My annual review said:

Dr. McLeod's work with schools is exemplary but inappropriate.

I knew then that, despite the fact that we liked each other a lot, it was time to change institutions. So I set out in search of a university that hopefully would see value in the work that I was doing with practicing school leaders. Below is a true tale from one of my interviews...

 

I said:

I believe in engaged, hands-on involvement with administrators around the complex work of school improvement. I'm trying to help educators and kids.

They said:

We're concerned about your lack of scholarly productivity.

I said:

I will continue to publish in peer-reviewed journals. But I'm also going to write in this new space, a place that's revolutionizing our entire global society.

They said:

That place has no reliability. How do you know if something is valid? Those people don't have doctorates or work at universities. How can you assess the worthiness of their writing without peer review?

I said:

There are a number of ways to help you assess whether writing is worthwhile or not, including reading it and judging its worth on its face. For example, if you actually read some of my online writing, you'll see that it's not just a personal rant space. Most of my writing is about bringing issues of theory down to the practical level and/or expanding our leadership conversations to include practitioners and others in the field. Second, there is an ethos in the blogosphere about hyperlinking. If you want to check the credibility of an author's sources, simply click on the link and see for yourself. It's much easier than with print. Third, there are a lot of really smart people out there with whom we're not intersecting. I've learned a ton from folks without traditional academic credentials. Fourth, the blogosphere has its own way of assessing worthiness. Tools like commenting, Technorati, subscriber statistics, and other web traffic measures help us know if writing has value to intended audiences. In many ways, it's much more transparent and honest than the supposedly-neutral academic peer review system.

They said:

Why do you want to be a faculty member? Maybe you should just be a consultant.

I said:

When asked to explain his hockey success, Wayne Gretzky said that he skated to where the puck was going to be, not where it had been. Someone in our field needs to be out in front, exploring the possibilities that come with these new publishing mechanisms and figuring out what they mean for educational leadership scholarship. I'm trying to be that person, the one who's skating to where the puck is going to be. Also, you may not know it, but these tools have tremendous reach. If you count up my subscribers and other visitors and multiply those by the number of posts, I will have nearly a million person-interactions in this year alone. I'm not sure I could ever write an article in a traditional academic journal that would reach that many people in its lifetime. And did you know that this online video I'm affiliated with has reached many millions more in just a few months? For someone like me who's trying to actually impact schools, these tools are awfully difficult to ignore.

They said:

You sure are stubborn. Why don't you just play the game?

I said:

I've got 30 more years in this profession. I don't want to be miserable for three decades. If I wanted to solely publish in journals that – let's be honest here – are never read by the people that we're supposedly trying to reach, I would have done so and stayed at my current university. I like it there and they like me.

They said:

We're a research institution.

I said:

I will continue to publish in peer-reviewed journals. But I'm also going to write in this new space, a place that's revolutionizing our entire global society.

They said:

No thanks. (and I did too)

 

Today is a great day to mention once again that I'm thankful to be at Iowa State, a place that so far sees worth in my activities and encourages me to keep doing what I'm doing. May you all find a great fit for your own work too. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.