How Transparency Can Lead Change

Dr. Art Fessler on How Transparency Can Lead Change

What’s one of the hardest moving targets for leaders to hit when it comes to change?

Why would you want to create a branding guide for your district?  Why is the common language so important when articulating what change means in your school?

In this episode Will Richardson talks with Dr Art Fessler, who’s the superintendent of the CCSD59 in Arlington Heights, Illinois, which is a district Will has visited on a number of occasions over the past few years to see first-hand their efforts to bring a highly traditional school into the modern world.  Out of all the schools he has visited, he believes no one is doing a better job of communicating what real change looks like to the community than this one.

Dr Fessler was appointed Superintendent for CCSD59 in 2013; prior to that he was Superintendent at Oak Lawn-Hometown District 123 for 3 years, following nearly 13 years in Principal and Assistant Superintendent positions.

Highlights from their conversation include:

  • How do we prepare the kids to be successful for their lives?
  • Is relevance as a moving target? The best strategies that you use to help people define that relevance target from where it is right now right
  • The value of leaders modelling as learners.
  • The importance of moving from a deficit model of learning to a strength-based model.
  • What it takes to drive a new paradigm and ask teachers to step out of their comfort zone and start collaborating with others and sharing their great ideas.
  • What are the secrets to breaking old habits? Teachers have a lifetime of experiences that are contrary to what we’re asking them to do. What can you do to help them see benefit in changing practice?
  • The value of common language
  • What is the biggest change between a classroom that articulates the District vision versus the traditional classroom?
  • The benefit of asking what you want your kids to learn and then how does that learning connect to our vision of learning?
  • How can we get your teachers to ask deep, powerful, meaningful questions? Is there still a role for recall?
  • Exploring some examples of a different type of ‘flipped learning’. How can we ensure our kids actually learn how to be learners; that they’re asking the questions?
  • The value in teachers understanding how children learn, and what role devices can play in their learning.
  • How do we get kids passionate about coming to school?
  • The importance of student autonomy, and the benefit of granting student’s agency over their learning.
  • Who should control content, when and why?
  • What we can learn from understanding how students learn outside the classroom.
  • The benefits of transparency. Examples of the resources that schools can use to better communicate across all sectors of their community.
  • How transparency impacts on change.
  • How vision, branding and change should connect to bring a community together.
  • Why culture is so critical. In particular the importance of building culture in a time of significant change.
  • The importance of the conversations that parents are having with their children about the changes in their schooling.
  • The importance of understanding the modern learning landscape
  • How to address the challenges of change, and where a leader’s first focus should be.

Links to Topics Mentioned in this Podcast



Backward Design

Minecraft in the Classroom

Student agency

59 in 59


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