In this issue...
Keep on Flipping, by Jonathan Martin
SFLC Calendar 2012-2013
Shifting Paradigms and Changing a Culture, by Gary Gruber
Disrupting School, by Tony Gerlicz
Santa Fe Lapel Pin
Santa Fe Leadership Center
Monthly Newsletter
August 2012


Getting ramped up for the school year? Consider this scenario.

" I had a job for eleven years and then I didn't, it was that fast. All around the country, magazines began shuttering, succumbing to a sudden infection brought on by the busted economy.  Writers (my kind of writers: aspiring novelists, ruminative thinkers, people whose brains don't work quick enough to blog or link or tweet, basically old, stubborn blowhards) were through.  We were like women's hat makers or buggy-whip manufacturers: Our time was done." 

- Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl: A Novel

Having just spent the bulk of my summer preparing for and then executing the
Flip. Shift. Disrupt.
Innovative Leadership Seminar, the topics of change and innovation have clearly been on my mind.  Of course, innovation is the buzzword of the year along with "disruptive innovation," Clayton Christensen's explanation for the extinction of once ubiquitous and seemingly unquestioned technologies, concepts and systems.

If I were a pessimist, I might substitute the word "writer" in the above excerpt from this summer's blockbuster novel  with "teacher" or "school leader." Fortunately, I am an optimist, and I believe that teachers and schools will endure, but I also know that we won't do it going about "business as usual."  If we try to hold on too tightly to they way we have always done things, it is possible that schools as we know them will go the way of bookstores, newspapers, the horse and buggy, the DVD and other industries, inventions and companies.  Our time will be done.

And in this same optimistic and opportunistic spirit, we offer you, at the start of your school year, an opportunity to start your year differently, with business intentionally and deliberately NOT as usual.  In fact, we invite you to "FLIP IT" as Jonathan Martin writes in his article, by doing things in exactly the opposite way you have done them before.  Or consider "SHIFTING  YOUR PARADIGMS" as Gary Gruber writes and address cultural changes.  And yes, "DISRUPT SCHOOL" suggests Tony Gerlicz, and manage the inevitable tensions of personalizing learning while holding common expectations.

Where should you begin this idea of reversing business as usual? You might start with a simple question to your faculty at the return of the school year: "What did you do this summer that you have never done before?" and "What was that experience like?"  Or help your faculty to assess how they personally feel about and tolerate change and, without assigning any judgment to that feeling, encourage them to play roles small and large in creating positive and planned change or even, dare we say, innovate.

All of us at the SFLC wish you a terrific start to the year.  We are here to cheer you on, offer support and provide you with professional learning opportunities to keep you refreshed, renewed, innovative, and finding the joy and purpose in your job and your work. 


Carla Silver
Executive Director 




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The 2012-2013 Leadership

Seminar Schedule



October 2013 

The Art and Experience of Leadership, American School in London, October 7-10, 2012   



November 2013 

The Art and Experience of Leadership, Santa Fe, NM, November 11-14



January 2013 

Strategy Bootcamp, San Antonio, Texas, January 18-20, 2013

Registration Opens September 1, 2012


April 2013 

Leadership Unplugged, Santa Fe, NM, April 24-27, 2013  


Summer 2013

Innovative Leadership

Silicon Valley, CA

Dates and Location TBA 



Visit the Santa Fe Leadership Center Website for more information or contact Carla Silver with any questions.   




So what are we going to flip next?  Eight Suggestions for Reversing Business as Usual
by Jonathan Martin, Educational Writer and Consultant

The new school year is launching, and it is a busy time for establishing our academic routines, but don't let this year be another year of business as usual.  Take the opportunity our annually cyclical enterprise provides us to reconsider which of our routines are ready to be reversed. 

It is remarkable how quickly the concept of flipping the classroom surged, spread, and has taken root across a great breadth of schools.   Though it is by no means universal, or universally favored, what a buzz flipping has created.  Some may dismiss the buzz around flip teaching as faddish and short-lived, but I think the buzz is happening because flipping is un-dismissible. 

