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Scott Taylor

Superintendent , Kenilworth Public School District

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Educational leadership

The Battle of Shiloh is considered by American historians as one of the bloodiest wartime fights of the modern era. General Ulysses S. Grant led his troops to Union victory and, as biographer Jean Edward Smith accounts in his highly respected, well researched 2001 book titled "Grant," showed a leadership trait that should be emulated by anyone who strives to win a "battle."

"A general imparts attitude to an army. It is not simply a matter of issuing orders, but infusing spirit and initiative. An inchoate bond develops between a successful commander and the army. His will becomes theirs...The men fought because they knew that Grant expected them to, and they trusted his judgment that they could do so."

The key to the relationship Grant forged with his troops was the success he showed in battle. The general is known to have lost as many battles as he won, but the "wins" he scored in the fighting were significant and game-changing.

Grant's soldiers followed him through thick and thin. I recognize, as an educational leader, that I will have to show successes before I can expect my "troops" to follow my vision. I realize the leaders, teachers, and parents in my schools will not support my work whole-heartedly unless I can prove that their adherence to my plans for student achievement will pay off in the end.


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    Jun 18 2013: Scott--the emotional tie to accomplishing a mission is so vital. The number of complaints I've had from students has been extremely low. The problem is it's impossible to please everyone and the people that love you don't beat down your supervisor's door. I've had student complaints and seen my other students rise up to defend me.

    Most classroom conflicts come from three different objectives that exist in the classroom. There is the teacher's objective which is to have people learn. The student's objective isn't always to learn. What they often want is easy answers or a step-by-step process so they can garner a certain grade. They often crave a paint-by-numbers approach, because it gives them a sense of security. But, those approaches are often least effective in teaching them the skills they need. They have been conditioned to crave certain things that thwart the learning process. Then, there is the objective of the bureaucratic boss, who often just wants to make sure things run smoothly.

    Some of it comes from a flawed leadership paradigm that administrators sometimes possess. They sometimes lead through control. Control is an illusion. Often the most controlling people are the ones that have least control of a situation. There is a huge difference between being in control and being controlling. It's the difference between influence and coercion. I much prefer the influence paradigm.

    An instructor is often the middle man between grade grubbers and pencil jockeys. Unfortunately, the system has often been set up by the pencil jockey. So, the system rewards conformity and squashes creativity. Teaching is an incredible art form, but the system treats it like something that can be boiled down to a cook book recipe. Teachers are often forces to be intellectual line-order cooks as opposed to mental Mozarts!
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      Jun 18 2013: Wouldn't you equate "control" with "insecurity?" My experiences tell me the leaders who work in a top-down manner are the least confident.

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