Leading Connected Classroom- Get Out of the Way

This is a guest post from William Powers, principal of Cherokee Middle School in Springfield, Missouri. Bill was a contributor to Leading Connected Classrooms. In this post, Bill talks about the power of getting out of the way, so that students can learn. This is another key to excellent connected classrooms.


In my youth I believed leading by example was the right model for leadership. In order to get everyone on board you must set the example. I don’t ask people to do that which I am not willing to do myself. I still believe this to be true. However, I have also found if I just Get Out of the Way people will take an idea, a project, a mission and do an outstanding job.


It was no different with two events we’ve held this month at Cherokee (@CherokeeSPS).


The first was our 16th Annual Job Shadow event, held on Groundhog Day, for our 8th grade students. Our counselors do an outstanding job with this every year as it is no easy task to get 300+ 8th graders to complete all the requirements leading up to the event, but once the big day arrives, boy oh boy is it amazing.


What’s my role in Job Shadow? Get Out of the Way and let the students, parents, and counselor take it and run. I am a support role and cheerleader all along the way. Check out this Storify, #CMSjobshadow, to see some of the tweets and pictures from a few of our students while they were on the job.


Just last week we held our first Genius Hour showcase and it was amazing! We’ve had 3 – 5 teachers dabble with Genius Hour/20% Time over the last few years. However, this is the first time the students stepped outside the classroom to showcase their passions to someone besides the other 25 – 30 students in their own classroom.


What role did I play in this project? I said yes to the teacher when she brought up the idea of sharing with the school and our community. All I had to do from that point on was Get Out of the Way!


The 7th grade students participating did an excellent job presenting to students, staff, families, and other guests. Check out this Storify, #CMSgeniushour, to see some of the tweets and pictures to get a grasp of the variety of projects the students worked on during the past several weeks. You can tell by the looks on their faces they truly loved the work they did and they were especially proud of ‘showing off’ their hard work.


Many times I know I am the reason an initiative or innovation may not take off or flourish. I failed to find the right drivers to led the push and I tried to rally the group and cheer them along. But it failed due to no one taking ownership of the idea. This occurred when I was a teacher and when I became a building leader. I’ve learned from these errors and now know sometimes I am my worst enemy. So, although it took some time to learn I now know to just Get Out of the Way to let the staff and students shine!