The speed with which it has spread, however, is not entirely  surprising when we factor the significance of networked learning and social media today.  As Chris Anderson, who is the "curator" of the Ted Talks and a remarkable thinker in his own right, explains in what is one of my very favorite TED Talks, Crowd Accelerated Innovation: "New global communities [are] granting their members both the means and the motivation to step up their skills and broaden their imaginations. It is unleashing [and accelerating] an unprecedented wave of innovation in thousands of different disciplines."  

This article isn't about flipping the classroom; it is about extending the spirit of the flip throughout the work of our schools.  (For more about flipping instruction, see Flip Your Classroom,  the fine new ASCD book from a pair of high school chemistry teachers who pioneered the practice at their rural Colorado high school, or my recent review of the book. )

Dan Pink was the among the first to write on a large platform about flipping instruction (Daily Telegraph, September 2010), and last year he extended the spirit of flipping in a book available free online, the Flip Manifesto, which is entirely worth your perusal.   As he describes it, "The manifesto you have here offers 16 pieces of advice that run counter to-indeed, that often directly contradict-what you might have heard elsewhere."

Borrowing from Pink's example and drawing from the spirit of the recent Olympics and the vitality, charm, and smiling magnanimity of the magnificent Gabby Douglas cartwheeling across the floor exercise, let's flip our way across and throughout our school cultures.   

Flip Meetings.  This is the first and most obvious extension of flipping the classroom; apply the same principle to faculty, board, and other types of meetings.  Instead of taking the precious time of people coming together for the presentations which precede conversations, shift the presentations to video delivered in advance.   Bill Ferriter has written very helpfully about flipping faculty meetings;  Lee Burns at Presbyterian Day School (TN) is flipping his board meetings and reports positively about his success.     
Flip Mission.   We are conditioned after decades of repetition to perceive mission as the ultimate core of our organization, and only occasionally do we see purpose paired with mission, either as a separate statement following mission, or as commitment made within the mission, usually toward the end.   Invert it.   What is most important about our organization isn't what we do but why we do it and the difference we are seeking to make in the world.   
Purpose, Dan Pink has explained so thoroughly in Drive, is what drives people; it is among the primary motivations we know of, along with autonomy and mastery (and let's face it, so much more significant than autonomy and mastery).   Put purpose first, and mission in the subordinate role.  
Flip Sequence.  Doubtlessly there are scores of schools with strong constructivist principles and problem-based learning curricula which don't, but the routine of schooling I observe most often is to put the instruction first, the problem second.  Students observe the lesson, read the book, study the directions, watch the demonstration, and then confront the problem.  

Flip it.   When problems come first, students discover and demonstrate what they already know and what they still need to learn, and instruction follows suit.  As the brilliant Dan Meyer recently wrote,  "Why does Khan Academy make an explanation the very first thing a student experiences with a new topic in math. When we put the explanation first, we get lousy learning and bored students."  
Flip helpfulness.   Continuing with Dan Meyer, whose mathematics education blog is must-reading, consider his haunting and unforgettable two word motto, "less helpful."  

It is so powerfully the impulse of every educator to help, it is encoded in our genetic make-up.  Indeed, it makes us feel great to help: I love helping people (once I overcome my inertia and get out of my chair).   But too much of the time our noble and gratifying impulse doesn't help our students; their learning comes in the struggle, in the lull, in the lag times before we intervene.  Help less to reduce helplessness.  

Flip Testing.   "Ok students, time to put away the books and laptops:  here are your exams."    We've already incorporated calculators into many of our examinations, and some teachers use open book testing regularly.   Now is the time to open the laptops and open the networks for tests and exams.      

Advantages occur on many levels.  Students must develop higher orders of proficiency in search, critical evaluation of web-based information, and use of powerful online tools such as Wolfram-Alpha, all skills which will enormously benefit their future learning and productivity; teachers have to rethink their questions to ensure that they are asking higher order thinking of their students when they demand answers that are not easily google-able.  (Much more about Open computer and open network testing is available here.) 
Flip Facts.   Deeply embedded is the habit of asking students to focus first on mastering the fundamental elements of a particular subject.  "Study this chapter and be sure you know the key facts," we tell them.  But as Harvard Professor Ellen Langer explains in her wonderful writing about mindfulness, when we treat "facts as absolute truths to be learned as is, to be memorized, [we leave]  little reason to think about them.  Then, there is little chance that the information will lead to any conceptual insights or even be rethought in a new context."  

