Stop Fake Work in Education
Creating Real Work Cultures That Drive Student Success
Foreword by Debbie Silver
Continuing Professional Development | Leadership | Leadership & Management
Don’t do more work—do the right work.
Educators at all levels have increasing demands keeping them working harder than ever, but they are often working hard on things that don’t really help them reach the loftiest of goals—student success. This “Fake Work” can mire the most dedicated educator in exhaustion, burnout, and a lack of confidence that improvement is possible.
Nielson and Burks show leaders and their teams how to stop doing Fake Work, by providing tools for gaining focus, building high-performance teams, and identifying and driving the right work with the right behaviors. When you offer your team a better way of working, planning, and collaborating, you turn Fake Work into Real Work—and stagnancy into dynamic change. This data-driven, research-based guide shows you
• An overall approach to addressing your culture—the foundational elements that supports the change that sets you up for maximum performance.
• A simple, three-part model—strategy, alignment, execution—for shedding Fake Work
• Road maps for aligning organizational strategies and actions
• Tools for gaining focus, building teams, and cultivating productive behaviors
• Real educators’ stories
• Exercises, reflection questions, charts, checklists, and more
School change remains elusive when the path to success is murky. Clear the way for principals, teachers and students by turning Fake Work into Real Work—and uncertainty into true success.
My career has been shaped positively by listening to trusted educators share lessons they’ve learned. Gaylan Nielson and Betty Burks uniquely fit the bill of trusted as they share strategies that both help you avoid the many distractions educators face and focus your attention on what is really matters for learning to happen.
Stop Fake Work in Education provides school leaders with the mind-set and associated tool-set to keep the main thing the main thing. In the end it is all about student success and removing barriers and distractions from the schoolhouse so that school leaders and teachers can be laser-focused on student outcomes allows this to happen. School leaders that are looking for a “how-to-guide” to make this a reality should have this book on their bookshelf.
Work smarter, not harder, is the theme of this important book for leaders at all levels of education. Nielson and Burks keep the focus on the main thing, student success, while writing passionately about the features of Real Work and compassionately about the traps of Fake Work. The stories of real school leaders punctuate and bring to life the authors’ transformational design model. The 7 Paths to Real Work provide a clear, accessible, step-by-step approach to doing this work. The hands-on tools and templates will help you get started. Fake Work is the rare book that situates strategic thinking and planning in the context of cultural considerations to provide a compelling and credible approach to leading change. Best of all, it is a delightful read that has the ring of authenticity and practicality.
One question: Where was this book and information when I began my work in school administration? What a great resource! Whether you are a beginning teacher leader or a seasoned administrator, this book can make your life easier by recognizing and acknowledging the impact that high performing cultures have on student achievement and how to achieve that culture in your work. This book points to running on a treadmill and getting nowhere, ie Fake Work, but most importantly it points to the important strategies to do the real, meaningful, impactful work. This book should serve a focus of study for all teams.
If they didn’t coin the terms “fake work” and “real work” in education, Nielsen and Burks certainly clarified them and their impact on the lives of students and those who serve them. Fake Work in Education provides educators with a clear purpose and path for moving from organizational addiction on the fake to systemwide focus on the real.
The authors weave research with practice through artful use of real experiences from real educators who’ve been stymied by the fake work syndrome in their own schools and districts. But Nielsen and Burks don’t stop there...throughout the book, they provide practical strategies, tools and measures for educators to begin their own efforts to focus on the real work.
This book had me hooked as soon as I read the definition of Fake Work! As educators, we are passionate by nature. We are also notorious for putting a great amount of effort into all we do. Yet, how often do we stop and ask ourselves whether our efforts will be matched in value of the output of what we are working on? We don’t! We work and work and work, and look up only to realize that we haven’t moved nearly as far as we set out to. This book encourages and challenges us to evaluate everything we are doing on a daily basis to ensure strategic alignment with our goals. The success of our students depends on us understanding this concept of Fake Work and putting our best effort and energy into the Right Work.
As a school Superintendent for over two decades and a National Baldrige Examiner, I became consumed by a quote from W. Edwards Deming, “If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you are doing.” The greatest challenge in an organization aspiring to align with Deming’s systems approach is to take what many consider an abstract concept and translate to daily actions. The key for us was to help staff understand the concepts, but more importantly give them tools to implement. Stop Fake Work In Education: Creating Real Work Cultures that Drive Student Success is one of the best collections of practical tools for educators aspiring for performance excellence.
As school districts strive to transform their organizations into systems based on trust, shared values, creativity, innovation, and respect, Stop Fake Work in Education: Creating Real Work Cultures That Drive Student Success, offers hope for a better way of working, planning, and collaborating – all focused on student success. Nielson and Burks have pooled their experiences and learning from the fields of education and business to offer readers more effective processes to create new paths to achieve results while transforming their cultures to true learning organizations. Their transformational design model for systemic change provides direction, while highlighting some of the fake work pitfalls which tend to consume educators’ focus and time. From the Board room to the classroom, Real Work must become the focus of all, each and every day, preparing students for success in life.
The book challenges leaders to aim our collective energy on what matters most in education, the students. The authors give us practical tools to help us let go of the Fake Work that is derailing high performing school cultures and lay out a path to ensure our Real Work priorities are strategic and successful.
In the world of education, teachers and administrators often deal with multiple initiatives and other demands on both their time and energy, making it so easy to get caught up in doing “fake work”. This book helps leaders fine tune their work so they can focus on what really matters - kids, what they are learning, and how we know they are learning it. The vignettes provided throughout illustrate the reality of the every day life of school leaders, showing the tools provided within the text really do help stop the “fake work”.
Sample Materials & Chapters
Companion Website Table of Contents