“This just doesn’t feel right! I miss the kids. I miss the teachers. I miss visiting classrooms, shaking hands with students as they enter the building, laughing with teachers at lunch duty!”
This, or some version of this, is what I’m hearing from the principals I work with.
Most school leaders hate to be out of their schools. Whether it’s being called away to a district meeting or staying home sick (a rare occurrence), most principals will do anything to avoid being out of the building.
So, sitting at home–or behind your desks in empty schools–is no doubt a jarring experience.
Yet all over the country, principals like my friend Anne in Maine tell me the current crisis has raised their game.
In conversations with school leaders over the phone, Zoom, and Twitter, leaders have shared the ways they are making connections, supporting learning, and–perhaps most importantly–demonstrating their own vulnerability.
A1: Search #StayConnectedCPS and see photos of our amazing and innovative students and staff taking on our Chesapeake 5Cs Virtual Challenge last week. Lifelong learners in action! #valinchat pic.twitter.com/7SbNLU9K2n
— Alaina Trott (@AlainaTrott) April 2, 2020
— Shameka N. Gerald (@Shameka_Gerald) April 2, 2020
A2: My kids + I are challenging ourselves to try/learn something unrelated to SOLs each week. I challenged myself to learn how to watercolor + I am finding it's very calming! Making sure to carve out "me" time, being outside, and virtually connecting with friends! #VaLinChat https://t.co/3jmJiJGCZw
— Megan Howland (@meganahowland) April 2, 2020
Thanks to all who are leading…and sharing! To share more examples or get some coaching support, you can contact me here.
For years now, great principals have moved away from the nuts and bolts staff meeting in favor of interactive professional learning and dialogue.
While the current crisis likely demands a return to orderly info sessions, there will soon be time to engage with our colleagues around professional matters.
If you’ve ever used this, you know how engaging the Block Party can be. It’s my go-to opener for staff meetings and professional learning sessions and it’s never disappointed. (I’m a huge fan of protocols and rely on the School Reform Initiative for their great list of resources.)
The facilitator chooses quotes related to the topic or theme of the meeting. (You can do this with pieces from one specific article/reading, but I’ve had great luck with these quotes.)
In a face to face meeting, I print the quotes and cut into strips. (There are usually multiples.)
Then, spread out the strips on a table and allow folks to choose one that resonates with them. Give some thinking time and then have people get up, find a partner and share what they chose and why. After both have shared, they move on and find new partners. Repeat as long as you wish. (Usually 3 rounds)
In a large group, people share themes, poignant remarks from partners, etc.
You’ll need to make a copy. Here’s a quick tutorial for how to do that.
I hope this provides a space for meaningful staff engagement. I’d love to hear reactions and suggestions – contact me here.
Last Friday afternoon at the Business Innovation Factory, four teams of teachers, including a team from my network, shared their stories of collaborative design thinking. This “storytelling” event was the culmination of a six week project called TD4ED, in which teachers were given the space and time to consider a problem of practice and design their own solution.
While the four teams’ projects differed, a common thread appeared. Each team had clearly been energized by the autonomy given them and came out of the experience not only with a sense of empowerment and enthusiasm, but with a tangible product to improve their schools.
Their enthusiasm was catching; I can honestly say that I teared up more than once, overwhelmed by this reminder of the collective power of teachers–and perhaps saddened by the realization that I’m not doing enough in my role to create the necessary space for such sparks to catch fire. After all, when I explored the concept of “change-mindedness” many years ago for my dissertation, I found partnership with colleagues as a key factor in that mindset. And the empowerment of teachers as a key lever for change guided my work in building professional learning communities?
Yet, I know that I have not empowered this team as much as this experience did. I wonder, have my core values changed? Or is there simply an incompatibility between the structure of school and the nature of innovation? What can we collectively do to give teachers the space, time and freedom to not only solve the problems in front of them but also to devise solutions before they even arise and to allow for the free-flow of ideas as Steven Johnson artfully discusses in his phenomenal book, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation.
In describing the impact his team’s work can have on his school, one teacher used the term “evolutionize”. Indeed, thinking differently about teachers’ work and support their sense of purpose, power and partnership can both revolutionize and evolutionize both the profession and the field. For my part, I thank the teams for powerfully reconnecting me with and reinforcing my values and beliefs about teachers’ capacity for innovation.Read More