Rather than facts, teach "drawing distinctions:" study multiple perspectives and competing interpretations about each subject.  According to Langer, in every study she's reviewed, the students who drew distinctions tested better: they recalled more information and the essays they wrote were judged to be more creative and intelligent.

Flip Roles.    Life-long learning always been essential, but never as essential as it is today; our professional educators are obligated by their profession both to pursue continuous learning vigorously and to model it for their students.   Our teachers can teach best when they are learning the most and presenting themselves in the mode and manner of learner.   

David Brooks, in his book The Social Animal,  reports on his research about most effective pedagogical  practice, describing the ideal teacher his way: "What mattered most was not the substance of the course so much as the way she thought, the style of learning she fostered. For instance, Ms. Taylor constantly told the class how little she knew.   She stressed the importance of collecting conflicting information before making up one's mind, of calibrating one's certainty level to the strength of the evidence, of enduring uncertainty for long stretches as an answer became clear."   

Meanwhile, our students often learn the most when they are teaching others.   Pam Moran (who I believe to be the finest public school superintendent in the nation) recently wrote "After observing multi-age communities in Irish classrooms and coderdojos, adolescent orangutans in Borneo, and Mitra's "hole in the wall" child-teachers, I wonder why we wouldn't begin to redesign our schools to take advantage of this natural capacity of young people to teach, not just to learn?"   At Harvard, Physics Professor Eric Mazur is vigorously pursuing this flip with his students, reporting vast improvements in the proficiency growth of his students in his very challenging courses.  

Flip PD.    "Professional development" as a phrase is deeply overdue for retirement.  Ken Kay and Val Greenhill wrote recently in The Leader's Guide to 21st century education, "the PD plane is in such a state of disrepair that no one wants to get on."    

Begin this flip by shifting the terminology to "professional learning," and continue it by drawing upon the wisdom and practices of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), Critical Friends Groups, and Action Research.   New models of teacher conferences are swiftly sweeping many parts of the countries:  Take the lead by using your campus to host and facilitate Unconferences or Edcamps (Google these terms for more information).    

Flip also the timing of faculty meetings and professional learning sessions, from late afternoon to early morning: educators are far more primed for collaboration and learning in the first part of the day than the last; students, particularly secondary students, on the other hand, are far less ready to go first thing.  

Look ahead to your school year like Gabby Douglas and her Fab Five team-mates face the vault: take a deep breath, roll and loosen your shoulders, stabilize your breathing, pull yourself up to your greatest height, take one short step, then a second, and then sprint with all your speed to spring off that vault and begin flipping as many times and in as many ways as you can.  

Jonathan E. Martin has headed three independent schools over the past 15 years, and is now focused upon learning, writing, speaking, & consulting about 21st century learning, innovative education, next-generation assessment, digital citizenship, project-based learning, and social networking/blogging. Find him at or on Twitter@JonathanEMartin
Join us for a professional  
learning adventure.

SFLC Seminar Schedule 2012-2013

London Bridge
The Art and
Experience of Leadership
American School in London
October 7-10, 2012
Our signature seminar with an international twist.
Click here to learn more or register.

The Art and Experience of Leadership
La Fonda on the Plaza, Santa Fe, NM
November 11-14, 2012
Lead with renewed commitment, clarity and confidence.
Click here to learn more register

Strategy Bootcamp (NEW)
Lake Flato Architects, San Antonio, TX
January 18,19, 20
Three days that will change the way you think about school culture and strategy.
Registration opens September 1.

Leadership Unplugged: The Inner Landscape of the School Leader
La Fonda on the Plaza
April 24-27, 2013
Providing school leaders with the inner resources to meet external demands.

Innovative LeadershipInnovation Chalkboard  
Silicon Valley, CA
Summer 2013, Date and Location TBA
Flip. Shift. Disrupt.

