Mark White and Dwight Carter on Leading Schools in Disruptive Times

Dwight Carter and Mark White

On this episode of the podcast, Tom sits down with Mark White, an award winning teacher, principal, and superintendent, as well as Dwight Carter, a nationally recognized school leader and Director of Student Support Services at Eastland-Fairfield Career Center in Groveport, OH.

They recently published the second edition of their book, Leading Schools in Disruptive Times: How To Survive Hyper-Change, and they are sitting down with Tom to discuss how educators can prepare students for a globalized world when many institutions are not ready for the constantly changing 21st century.

Thanks to Corwin for sponsoring this episode. Now, let’s listen in as they talk about the second edition of their book and what they’ve learned through their careers.

Here is a description of Leading Schools in Disruptive Times: How To Survive Hyper-Change:

From social media to evolving safety issues to constant school reform, today’s school leaders face unprecedented disruption. How can educators prepare students for a globalized world when many institutions are not ready for the constantly changing 21st century? With an eye on the past and a vision for the future, Carter and White draw the blueprint for adapting schools to ever-changing times.

  • A comprehensive history of disruption in American schools as a lens for understanding accelerated change
  • Practical exercises and real-life examples for reshaping education in the 21st century
  • A grounded examination of radical disruptions schools will face in the years to come

Mark and Dwight have worked together for many years, starting when Mark hired Dwight to be assistant principal. Mark led through the aftermath of the recession in 2009-10. This challenge of budget cuts re-emphasized the importance of getting folks focused on what they need to do.

Dwight shared a few of his keys to success as high school leader:

  • Learn new ideas, stay connected to the kids, get other people involved;
  • Empower the teachers to do their best;
  • Set the tone well. For example, the first day of school is a celebration, not rules and regulations;
  • Get as many student committees together as you can to be sure to hear from students about what they care about.

The impetus for writing the book was that “things kept coming at us that we haven’t seen before,” said Mark. “Everything keeps getting piled on our plates as admins but nothing is getting taken away […] what are we doing? It’s all so new!”

He shared that within the scope of our recent challenges our coping period of 24 hours has turned into more of a 3-6 month coping period — this rarely results in a transformed mindset.

The book sets the stage by breaking American school history into “Five Waves”:

  1. Stability Age: 1600s to mid-1940s
  2. Nuclear Age: 1945 to 1980
  3. Accountability Age: 1983 to 1999
  4. Disruption Age: 1999 to Present
  5. Hyper-Change Age

“I really think the system could breakdown in the next 10 years. It’s going to be a matter of how fast can we adjust […] the parents and kids are going to want new models,” said Mark.

The book also covers transparency as one of the greatest disruptions in the last year. This includes, but isn’t limited to, parent demand for information and a constant re-examination of curriculum & extracurriculars. To be better prepared for the shifts in this space, administrators and leaders need to be honest and clear, speaking to their community in the way their community best receives information. “The trust begins with the information we put out in this day and age. Parents will fact check you and make sure you’re consistent,” said Mark. “You have to promote your school all the time,” said Dwight. “Principals are the chief storyteller. Get as many positive messages out as possible.”.

Mark and Dwight also shared the following words of parting advice:

  • “People who say American schools can’t change quickly… they sure can. They changed very quickly.”
  • “You can be really good and not use technology, but you can never as good as you could be without technology.”
  • “I keep coming across people who say can’t wait to next year when it gets back to normal… there won’t be a normal.”
  • ” A significant number of students will want a hybrid option. You won’t be able to move forward without a virtual option.”

Key Takeaways:

[:08] About today’s episode with Mark White and Dwight Carter.
[:45] Tom welcomes Mark and Dwight to the podcast!
[:55] Did Mark and Dwight both grow up in Groveport, Ohio? How did they first meet?
[2:34] Mark speaks about the challenges he faced becoming a Superintendent during a recession in 2009.
[3:52] As a school leader for more than 18 years, Dwight shares his key takeaways for success as a high school leader.
[5:41] What Dwight does as a school leader to set the tone in his building.
[7:24] Dwight shares a story about hiring a live DJ to kick off the school year right!
[8:07] Mark shares what he believes makes Dwight so successful as a school leader.
[8:48] Tom congratulates Mark and Dwight on the second edition of their book, Leading Schools in Disruptive Times.
[9:02] How did they come up with the idea to write a book on this topic?
[11:00] When did Mark and Dwight begin to work on the updated edition?
[12:53] Why the testing model in schools may be the one thing that is holding schools back the most.
[15:15] How the pandemic pushed agility forward with schools and what that looks like today.
[17:38] Mark elaborates on the factors that are shaping the schools of tomorrow.
[18:44] Dwight’s hopes for how the pandemic will impact schools going forward.
[19:25] In Chapter 1 of Leading Schools in Disruptive Times, it says, “If leaders are going to thrive, they have to use disruption to their advantage.” How can teachers do this?
[22:14] Mark speaks about what it means to be globally ready and a post-pandemic world through transparency.
[24:18] Dwight’s tips for school leaders on how to stay in closer touch with their communities.
[26:56] Mark applauds American teachers on their rapid adaptation to change and shares his take on the importance of technology in education.
[29:02] Dwight shares his thoughts on updating your technology so that it supports your learning agenda.
[30:44] How does Dwight flip a bad situation into a positive one as a school administrator?
[33:06] Mark’s advice for school and system heads leading in disruptive times.
[34:17] Tom congratulates Mark and Dwight once again on the second edition of their book and thanks them for joining this week’s episode.

Mentioned in This Episode:

This episode was sponsored by Corwin. If you’d like to learn more about our policies and practices regarding sponsored content, please email Jessica Slusser

Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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