To help encourage conversations about innovation, change, new ideas, and feedback, the topic/question for the dinner table is a series of questions:
If you had to choose, which approach to Innovation would you encourage - Innovation for the beauty of innovation or Selective innovation that adheres to a specific goal?
New Ideas Philosophy
If you had to choose, at which would you rather get better - Someone who comes up with new ideas or Someone who effectively buys into and encourages others to buy into someone else's ideas?
On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being highest, how much would filming yourself in the classroom help you improve, and help you improve as a collaborator?
Please see link to Google Form to share your responses: 2 If You Had to Choose, and 1 On a Scale (This is an anonymous Google Form)
With our first five-day week upon us and the month of October on our doorstep, I hope that everyone had a nice autumn weekend. After watching the Medfield-Holliston football game Friday evening with the kids, we had our weekly ‘sports Saturday’ before getting together with some friends Saturday evening. Owen and I were lucky enough to go to the Patriots game Sunday afternoon – it’s always so great to see Owen’s wide eyes as we enter 'the scene'.
Each day when I walk to Blake I take a minute to read our mission statement: Blake Middle School believes in a living mission statement, based on the concept that our community seeks and respects knowledge, integrity, character, wisdom, and the willingness to adapt to a continually evolving world. These words are important are they form the foundation of our beliefs for our students and ourselves. One integral component of this mission is the living and active seeking of knowledge - the active practice of learning. It is important for our entire community to be continually mapping out and assessing our own learning - whether it be formal learning through professional development (course work, graduate programs, conferences, workshops) or more other means (examining our own practices, supervision/evaluation process, Twitter, listening to students, cluster/team/department/district meetings, job-alikes, etc.). All hold value and are hopefully part of the norms of our culture of learning. As I have shared with our staff, this week I will be going to Raleigh, North Carolina for a 3-day workshop/training at The Friday Institute at NC State University entitled 'Leadership in Blended Learning'. These 3 days are the 'kick-off' to a yearlong endeavor with a team from TEC (The Education Collaborative). I am looking forward to the experience, with the hopes of increasing my own learning with a lens to benefit Blake/Medfield.
One task of the pre-work for this training asked participants to examine how the culture of one's school impacts or plays a role in the change process and culture of professional development. As part of this reflection, participating principals are asked to elicit feedback from parents, veteran teachers, new teachers, administrators, etc. with a focus/direction on these prompts...
• How would you describe the culture at Blake? What key word or phrases come to mind?
• Why do you describe the culture in this manner? What indicators are there to support your thoughts? Why do you use these words (from first prompt) to describe the culture at Blake?
In an effort to attain a comprehensive representation of responses, I asked a cross-section of parents, new teachers, cluster leaders, content specialists, administrators, site council, MCPE members, CSA members, etc. If I am being honest, I was nervous to hit 'send' on my e-mail request for help to this large group in anticipation of the feedback. As much as I know feedback is important, the reality is you never know what you will get when you ask for it. At some point in the near future, I will be sharing (anonymously, of course) the responses and feedback that was gained - very positive and common threads were evident. This is not to say that we are perfect and concerns were not shared - rather, the responses were honest and, for the most part, consistent and spoke to a 'culture of learning, care, and innovation'. And, most important I believe, I did not find myself surprised or bewildered by the shared thoughts. Yes, there are some I wanted to hear more about, but the consistency and, in general, thematic threads spoke to a shared understanding of our community and mission.
The culture of a school, organization, or community is incredibly important to foster, grow, and nurture. We also need to make sure we are continually/consistently listening and talking about the culture with our compass pointed towards the characteristics noted above - 'learning, care, and innovation'. One hope I have for this work is to continually hold up the proverbial mirror to our school and myself - taking the introduced concepts, employing self-assessments in a reflective manner, and being open to implications for our own growth. It is a structure that I believe is healthy and productive for all learning, students and adults alike. With this framework in mind and in the spirit of transparency, I am sharing two posts this week that have helped to center my thinking and I hope that you will find them pertinent to your thinking as well...
The Change Leader
by Michael Fullan (@MichaelFullan1) in Educational Leadership
Although written in 2002, Fullan's article is relevant as it marries the ideas of a school leaders as both leaders of instruction and cultural change. I remember reading this article back in 2005 when I was in my administrative program/internship - my perspective and experiences have certainly evolved since the first time reading it, and I will now have it as one of the core readings I should read, reread, read once more on a continual cycle. The audience for this article is essentially aimed at principals, but the ideas/structure can certainly apply to the notion of teachers as 'change leaders in the classroom' and parents/guardians/caring adults as 'change leaders for their families'.
To ensure deeper learning—to encourage problem solving and thinking skills and to develop and nurture highly motivated and engaged learners, for example—requires mobilizing the energy and capacities of teachers. In turn, to mobilize teachers, we must improve teachers' working conditions and morale.
Cultural Change Principals display palpable energy, enthusiasm, and hope. In addition, five essential components characterize leaders in the knowledge society: moral purpose, an understanding of the change process, the ability to improve relationships, knowledge creation and sharing, and coherence making.
Does Your Practice Align With Your Beliefs?
post by Edna Sackson (@whatedsaid)
Sackson's brief post helps to take the theory of cultural change to the ideas of application. The hope for all of us is that the answer to the title of her post is 'Yes' - i.e. 'Yes, our practices align with our mission...Yes, my practices reflect what I say...Yes, I stand and practice behind my words.' This is not always easy to do, but as Sackson points out, we have a greater chance of the answer being 'yes' by 'living our learning principles through a culture of
learning, distributed leadership, a culture of autonomy and trust'.
Viewing ourselves through the eyes of others and becoming aware of different perspectives has been both validating and enlightening. In the process of planning for and evaluating the visits and observing our school’s practice through a different lens, we have asked ourselves the same sorts of questions. Does our practice align with our beliefs about learning?
A healthy culture, and one that hopefully reflects our beliefs, is critical. We have a lot on our plates and part of this self-reflection is helping me to better identify how I contribute to the 'full plates' at school and in our day-to-day work. Shining a strong light on our theme of 'collaboration' is important, as it reflects the ideas referenced above of distributed leadership balanced with autonomy and trust. On our first day together as a staff this year, I asked for everyone's thoughts in response to this prompt - 'Teaching middle school students the value of collaboration is important because…', and the collective responses can be found here - Value of Collaboration. As we look ahead to the coming days and months with our students, I hope we can collectively work towards embracing an openness to a 'culture of change' in a collaborative manner in an effort to ensure that our practices are indeed aligned with our beliefs. I welcome your thoughts, perspectives, and input.
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