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A Fine Fine School - Leadership Anaylsis

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How is leadership depicted in children's books?

Analysis of A Fine, Fine, School

By Sharon Creech Pictures by Harry Bliss

1. Give overview and summarize book explaining how leadership or follower ship is displayed in the book.

A Fine, Fine, School is the story of Mr. Keene, a gung ho principal any school would be lucky to have. This exuberant administrator loves his school so much he wants more and more school: first on Saturdays, then on Sundays, then on holidays, then in the summer. The students and teachers do not want to go to school on Saturdays, Sundays, holidays, or in the summer, but no one knows how to tell Mr. Keene that. He is so proud of the students and the teachers. This is also the story of Tillie, a young girl who attends this fine, fine, school. It is up to Tillie to show Mr. Keene that even though this school is a fine one, it is not fine to be there all the time.

This book displays leadership and follower ship in many different ways. As you read the first pages of this book one could say that this school is a "healthy school - one characterized by student, teacher and principal behavior that is harmonious and works toward instructional success." (Lunenburg & Ornstein, 2004, 99) Every morning Mr. Keene strolled down the hallway and saw children in their classes. He saw what they were learning and he would always say, "Aren't these fine children?" Aren't these fine teachers? Isn't this a fine, fine, school?" Mr. Keene being the leader of this school makes a point of being actively involved in visiting classes and complimenting the excellent job the students and teachers are doing in this learning environment. Mr. Keene adores education and is so proud of his students and teachers he wants the children to learn even more. He gathers all the students and teachers to communicate his new idea that since this is such a fine, fine, school, "lets have school on Saturdays, too"! The teachers and students didn't want to go to school on Saturdays but they did not say anything to Mr. Keene.

"Through effective communication, relationships are built, trust is established, and respect is gained" (Green, 2005, 85) I guess Mr. Keene had all of this since nobody groaned, moaned or spoke up. Neither students nor teachers wanted to go to school on Saturdays but they trusted and respected their leader.

A month went by and Mr. Keene thought everything was fine and decided to have school on Sundays. Another month went by and Mr. Keene decided to have school on holidays. Still nobody spoke in animosity toward the new school days. Mr. Keene was so myopic in his thinking and planning that he decided the more school the better so he told everyone there would be school in the summer.

As the principal of a school, Mr. Keene, approached his decision-making using the "Garbage Can Model, which allows individuals to act without thinking through an issue." (Green, 2005, 126) Mr. Keene did not take into account all stakeholders before making such a major decision. Mr. Keene was autocratic in his decision. However, without any rebuttal, his followers accepted his new decision to go to school everyday. Obviously, the students and teachers admire, trusted, and respected Mr. Keene. The style in which the author wrote the book made it seem like they weren't afraid of him they just didn't want to hurt his feelings. The author demonstrates this throughout the book by repeating the same line after Mr. Keene adds more and more days - "The teachers and students did not want to go to school. But no one knew how to tell Mr. Keene that. He was so proud of the children and teachers." (Creech, 2001, 16)

In contrast, while communicating a change that affects all stakeholders, Mr. Keene doesn't observe the gasps and grimaces of his stressed out students and teachers. Mr. Keene fails as a leader to look for the non-verbal clues that his students and teachers were giving him. Good leaders while communicating will pay attention to its' audience and the use of the non-verbal communications being transmitted throughout the communication.

The story ends when Tillie the little girl who is suppose to teach her dog how to sit and her little brother how to swing and skip, politely tells Mr. Keene that "not everyone is learning." (Creech, 2001, 18) Mr. Keene wanted to know who isn't learning and Tillie told him. That same day Mr. Keene walked up and down the halls, looking at the children and the teachers. He finally notices that his dramatic measure diminishes the quality of life in his school.

Tillie becomes a leader. She shows Mr. Keene that learning doesn't only happen in school it happens everywhere!

2. Explain why you chose this book and why you think it is a positive or negative display of leadership for children.

It took 20 books to choose this book. I asked my principal, my librarian, another principal, and colleagues to give me titles of books. After reading all 20 books I decided this was a great book. I liked this book best because the way the author portrays the school, the principal and for the colorful illustrations. The author styles the principal as proud of his scholars and staff but shows how his autocratic decision diminishes the quality of the school. I loved the colorful illustrations, the clever book titles and expressions on the student's faces all showing how one bad decision turns a wonderful "family cultured school" to a "machine cultured school." (Lunenburg & Ornstein, 2004, 96)

I think this book has both a positive display of leadership and a negative display of leadership. Throughout the book the principal commented, "Aren't these fine children? Aren't these fine teachers? Isn't this a fine, fine, school?" (Creech, 2001) He was proud of his teachers and students but overlooked how stressed they were because he never communicated his vision - to have the students learn as much as they could. He negatively affected all the stakeholders by not including them in his vision or decision to make such a dramatic change. "Change is a process, not an event ... the change process can be viewed in three steps: (a) establishing a vision, (b) determining the state of existing programs, and (c ) determining what is needed to reach the desired vision." (Green, 2005, 207) Mr. Keene did not take any of these steps to ensure a smooth transition



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