Common Sense

Thomas Jefferson Feeder Pattern News - March 16, 2015

About the Title

Common Sense was a pamphlet authored by Thomas Paine in 1775-76. It was written to inspire American colonists to declare independence from British Rule at the beginning of The Revolution. This weekly, modern, online relative of that pamphlet documents the news, events, updates, and celebrations of the TJ Revolution - the educational sensation sweeping through northwest Dallas.

TJ Feeder Pattern News in Brief

Executive Director's Message

Welcome back from what was, I hope, a restful and rejuvenating early Spring Break. With only one holiday left on the calendar between now and the end of the school year, the energy you've built up this week will need to propel you all the way through this last and final lap, ending on June 5.

The heightened sense of urgency you return to school with will be presented through your leadership actions in the coming days and weeks. Be mindful that you - the school leader - set the "weather" in your building. Do not let your urgent pace or laser-like focus be misrepresented as tumultuous panic. It is important for your teachers and students to "peak" during this final leg of the race. This will only be accomplished through calm, intentional, laser-like focus on student achievement and the quality of instruction. Jim Collins in the article referenced below addresses this. I highly encourage you to read it.

Partner with our teachers this and every week to ensure our students only get "the good stuff." Don't let opportunities to improve instruction pass.

The time is now. The place is here. You're leading the most important work of our time. Lead well!!

Have a great week with students!

Timothy J. Hise

Executive Director, Thomas Jefferson Feeder Pattern

Ticket to TJ: Reception for Prospective Teachers

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Dallas ISD Job Fair

Saturday, March 21st, 9am-12pm

7502 Fair Oaks Avenue

Dallas, TX

Jim Collins on School Leadership: Humility, Will, & Level 5 Leadership

from Marshall Memo #577

In this Independent School interview, editor Michael Brosnan questions Good to Great author Jim Collins about the principalship. Some highlights:

Schools’ big-picture mission – Based on his work analyzing businesses, social-service agencies, schools, and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Collins says, “I happen to believe that the single most important investment we can make as a society is to get as many kids as possible to a strong starting point for adult life by the end of high school.”

Unit-level leadership – One revelation for Collins at West Point was the critical importance of what he calls “unit-level leadership” – which in schools is the role filled by the principal. This level of leadership is especially important in challenging times. He compares the way we evaluate a mountaineering guide on an easy trail versus braving a howling storm on the side of K2. “There,” he says, “whether you are an exceptional leader or an unexceptional leader is going to be exposed. This turns out to be true for all organizations facing challenges, including schools.”

Three keys to greatness – To be exemplary, Collins says, an organization must meet these criteria: (a) Getting superior results relative to its particular mission; (b) Having a unique impact on the world, such that people would truly notice its absence; and (c) Enduring over time, through multiple cycles of leadership. “If your school or organization or company cannot be great without you as its leader, it is not yet a great enterprise,” he says. “In order to be great, you have to render it not dependent on you.”

Building clocks versus telling time – Collins and his colleagues like this metaphor. Time-tellers are go-to people with the right information and all the answers, but everyone is dependent on them. “For more sustainability, great leaders realize that they have to build a clock that can tell the time long after they are gone,” says Collins. “The leader’s real task is to think about how he or she builds the clock.” That means enduring values, a clear mission, organizational structures and procedures, competent people, and a culture that keeps everyone’s eyes on the prize and allows the organization to weather difficult times.

Simultaneously preserving the core and stimulating progress – Another important leadership trait is the ability to develop and execute a set of Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs) that are in synch with the organization’s values and mission but take them to the next level. “This is the yin and the yang of organizations,” says Collins, “and they play off of each other constantly. The core comprises essential values and purpose… The stimulating progress part doesn’t mess with those values. But it does look at ways to improve on their delivery. It’s about looking forward – about doing new stuff, doing things better, doing big things, and even looking beyond one’s tenure.”

Level 5 versus Level 4 leadership – Level 4 leaders are, deep down, all about themselves, their ego, and their careers. Ninety percent of the time, Collins says, the people who successfully transform struggling organizations are Level 5 leaders. They share two characteristics: they’re almost always from inside the organization, and they are seldom charismatic. “The tendency is to think you need someone with a proven track record,” says Collins. “Most great leaders grow into becoming great leaders. They don’t start out great… Usually it’s someone who doesn’t try to draw too much attention to him or herself. It’s about the enterprise. It’s about the school, about the kids… They have high levels of humility and will. All their ambition and drive are channeled outward into a cause or a company or school. It truly is not about them. It’s not about how they look to the public. Not about their career. Not about the power or the money. It’s about the cause or the mission. And they have the utterly stoic will to do whatever it takes to succeed for the sake of that cause.”

Intelligent innovation – It took nine years of research for Collins and his colleagues to realize that the key to successfully weathering difficult challenges was not being innovative but finding the innovations that are empirically validated – in other words, what will actually work in the situation. “When a company or an organization is in trouble,” he says, “it has to ask a central question: Is the reason we’re in trouble because our recipe no longer works and we need to completely change it, or is it that we’ve lost discipline with a recipe that, in essence, still works? More often than not, it’s a matter of getting the discipline back. But you have to know the answer to this question for your organization. And you have to be right.”

