your own goals, you have to really determine how I’m going to move the needle here. And it really ranges in different states with different agreements and contractual agreements. I think it really ranges with what people think they can do. But the bottom line is, when they walk 0:27:23.3 [Inaudible – Cross Talk]
Pat: 0:27:22.3 Absolutely. So what are schools and districts need to do to get the most out of your services in the same sense.
One, what is the timelines? Second, what kind of structure they need to have? Just walk me through that.
Dr. Lanoue: 0:27:42.3 Yeah, I think the first thing that I would say is, “What’s your commitment to engaging leaders in conversations outside of the operations of the building?”
You know, that is how do you begin to wrap those conversations around being the instructional leader, which is going to range from school improvement planning to a program design.
0:28:03.3 And of recent, we’re pushing the envelope, what risk are you taking to prepare kids for a world that we don’t live in right now. And trying to get them to build some capacity within their schools so that their teachers can take risk around soft landings and we’ve been pushing hard, of course, the tech space.
0:28:26.9 Because I think the tech space is a game-changer for us if our kids have access. So that’s what I would say at this point. If you want to use our services, what I would say is, you have to be prepared to 0:28:39.6 [Inaudible – Cross Talk]
Pat: 0:28:41.4 So Phil, if you can be a little candid here and let me ask you this question, if you were to go back in time to when principal Phil or assistant superintendent Phil meets todays Phil, right. Meets Dr. Lanoue, what would you advise yourself? Which in hindsight if you look back and say, “Gee, I wish I’d done this differently”, what really stands out for you?
Dr. Lanoue: 0:29:07.4 I think it’s around the difficulties of going around to systems that are struggling. And how much of that process is something we have to get done now. Do you know what I mean? And how much of it is processing to change the entire community.
I think if I had to go back and do it again, do you know what I mean, I would try to find that balance. Because you can be very impatient. 0:29:40.8 And I think what I learned sometimes I was probably impatient.
And one of the lessons that I learned very, very quickly, when there was a program that I taught that needed to be changed and I changed it before I understood how it got there. 0:29:57.6 So what I would do differently is understand 0:30:04.0 [Inaudible – Cross Talk]
Pat: 0:30:03.4 But here’s a little counter argument to that. If you’re not 0:30:06.9 [Inaudible] at that point, you would never get started. If you had known it was so difficult, if you knew the end point, probably – so it’s a little argument against.
Dr. Lanoue: 0:30:21 It probably is. There probably 70% I moved on, because it was the right thing. There were probably a few I would have said, “Oh maybe I would have done something different.” But there’s also something else that I would – that I weigh very carefully.
And that’s people’s readiness to change. I can remember taking one of my principalships and the superintendent sat down with me and said, “By the way Phil, I want you to know that 95% of this faculty has indicated they’re ready for change.”
0:30:57.8 [Inaudible – Cross Talk/Laughter] And then I found out 100% of that 95% wanted somebody else to change. So I want you to know that change is really hard. And it really weighs on your beliefs. Because change is like a rubber band. You can stretch it to another shape, but it just wants to snap back. 0:31:20.7
So what I would go back and I think I did a pretty good job of it – you have to stay true to your convictions through all of the external noise that’s happening. Because I can 0:31:34.8 [Inaudible – Cross Talk]
Pat: 0:31:34.8 …for listeners and superintendents and thought leaders in the education space, what is something a superintendent listening today can go back and say, next week, help build their district’s learning culture differently? Like give us some tangible advice which they can go back next week and put in practice. Yeah.
Dr. Lanoue: 0:31:58.9 I would – Alright, so here’s your tangible advice. The first thing I would say is just reflect over the previous week or two and what did you talk about? How much of that was about instruction? How much of that was performance? How much was that about operations and something else that was an adult problem and not a kid problem.
So that would be the first thing that I’d do, is just go back and say, “How do I engage in conversation about the real work, which is instruction and kids.” That’s number one.
0:32:34.4 The second one is to ask some really hard questions. And that is, “Are we educating kids for our world or their world? 0:32:44.3. And our we educating kids in a way because it still works for some while it doesn’t work for others? And we try to create a dichotomy.
And I would say to superintendents — that people ask me all the time, some kids go to college, some kids do not. And I would say it’s the absolute wrong question. Most of the people that say all kids can’t go to college, I ask, “Where do your kids go?” They say, “College”.
And this is not what I say about college, but what I’m saying is, are we preparing kids to be active learners? 0:33:22.1 Do kids have choices when they leave high school? Do they have the ability to move to different jobs? Do they 0:33:28.3 [Inaudible] to go out in school to do whatever?
Because when you think about it, I would tell superintendents, “If you have something in your mission that says ‘lifelong learning’ are you cutting off when kids graduate” …0:33:42.0 [Inaudible – Cross Talk]
Pat: 0:33:41.2 And I’m glad you keep going back to the thing about kids – are you teaching to the kids’ world or your world and you want to look at it from a different lens when you’re dealing with children.
Dr. Lanoue: That’s right. 0:34:00.5 If you ask, I mean, I speak up, I had some great information coming back about what kids want. This is what kids want in the tech space. They want to be a collaborative of experts. They don’t work in isolation.