Shifting Paradigms and Changing a Culture
by Gary Gruber, SFLC Director and Leadership Consultant

No one ever said it would be easy, and trying to change mind sets and then help people change their behavior is a huge challenge.  Someone once said that there are too many people who mistake the edge of the rut for the horizon.  Entrenchment is a familiar condition in many institutions and organizations, partly because of being very comfortable with the familiar and the resistance to any radical change.  It's much easier to keep doing what one has been doing than to learn something entirely new and different and apply it, especially as an adult.

History tells us that the biggest changes have often come about because of a revolution as well as an evolution over time.  It may be easier, less painful and inexpensive to help facilitate an evolution than to precipitate a revolution, although a revolution might be indicated in some situations.  It might make sense to dismiss the old model to make room for an entirely new way of doing things, especially if the new model has been tested and proven effective. Change is coming whether or not it is wanted so the question is how can we help design the change to be the most effective?

Creating an environment that will help determine the culture, rather than having the existing culture determine the environment might be a good beginning.  Doug Thomas and John Seely Brown's recent book,  A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating Imagination for a World of Constant Change makes this point eminently clear in the following observation:  "In the new culture of learning, the classroom model is replaced by learning environments in which digital media provide access to a rich source of information and play, and the processes that occur within those environments are integral to the results."  Thomas and Brown maintain that the teacher-based approach to learning focuses on teaching us about the world while a new culture of learning focuses on engagement with the world.

Imagine a curriculum consisting of real world problems and turning kids loose to create solutions.  That would demand access to unlimited, existing information - available - collaboration with others and a working laboratory or studio to create models for solutions.  Teachers would have to surrender a lot of their power and authority to the learners and learn a new way of being the teacher - a resource, guide, critic, coach and colleague.  Imagine putting together (not necessarily building in the traditional sense) a new school without the traditional classrooms and hallways, perhaps using community resources, facilities and more commercial type spaces - warehouses, empty office buildings and other spaces to create the laboratories and studios where the kids would brainstorm and game storm ( and in that process become a more passionate and purposeful person in the world of today and tomorrow.

Students still need the basic and pre-requisite skills of computation, communication and comprehension and those can be learned or acquired while practicing how to read, write, speak and compute, especially in the early years.  Adding some music, poetry and team work, whether in drama or athletics, might also be a welcome component in a comprehensive, developmental, coordinated and outcome focused program.   If this sounds too radical and too experimental, then maybe it's simply not for you but it's already happening in many places and it's having a positive impact and making a big difference.  If you need a resource to get started to "Think Different", as Apple said, have a look at some of Michael Michalko's work: Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius; and ThinkPak: A Brainstorming Card Deck .

It might take a year or three to begin to make significant changes and shift the paradigm.  It might take five years to change the culture of a particular institution and the people will make the difference between a place that remains comfortable with the status quo and doesn't see the need to change and a place that embraces the future by designing the change they want to become.  Where would you like to be in three to five years?  Where would you like your organization to be and how will it look and function?  You and your colleagues have the answers to those questions.  Begin now and make the propositions to shift the paradigm and change the culture.


NEW IN 2013!   
San Antonio, Texas
Hosted by Lake Flato Architects*
January 18-20, 2013
 Join the SFLC for two days that will change the way you think about school culture and strategy. If strategic planning is in your near future, this workshop will clarify the most effective planning process that aligns with the culture of your school and will position you to successfully execute the plan.
This workshop is ideal for school heads and members of a board and strategic planning committee.  In this hands-on, workshop you will:
  • Have an opportunity to visually represent your school's culture;
  • Learn to distinguish good strategies from ineffective strategies;
  • Develop a working knowledge of three different types of strategic plans;
  • Identify the strategic planning process that best aligns with your school's culture;
  • Understand roadblocks that may exist when implementing a plan and learn how to remove them for efficient execution;
  • Have fun.
No two schools are the same, and strategic plans should reflect the spirit, culture and values of each unique institution. This two-day opportunity with give you the framework, skills, and knowledge to prepare you to craft and execute a plan that meets the needs of  your school.