The essence of leadership – Collins doesn’t believe there are important generational differences in leaders. Styles of communication and specific ideas may change with each new cohort, he says, but the fundamentals remain the same. In his time at West Point, Collins stumbled upon what he believes is a beautiful definition of leadership: Dwight Eisenhower said, Leadership is the art of getting people to want to do what must be done. Collins likes all three parts:

- Great leadership is an art.

- Leaders have to know what must be done, which is not always obvious.

- It’s not about getting people to do the right stuff, but getting them to want to do it.

“I believe that we need legions of Level 5 leaders in our schools,” Collins concludes. “My sense is that the up-and-coming generation of leaders has the Level 5 capacity to spark the entire education system to go from good to great. I am increasingly inspired and impressed by the young leaders I meet. Let’s get out of their way and let them lead!”

“Humility, Will, and Level 5 Leadership: An Interview with Jim Collins” by Michael Brosnan in Independent School, Spring 2015 (Vol. 74, #3, p 34-38), no e-link available

Pre-K Round-Up: April 6-11, 2015

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How Mountain Guides are Like Good Organizational Leaders

From Marshall Memo #576

In this Wharton Leadership Digest article, Chris Maxwell (Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania) describes the key leadership strengths of world-class mountain guides, all of which apply to leading successful organizations:

Socially intelligent – Guides must quickly establish positive relationships with climbers, scoping out their individual proclivities, what kind of support they will need, and how they will contribute to the effort.

Adaptable – Guides match their leadership style to rapidly changing conditions. In some situations, they are authoritative, guiding clients along a path of self-discovery and accomplishment; in crisis situations they are authoritarian – “Do it, now!”

Empowering – Guides provide climbers a supportive space for growth and development, which includes leading by example, coaching, participative decision-making, informing, showing concern, and interacting with the team. “You really are building others up, inspiring clients to find in themselves what they might not have thought themselves capable of,” says guide Christian Santelices.

Trust-builders – “Trust is not the same as faith in the reliability of a person or system,” says British sociologist Anthony Giddens. “It is what derives from that faith. Trust is precisely the link between faith and confidence.” John Sims builds on that thought from his perspective as a business executive: “Without trust, you will be painstakingly slower,” he says. “Without trust in your teammates, you will only do as much as your faith in your own limited abilities will take you. You will not risk stretching your own expertise or experience, and you are unlikely to learn as much from those around you. Each person will revert to being an island, placing trust only in their own abilities and therefore limiting individual and corporate horizons.”

Risk aware – Guides operate with skill in uncertain and dangerous conditions. Sometimes they calm down a shaky climber with a statement like, “That space is an irregular ledge, but it’s larger than the curb you stand on every day for the bus.”

Big-picture thinkers – Guides take a holistic view of the endeavor. “The lure of the summit is strong,” says Maxwell. “Guides know that their clients want to reach the top of the mountain, but they also know that the summit as the only goal isn’t the best idea for anyone… Guides have learned to appreciate the uncertainty of the endeavor as something to be savored, and the best guides do what they can to pass this wise understanding on to summit-focused clients.” It’s the journey that counts.

“To Be a Better Leader: Lead Like a Guide” by Chris Maxwell in Wharton Leadership Digest, March 1, 2015,; Maxwell can be reached at

Teach for Dallas ISD. It Makes Sense!

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Leadership Quote of the Week

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Week At-a-Glance

Monday, March 16
  • TELPAS Window Opens
  • Campus Visits
  • Summer School Principals' Meeting @ Haskell (2-3:30 pm)

Tuesday, March 17

  • TJ Feeder Principals' Meeting @ Field ES (8-11:30am)
  • TJ Feeder Transition Planning Meeting @ Field ES (11:30 am - 12:30 pm)
  • Ticket to TJ: Reception for Prospective Teachers @ Frontiers of Flight Museum (4:30-7pm)

Wednesday, March 18

  • Campus Visits
  • Districtwide Principals' Meeting @ Hulcy (1-5pm)

Thursday, March 19

  • Campus Visits
  • Teacher Focus Group @ Field ES (4-5:30 pm)

Friday, March 20

  • Cycle 7 Elementary Data Meeting @ Saldivar ES (8-11am)
  • Campus Visits

On The Horizon

March 16-April 8 - TELPAS K-12

March 16 - Dual Language Model Information Session

March 21 - Dallas ISD Job Fair @ Conrad HS (9am - 12pm)

March 23 - Dual Language Model Information Session

March 26 - Dallas ISD Board Meeting

April 3 - Inclement Weather Make-Up Day

April 6-10 - Pre-K Round-Up

April 15-30 - Circle Pre-K Assessment

April 17 - End of 5th Six Weeks

April 20-24 - Administrative Professionals' Week

Action Items