This week’s influential thinkers help us to understand how to change education to meet the demands of the 21st Century. Similar to yesterday’s post on Generative Leadership, Frederick Hess focuses on the attitudes and behaviors that make change possible.


What is the cage?

Hess says, “Think of education leaders as living in a cage. That cage restricts what they can do and how they can do it. But what if that cage isn’t as solid or confining as it seems? What if some of the bars are illusory or frail enough to topple with a hard shove? What if the cage is as much a product of habit and belief as concrete and steel?”

He asserts that leaders can do more than they think. “They need to make sure that they’re not hunched in cages of their own design.”


  • Think ambitiously about how to create great schools and then do what it takes to make them real
  • They do everything they can to put educators in a position to succeed
  • They ask teachers what wastes their time, what disrupts instruction and how limited time, tools and resources might be better used
  • They distort reality to change what’s possible
  • They devise new solutions to escape familiar frustrations
  • They work creatively with existing budgets to fund big ideas

An example:

Superintendent Steve Dakin of Reynoldsberg, Ohio wanted to do more to ensure that high school graduates were ready for college and careers. But he didn’t have any money to implement his ideas — but he did have premium space in newly renovated buildings. He invested $1.4 million in bond money to create shared partnerships with a community college so that professors could deliver both high school and college credits to their students.


  • What challenges do you typically face that seem insurmountable? How could you work creatively to bust through the cage? 
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