Cost: $500 per person (or $900 for two participants from the same school)
Registration: Opens September 1, 2012 but contact Carla Silver
to reserve your spot now! Limited to 30 participants
Facilitators: Kevin Ruth, Ph.D., Tower Hill School & Carla Silver, Executive DirectorSanta Fe Leadership Center

*Lake Flato Architects is a national design firm focused on timeless sustainable architecture that is rooted to its place. Having worked extensively with independent schools around the country, Lake Flato approaches each school and its diverse issues in unique ways, searching for appropriate solutions that yield a purposeful connection between each school's pedagogy, campus and its architecture.


  Disrupting School
by Tony Gerlicz, SFLC Leadership Consultant

If the only constant in the world is change, why are schools resistant to it?  This is but one of the many creative tensions educators face annually.  How do schools embrace the inevitable future while maintaining what has worked in the past?

At the Santa Fe Leadership Center's recent seminar on "Innovative Leadership," held in July in the Silicon Valley of California, 38
 educator leaders learned how innovation occurs in the private  sector and explored how that compares to our world as educ ators.  We know that education changes slowly yet businesses that are slow to adapt do so at their peril, i.e. Kodak, Borders and others. We explored Clayton Christensen's model of Sustaining Innovations vs Disruptive Innovations and how initially disruptive innovations seem insignificant, creep in undetected until the price point becomes competitive, critical mass is reached and existing industries are significantly disrupted.

Is there a disruptive innovation on the horizon for education?

Let's analyze three critical components of education, the learning environment, the teacher, the student, to see how education is evolving for each component, and glimpse the wave upon us.  

With respect to learning environments, we know: that what used to be seat time environment is now a 24x7x52 one; that successful learning environments move from teacher-centric to learner-centric; that media moves from books to blended; and that subject-based learning transforms to project-based learning.

With respect to the teacher, we know: that what used to be teaching in isolation is now teaching while connected; that instead of being the transmitter of information with limited knowledge the teacher is the facilitator of understanding with ubiquitous information; and that instead of being the master teacher, she is a model master learner.

With respect to the student, we know that instead of compliance, for which there will always be a place, students will need to be innovate and creative for those are job skills of the future.  Instead of
focusing on attendance, the focus will be on mastery of material.  Instead of students functioning due to external motivation, they will rely on internal motivation.  To summarize the transformation of education in a sentence, students, teachers, and learning environments fully comprehend that the days of one size fits all are dying and that personalized learning is the order of the day.

In our robust discussion with these 38 educational leaders, we agreed that our schools live mostly in Christensen's sustaining innovation model, where we essentially tweak around the edges and that our place called school is not really designed for disruptive innovation.  


During the four days together, we learned that Coursera, the company that put Stanford's, MIT's, Harvard's, Princeton's and other universities' courses on-line, entered into an agreement to do the same with the University of Washington, Duke, University of Virginia and other non-Ivy League universities.  We learned that over 160,000 students took on-line courses from Stanford in 2011-2012.  More significant was that University of Washington agreed to grant credit for those successfully completing their on-line courses.  

The question buzzed through our seminar, "If these universities are doing this, are our schools far behind?" and "What is it about this trend that speaks to students?"  Clearly, every point mentioned above is checked through this medium.  As Christensen notes, disruptive innovations first appear innocuous, then achieve a price point where the competition takes note, then reaches a tipping point where disruption occurs.  Are we there?  Is the scenario that Christensen articulated so well in his book, Disrupting Class, coming to pass?  

Like professional sport seasons, schools partake in the annual ritual of planning, asking, and goal setting of what will be better this coming year.  A germane question would be: Can we manage this tension of embracing the future of personalized learning while holding common expectations and standards for all, well enough to move our schools forward?  Can we keep the tension creative so that this disruption does not creep surreptitiously into our school culture but rather is used to further tailor education for every child in front of us this year?

Managing these tensions will take Innovative Leadership.  We ignore them at our peril.


About Us

Santa Fe Leadership Center is a nonprofit organization supporting school leaders to reach their highest potential.  Through seminars, retreats, and personal coaching, the SFLC provides school leaders with time and space for introspection, reflection, and ongoing learning and equips them with skills and competencies for twenty-first century school leadership. The SFLC also provides services to schools seeking to enhance their programs, facilities, organizational culture, and the leadership capacity of faculty, staff and administration.

Please visit the Santa Fe Leadership Center to learn more about our programs and our other leadership services and opportunities.