Last week, I had the pleasure of presenting at the Leadership 3.0 conference in San Francisco. I co-presented on each of the three days with three different groups of people. These were three brand new presentations that focused on three different themes. But what I realized as I spoke in each session, there were three big themes that I weaved throughout them all. It is my hope that participants were able to take away something from at least one.
Walking Your Why
It is much easier to make decisions and take action if we are grounded in our fundamental purpose. For me, my "why" is "Make school better for kids". Everything I say, write, do...is tethered to that anchor. When I am in struggle, I always center back to that. If what I am doing, is aligned with it, I keep moving forward...fighting the good fight. If my actions or words do not meet my purpose, I stop and reflect, rethink, revise or redo. Sometimes the conclusion is just to abandon the idea and move on. "Walking My Why" has allowed me to have both the strength and the freedom to make those decisions.
Everyone Should Have A Seat At The Table
What does this mean? It means that there needs to be a good mix of people, roles and titles in these discussions. This means that all voices are heard and listened to, regardless of their rank, role or title. If we open up our minds to that, we may just find some answers from some unlikely sources.
Someone whose "why" is to increase student achievement on test scores, will start with the data. And data is great and data is needed. But it can not stop there. First of all, there needs to be multiple measures considered, not just the one public display. *And I realize why that one test IS important to look into because that is where a lot of outside judgement occurs.* But after data is analyzed and strengths and gaps are identified, we need to move beyond that.
Someone whose "why" is to make sure that allocated funds are properly spent, may be looking for a "fix" in the way of a program. What curriculum, survey or online program can we buy to help students achieve higher? But is a static, ready made program going to reach students or is it a teacher?
There should be many more voices at this table, but I will not go into that now. But I will explain my "why" in this scenario. I try to bring it back to the fact that we are talking about people here. Big ones and little ones. So in considering all of the other factors, we also need to consider our end users. Who are they? What do we want them to accomplish and what can we provide to support them in this? I try to switch the conversation away from student "achievement" onto student "learning", because that one word replacement changes the conversation. Do we want our kid achieving or learning? If we want them learning differently, they need to be taught differently. And if we want teachers to teach differently, we need to show them different. Not only that, we need to provide them with the professional development and resources to do this. Which leads nicely into the next theme...
Designing To The Edges
Take the time to really get to know those who sit in front of you. Then use this information to help them succeed. The second piece that is needed is a teacher "tool kit" of strategies, activities, tasks and resources. If teachers are going to have to teach in multiple ways to meet their students multiple needs, they need to have the professional development to gather those "tools", the supplies needed to create rich tasks and the ongoing support. Support in terms of professional development as well as support from administrators to take risks and fail forward.
When I reflect back on these three themes, I realize that these are my three current passions in education. These are the three things that are interwoven into everything I do. Reflection matters.
My call to action is this: Take some time to reflect on these three themes and how they play out in your own role in education. What would you keep and what would you change? There is no time like the present.
*Thank you to my co-presenters: Aimee Spurbeck-Boin, Terri Leon, David Culberhouse, Jon Corippo and Jay Sorensen.
Mother, teacher, TOSA, GCE Level 1 & 2, Encourager of others.
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