Monday, September 25, 2017

When the School Leadership Falls Victims of 'Edifice Complex' Syndrome

By:  Gilbert M. Forbes
DepEd Quezon, Region IV-A  (CALABARZON)

For quite a long time, more than two decades already, it has been experienced and observed that much focus have been directed and given to institutional projects otherwise known as ground improvements (landscaping) or beautification projects of all sorts among our schools.  So much investment without careful planning is spent in these project without considering its continuing maintenance cost or sustainability and returns on investment.  Teachers too are not prevented or excused from shelling their monetary share in the process. 

Delaire Elementary School  in Pennsauken, NJ, USA
At the outset, it isn't surprising to see our schools look like a mini-park or resembles a resort!  I am particularly afraid that many of us particularly school leaders have been infected with the so called 'edifice complex' syndrome or sickness. Unfortunately, we might be setting aside some of the most important things unintentionally. Sad to say, some authorities whose main function is curriculum and instructional supervision are encouraging, tolerating even making it as indicator of how good or better the school, its stakeholders and the school leadership is.

Surprisingly, schools in other countries particularly those which are topnotch when it comes to education like Japan and Finland or even the United States, a super power country have simpler school landscapes, even interiors as compared to the Philippines.

SO SIMPLE: A typical Japanese rural school.
With this, it is thought that it would be better to look back at our priorities.  What is really needed by our pupils and students.  How do these interventions going and is going to affect teaching-learning process and so the performance of our learners and quality of education in a larger perspective?

Probably, engineers and architects tasked to construct our school buildings should already consider and include specific landscape and designs for our schools to follow and maintain so that not much financial resources are spent for it.  In a third world economy and in a country where less than 5% of the GDP is allotted to education, it is a great relief.  

Financial resource commonly generated by the stakeholders can then be allotted to most important and much needed things, i.e., instructional materials which are the immediate source and instrument that will help raise educational performance and academic standards of our schools.  More so, on other ways that will strengthen and improve basic education performance indicators.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Being Whole, Becoming Holy: Upholding the Integrity Among Education Leaders

By:  Fr. Roderick C. Salazar Jr.
Director, SVD Mission Philippines, Inc.
First National Assembly of Education Leaders, Sept. 20- 22, 2017, PICC Manila Philippines

There is a philosophical principle first in intention last in execution.  Being and becoming on one side and whole in holy on the other side.  The word paired with being is whole.  The word that is introduced by becoming is holy.  Leaders then or its singular form leader and related words lead and leadership.  Among the many definitions of leadership the one that I like best is what Vance Packard wrote in his book The Pyramid Climbers.  He said, in essence leadership appears to be the art of getting others to want to do something that you are convinced should be done.  Towards, in that phrase, make it stand out from other definitions.  To want.  Take this away and you might indeed still get people to do something that you are convinced should be done but you’ll have exercised may not be leadership anymore.  It could very well be martial law, dictatorship.  But with these two words to want what is revealed is that leadership is really a matter of the heart.  The leader so touches the inner being of so stirs the soul that react of following which follows is a choice made freely motivated from within.

What this notion side by side with the usual of idea of leadership as taking charge and getting things done. Contrast this with the familiar picture of corporate management on the one side and the work force on the other side bargaining with bonuses and incentives, rewards and benefits and listen to these questions of James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner in their book The Leadership Challenge.  If that has been normal, picture of management and leadership in corporate characters.  What of those who have no bonuses to give, no promotions to offer and no performance to write.  What of those who cannot pay any compensation and yet asked us to contribute our time, our resources, our services, our energies, even our lives.  What of those who must rely upon our willingness, our internal motivation, to give ourselves to some just cause.  Do they not lead?  Keep this in mind so that we can be ready to look at transformational leadership. 

The idea and term was first introduced by James MacGregor Burns in his Pulitzer Prize winning book published in 1978.  Bernard M. Bass would later expand his idea and so would a host of other writers.  Putting together the contributions of these individuals we can differentiate between transactional and transformational leadership.  The first is characterized as the exchange of valued things that serve the individual interest.  This turns in contrast to collective efforts focus towards common interest.  Transactional leadership is a process of exchange the root word being Trans meaning between and act or action, Trans act, transactional leadership, the leader in this case clearly specifies what he or she wants.  Determines what the employees want and brokers the contractual exchange of the two.  So the contractual relationship is based on agreed upon goals and minimum acceptable performance levels.  Rewards for satisfactory performance or penalty for unsatisfactory work.  The negotiation that is involved the exchange or transaction that occurs lead to the naming to this kind of leadership transactional. 