They want to talk to each other, they want to solve problems, they want to be untethered from the school and untethered from their classroom. They can access information and they want the tools to access their learning.
It’s very different and I’m not sure what this all means for me, but we have to activate kids’ learning so they really can take some responsibility, can 0:34:35.3 [Inaudible – Cross Talk]
Pat: 0:34:35.5 On the same point, you mentioned technology, what’s a technology innovation you think all superintendents should be aware of?
Dr. Lanoue: 0:34:47.8 Here’s what I would say to superintendents. Never ask what devices you use, because that means you don’t get it. Ok? Alright? And we have to be aware that it’s here to stay.
I think social media, as much as it can be seen of our existence as problematic, it creates incredible opportunities for you to know more about your organization and kids.
0:35:23.0 I would say that technological tools are being in the digital space. If those tools are helping you do what you’re doing now faster or better, stop. Just stop. Because they’re not designed that way.
They’re really designed to provide and give feedback and information about where students are at. 0:35:49.6 I’ve been doing a lot of work lately about the practice space. Rather than do pre and post testing, what would happen if we could determine performance in the practice space.
So there would be no more terms like ‘homework’. 0:36:02.0 It’s irrelevant. It’s how kids practice. And we intervene and engage kids to help them in their practice space and then they can help themselves, because that’s what it’s all about.
0:36:11.6 So when you look into the tech world, we have the tools around adaptability that can allow kids and teachers to 0:36:22.5 [Inaudible – Cross Talk]
Pat: 0:36:26.3 [Inaudible] To tie it all together, what practical advice do you have for administrators who are either starting off or are in a kind of a stuck in their – feel stuck.
Dr. Lanoue: 0:36:42.2 0:36:47.4 So let me start with one, that you have to remain healthy. That you have to be healthy in mind and healthy in what you believe in and 0:37:00.4 [Inaudible – Terrible Recording]. Because if you’re not healthy 0:37:02.5 [Inaudible]. So that’s the part first. You’ve got to balance.
And the second is you have to move up. You have to ask a different set of questions. Not how do we do more of the same, but how you do something that’s different that really taps into where kids are at.
0:37:21.4 And we’re going to have to stand tall against some of the current accountability systems of testing and performance, because you can’t distill all of the interactions that occur everyday in a school into a number. It’s not going to happen.
0:37:34.8. And so what I would say, my parting advice is, go back and focus on your kids. Take them to places they never thought they’d go.
And if I could use these lines, because I think this is really important for me, I would ask that our teachers on the first day of school would ask two questions on the first day when they saw their class. “Who do you see?” Who do you see? The second question is, “What aspirations do you have for them.”
And if they change by the clothes they wear, by the brothers or parents they know, by the colour of their skin, by the language they speak, or the pants they have or don’t have – if they change, leave the profession today.
0:38:15.7 And then my CEO of the career academy said, “Phil, Dr. Lanoue, can I add a third question for this?” I said, “Sure.” He said, “Who do we get them to see for themselves?” So if any advice, do you do that? 0:38:31.6 [Inaudible – Cross Talk] …answer those questions.
Pat: 0:38:32.1 So before we wrap up, we like to ask all our guests a few rapid-fire questions. So the questions will be quick but the answers don’t have to be. 0:38:39.5 So the first one is, what do you currently spend too much time doing?
Pat: 0:38:46.8 What do you not spend enough time doing, wish you had done more?
Dr. Lanoue: 0:38:50.1 Writing.
Pat: 0:38:56.3 Ok. What do you wish more people knew about your job?
Dr. Lanoue: 0:39:00.9 Talking with my children. My job is 0:39:13.3 [Inaudible – Cross Talk] spread what you think across the country.
Pat: 0:39:16.9 What emerging trends in education are you keeping an eye on?
Dr. Lanoue: 0:39:25.2 I’m keeping an eye on right now is vouchers, choice, the impact 0:39:33.3 [Inaudible – Cross Talk]
Pat: 0:39:37.4 And that segues into my next question. In 0:39:33.8 [Inaudible – Cross Talk] technology in today’s education system?
Dr. Lanoue: 0:39:42.9 It is the impact. It – if we – it is the impact. We hear too often that we’re creating a technology gap. That’s an adult problem, not a kid problem. If we allow access. 0:40:01.9 [Inaudible – Cross Talk]
Pat: 0:40:04.1 Comes to my head is denial is not the solution. Absolutely. Yeah, you can’t snatch the phone from them, you’ve got to show them what to do and what they can access.
Dr. Lanoue: Shine a light on it and then it can change. I really believe that. 0:40:21.6 [Tweet].
Pat: 0:40:25.4 That was great 0:40:26.9 [Inaudible – Cross Talk] I’m sure a lot of people want to reach out to you. What is the best way for them to reach out to you?
Dr. Lanoue: 0:40:35.1 Probably the best thing would be an email to Planoue@PDLConsultants.com, that would be easiest. But I’m also 0:40:55.2 [Inaudible – Cross Talk]
Pat: 0:40:55.3 That was so great, thank you so much. And I’m sure – you shared such important advice and I’m sure a lot of people will be reaching out to you for follow up questions. And I could have taken off in so many different angles, but I really had a tough time containing together and staying on task here. Thank you so much for sharing this awesome conversation with me. Thank you for your time.