Lessons from the Red Sox

It’s hard not to focus on the Boston Red Sox when they are one win away from winning the World Series. It’s frankly heartwarming to see such intellectuals I respect such as A.J. Dionne and Atul Gawande exclaim their love of the Sox on Twitter:

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So, as long as we are losing sleep and concentration in staying up late to watch the Sox, what are some lessons we can gain from this unusual team and how does it relate to the world of education?

1. Change usually comes slowly, but don’t underestimate the possibility of unexpected success when culture can be changed. 

The Sox went from last place in the American League East to 97 wins, the American League Championship and one win away (at press time) from winning it all. It’s rare that schools can improve this quickly, but if a school administrator seeks quick change, the “low hanging fruit” of school culture is likely the quickest route to success. Sox General Manager Ben Cherrington knew that he had to rid the Sox clubhouse of the “chicken and beer” problem from two years ago and the Bobby Valentine collapse as well. Do you want quick change in a school? Work on the school culture. Equip teachers with classroom management strategies, work on school-wide approaches and worry about academics  bit later. 

2. Leadership is crucial

The change in Red Sox management from Bobby Valentine to John Farrell was easily the most obvious improvement and likely the greatest reason for success. Farrell respects his players, holds them accountable in a caring way, and heeds the famous line “praise in public and criticize in private”. Valentine did none of those things. Likewise, the power of leadership in a school, both from the building administrator and teacher leaders, cannot be underestimated. 

3. In the end, it’s about the players.

The most important component of my job is hiring the very best educators to be part of our school family. Frankly, new programs and initiatives mean little if the “line up” is not solid. I am thankful every day for the 50 members of the Harold Martin staff…twice as many as the 25 members of the Red Sox. 

Time to hit “send” on this blog post and watch game 6 of the World Series. 

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