I had the opportunity to meet with admin colleagues today, in part to continue a conversation about "re-imagining" teaching and learning in a secondary setting. Previous sessions have included visits to secondary sites in other districts to explore frameworks that extend beyond the "traditional".
In many cases, these are schools that are viewed as incredibly innovative and progressive. And indeed, they are.
But some of the most "innovative" ideas that I heard from colleagues today were not about introducing new frameworks or structures- they were about "re-purposing" existing frameworks.
One Admin team spoke about a process they undertook to re-examine the model of sustained silent reading. Over the years, the school community had evolved in ways that made the traditional model obsolete. However, despite their best efforts, teachers were reluctant to make what was viewed as a signifiant change and ultimately the initiative was voted down by the staff.
But rather than giving up, the team persisted, purposively and intentionally shifting their focus, identifying obstacles and continuing to work with staff to come up with a structure that incorporated elements of the "old", but also introduced some "new" components. They "re-purposed" the model of sustained silent reading. Not entirely new, but most definitely innovative.
A similar "re-purposing" has been occurring at my own school in connection to our Advisory model. A structure that is designed to build meaningful and sustained relationships between students and teachers, over the years some staff and students had lost sight of it's original purpose and intent. Among other indicators, we noticed that students were increasingly late to class, offering the excuse of "it's just Advisory" when they were questioned in the halls. This signalled a loss of purpose and intention in the Advisory classes themselves.
Rather than calling a halt to the Advisory model, we decided to meet with staff and students to explore what aspects of the model they valued, and what aspects they felt were less essential. As a school community, once we had decided on those elements we valued, we then looked at ways to provide additional supports. Gradually, we are "re-purposing" our traditional model of Advisory into a model that is "custom built" to serve the needs of our evolving school community. Again, not new, but I would argue, innovative.
Limited time and resources can be a significant barrier to the successful implementation of new initiatives and structures. But by re-examing and "re-purposing" existing structures, meaningful and sustained innovation is absolutely achievable.