Management understood in the traditional sense is equated with it.  By contrast, transformational leadership occurs when one or more persons engage with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality.  We ask ourselves then, what shall we do?  We ask ourselves who are we dealing with transactions or we transforming people?  What is the kind leadership that we are doing?

In his 1978 work, Burns mentioned the importance of a leader in both imparting and compelling forces and in leveraging his or her charismatic personal qualities in support of the vision.  So when, Bernard Bass took of the pulpit, he said that transformational leadership is comprise of charismatic leadership distances of reasoning and inspiring others to follow the vision.  Individualize consideration which concerns the leader developing the follower and intellectual stimulation, new ways of thinking, problem finding and solving.  To these others would add the importance of visioning, promoting shared values, culture shaping, role modeling, trusting and empowering.  The theory is that these practices inspire followers to exert extra effort, become self-led leaders and enhance commitment to the common purpose of the group and the leader.  

Indeed Burns sees leadership as inducing followers to act to certain goals that represent the values and the motivation.  The wants, the needs, the aspirations and expectations of both leaders and followers.  In other words, leadership is a relationship between leaders and followers who are acting interactively to attain some purpose. 

And this is what Burns, Packard said which I quoted earlier, leadership is the art of getting others to want to do something that you are convinced should be done.  For when a vision is shared and the longing for it has become common to both leader and follower, then the movement towards the goal comes quite naturally.  And one then knows that leadership has been exercise.  Leadership is an art and stirs the followers from the heart.

Taking off from the concepts just presented, two others offer their insights without actually using the terms transformational.  James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, who were also quoted earlier, articulated the idea even more.  And their research on leadership they found out that leader is at their best when they challenge, inspire, enable, model and encourage.  A shorter way of differentiating transactional from transformational leadership is to look at the spelling of the verb to lead.  It starts with an L and end with a D.  L E A D that is transformational.  If you reverse the first letter and the last letter it become D E A L, it becomes transactional.  

How do you deal with your people?  Where are we at this words and goods familiar not to ask that we try to use them from our position in the organization? What do you think ourselves?  Because we are the director and the president and the superintendent and the supervisor, who are we?  

Stories told that once Mohammad Ali boarded a plane and when it was about to take off, the announcement came that everyone should fasten their seatbelts.  And when the stewardess walks the aisle to check everyone complied.  She approached Mohammad Ali and politely said sir, “Please fasten your seatbelt.”  Mohammad Ali arrogantly answered loud enough for everyone to hear.  “I am the greatest.  I don’t need any seatbelt.  I am superman.”  Without missing a deep, the stewardess asked politely replied, “then please superman, get off the plane and fly.” And wordlessly, the greatest just put on his seatbelt.

Are we the greatest because of the title that we have?  In another occasion in an airport, the check-in counter was swarm with people waiting to be served when a man drunk the queue and demanded that he be served first.  The clerk said, “Sir please takes your turn and the queue.”  The man shouted and said, “Don’t you know who I am?”  And the clerk took the public address system and announces, “Ladies and gentlemen, there is a man here at the check-in counter, who does not know who he is.  Anyone who knows him, please come and identify him.”  Amused chuckles of the people, the man who did not know who he was immediately took his place in the queue. 

Do you know who I am?  Do you know who you are?  Are you that kind of leader who will rise only on titles and positions?  Let us now look at where we are supposed to be as leaders in education. 
Integrity also comes from the Latin word which means whole.  Corruption breaks the heart, the core of your value.  That’s the reason why so many problems in our country today because heart has come to do hell.  If you don’t have your heart whole, corruption follows.  

A person of integrity is living rightly not divided.  It is not being a different person in different circumstances.  A person of integrity is the same person in private that he or she is in public.  Integrity is related to the word integrating which means the result of infusing together of different parts into a coherent consistent whole. 

Public and private life is the same for the person of integrity.  Integrity is what we do when you are not aware that your children are looking and listening.  Integrity is who we really are on the inside.  Other descriptions of integrity are what you see is what you get and who you are when nobody is looking.  Integrity is the wholeness which is the first part of my title of this talk.  Being whole.  It is doing what you say you’ll do. 

