Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Problems Solvers & Dreamers

Most school administrators by nature are "problem solvers". On a daily basis, we navigate any number of "problems", ranging from the the predictable, to the extreme. And rather than simply being reactive, we do our best to look ahead, to use our judgement and experience to proactively anticipate and respond to possible challenges or obstacles that might otherwise negatively impact our school communities. It's a necessary and valuable skill set. But at the same time, it's a mindset that's difficult to shake at times.

This past week, I had an opportunity to meet with colleagues to engage in some "big picture" conversations, exploring what the future of education might look like for our students- everything from a redesigned curriculum, to reimagining the physical and digital spaces in which that learning will occur. 

But as we engaged in this dialogue, a pattern began to emerge. One person would propose an idea, and then another would systematically list the possible obstacles and challenges. We struggled to shake that deficit based mindset. And really, it's not surprising, because to some extent this is what we're required to do on a daily basis... We're expected to anticipate and respond to challenges. We are the "problem solvers". But as my friend, principal Rob Laing reminded us, we're also the "blue sky" people, the dreamers

I'm not suggesting that we spend our days with our heads in the clouds, oblivious to the very real challenges that impact our school communities. Sometimes our students need to us to be the "problem solvers".
But sometimes they just need us to DREAM BIG...

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Root to Rise

Finding my edge, on the summit of Mount Baker. 
The one constant in my life is change
As such, I've become accustomed to that somewhat uncomfortable feeling that tells me that I'm on the edge of new understanding. I've learned to welcome that feeling, even to seek it out. Having experienced the other side, the amazing growth and insight that comes from pushing past that discomfort, I've gradually learned to embrace change.

But at the same time, I've also come to understand that I can't impose my eagerness, my desire to move forward, onto others. I can share my vision, my passion and my story, but ultimately, individuals must discover their own unique path forward. However, as a school leader, I can help to support the members of my school community as they find that path. And in the same way, I can continue to seek out their support as I move forward in my own learning.

The Innovator's Mindset by George Couros
In yoga, there is a saying, we must root to rise. Essentially, this is a reminder that we need to first ground ourselves in the present, in order to move forwards. Our "roots" provide the stability, the essential foundation that all potential growth results from. If we remain fixated in the past, or alternatively, are only focussed on the future, we lack the stability to initiate meaningful, sustained growth. In yoga, as in life, it's about finding a balance...

Translated into an educational context, rooting to rise suggests that before we are able to integrate new, potentially transformative instructional and assessment practices, we must first have an understanding of where we are now. I am privileged to have been welcomed into a school community that has a rich history, with many valued traditions. As such, it is essential that I take the time to understand the context, the culture, the story of where I am now in order to best support my staff and my students as we move forward into new learning, and new understanding.

Let me just close by stating the obvious, which is that I haven't come to this understanding on my own. As I've made note of in previous posts, I have many teachers in my life. Wise, patient people who generously listen, advise and support me as I continue to make my way on this journey. My hope is that I am able to repay this kindness by providing the same gentle guidance for others.

Monday, 8 February 2016

The Outer Circle: Refocusing on the "What"

For the human mind, accustomed to thinking linearly, 
exponential change is a difficult concept to grasp. 

-- Four-Dimensional Education: The Competencies Learners Need to Succeed

In the midst of a rapidly transforming educational landscape, it makes sense to give careful consideration to the the why. Simon Sinek's "golden circle" reminds us that if we're not able to clearly articulate the purpose behind significant change, it doesn't matter how innovative, how transformative it might will likely be met with scepticism and resistance.

Simon Sinek- Start With Why
But I've come to realize that with my focus largely on that essential inner circle, I had drifted somewhat from the outer ring, the what. With the implementation of a new curriculum, that what has been the topic of a rich dialogue amongst BC educators. With the world at our students' finger tips, how do we provide them with relevant, meaningful and engaging educational content? How do we choose what to teach? 

The good news is that to some extent, we don't need to decide. The new curriculum offers unprecedented choice to BC's students- an opportunity to explore individual, diverse interests and passions. And yet, the what provides an essential foundation, a framework.

By nature, I tend to be a "big ideas" kind of person, and sometimes lose sight of the essential foundational details. Fortunately, amidst the many inspirational "big ideas" that were shared at last week's FISA convention, I was provided with a remarkable reminder of the importance of the what by Charles Fadel, founder and chairman of the Centre for Curriculum Redesign. In his book, Four-Dimensional Education, Fadel explores the significant challenge that educational leaders face to keep pace with exponential growth on a global scale. As such, he identifies several integral "dimensions" as educational goals and presents a framework for 21st century education.

So while it's important to "Start With Why" when implementing significant change and innovation, I would suggest that refocussing on the what can also provide a useful reminder of those equally essential details, the foundational framework for a meaningful, transformative educational experience for our students.