In the words of Jesus about love and our relationship with God, you shall love the Lord your God with a whole heart.  With a whole soul.  With your whole mind.  With your whole strength.  Love your neighbor as you love yourself.  Whole, entire, complete, not a fraction.  No time in the history of our nation is this world integrity find out for fulfillment.  In the times and by some about elected leaders and the followers, we are besieges with lies and fake news, and killings and insults and tens of lies and more lies.  Where are we going?  Where is the integrity of this beloved nation Philippines? 

At least this assembly is looking at what integrity requires.  What is happening?  It is indeed timely that starting today on the anniversary of the declaration of martial law in our country where different positions on leadership and integrity are raised.  Without integrity, where are we?
This is not easy.  If my leader above me says or does something patently wrong.  Or even evil, what should I do?  If I speak up for the right and true, I may lose my job.  This is an existential situation.  There are no easy answers. 

Genuinely loving those God has placed in our life’s path is the starting point of that influence.  Add to that a commitment to using every ability, God has given us to be the best that we can be regardless of what we do or where we are and you have a recipe for leadership to succeed.  This is really what leading from the heart is all about. 

Leading and leading from the heart as God designed it means our relationships are always central to our actually being the best that we can be.  We make mistakes, we fall.  We sinned but the God who called us to be whole will help us to become holy.  There will be so many temptations in our lives.  We betray our faith, our values, and our loves.  We make compromises but we must rise after every fall.

There is a song that most Filipinos know.  The story behind the song My Way is that after decades of being in the entertainment world, Frank Sinatra felt that he should retire.  He asked a fellow singer who is also a composer Paul Anca to propose a signature song for Sinatra’s farewell concert which is how Paul gave him the song with the catchy first line. “Farewell tour of Frank Sinatra, ladies and gentlemen, Frank Sinatra.”  He goes up on the stage, “And now, the end is near.  And so I face the final curtain.”  You know that song did say in the proud final line, “I did it my way.” 

It is truly great for a leader to do things his or her way.  It is the mark of originality.  But in the moral scheme of things, each ones way is not God’s way.  The life would be a failure.  Jesus would say it.  “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but suffer the loss of his soul.” 

Back to the Frank Sinatra’s story, so after his farewell tour, telling people to do things his way, he retired but the entertainment body in him refuse to go.  After some years, the world knows that he is on a comeback tour.  “Huh, he already said good bye.”  But he goes to Paul Anca and he said Paul, write me a song.  “I thought that was the lost song for you.”  “Come on Paul, give me a song.”  He did.  “Ladies and gentlemen, Frank Sinatra, in his comeback tour!”
I know I said that I was leaving,
but I just couldn't say good-bye.
It was only self-deceiving
to walk away from someone who
Means everything in life to you.
You learn from every lonely day
I've learned and I've come back to stay.
Let me try again; let me try again.

We must learn to say, Lord, let me try again.  Upholding.  It really means to hold on up.  For everyone to see.  For us not to be ashamed of who we are.  Uphold.  Hold up.  It is not meant to make a ghost of who we are but it is also what Jesus said, “We must be the light of the world.  Who you are.  Stand up for others to see.  Not for your own benefit but for the sharing of the light to this world. 

If God made us body and soul.  Matter and spirit.  He meant for us to do whole, integral.  We cannot be whole or holy unless God holds us up.  Integrity is wholeness.  Wholeness is holiness.  This is what each have all wants try to achieve.  The goal the end must be clear even if the way is not easy.  We need God.  And we need one another.

Many years ago in 1963, there was the popular movie entitled The Cardinal.  It was about a priest who became a cardinal despite his having vouch of unfaithfulness to his vocation.  There is a lovely song connected to the film which of us can learn, priest or not, religious or lay, learn in sing and pray when struggle to uphold our integrity.

Should my heart not be humble, should my eyes fail to see,
Should my feet sometimes stumble on the way, stay with me.
Like the lamb that in springtime wanders far from fold,
Comes the darkness and the frost, I get lost, I grow cold.
I grow cold, I grow weary, and I know I have sinned,
And I go seeking shelter and I cry in the wind,
And though I grope and I blunder and I kneel and I'm wrong,
Though the rose buckles under where I walk, walk along
'Til I find to my wonder every task lead to thee,
Or that I can do is, pray, stay with me.
Stay with me.

God help us.  Hole integrity among education leaders.  Thank you.