“If we’re not squirming, we’re not learning.” #edjourney

“If we’re not squirming, we’re not learning.”
— Grant Lichtman, EdJourney: A Roadmap to the Future of Education


Recently, Scott McLeod in a post to his Dangerously Irrelevant Blog argued that “We Need Schools to Be Different.” Simply put, the industrial model of education no longer fits our current reality. There is a significant disconnect between the realities “out in the real world” and what our students experience every day in school. 

So what is keeping us from creating different kinds of schools that will prepare our students to tackle the challenges in the world as it is today (and will likely become in the not too distant future)? In his post,”Do We Need a Startup Mindset (In Education)?”, David Culberhouse points out one barrier — our tendency to avoid taking risks:
We live in a time when taking risks is not as much an occupational hazard, as it is an occupational necessity.  As they say, “no risk, no reward.”  And yet, we try to shield ourselves from these risks with plans, policies, and strategies that promise assurances and guarantees.

To make sense of unrelenting changes, we resort to the comfort of the familiar. In doing so, we stand in our own way. There may be a false sense of security, but alas, this approach will not move us forward. 

As we often hear, “change is hard.” Or is it? In his new book, EdJourney: A Roadmap to the Future of Education (Jossey-Bass, 2013), Grant Lichtman challenges this claim head-on. He acknowledges that “change brings displacement and even grief; it takes a long time; and all of that is Ok.” But, Lichtman asserts the “displacement” and “grief” that change stirs up are not the same thing as “hard.” He urges us not to confuse the two:

Change at most schools is not hard; it is uncomfortable. Sometimes it might be very uncomfortable for some people. It can be messy, complicated, and tiresome. Uncomfortable means making some tough decisions. But using the excuse that we can’t change schools because ‘it is hard’? — well, we need to get some perspective on the difference between hard and uncomfortable.

It is the messiness and uncertainty that makes change so profoundly unsettling and yes, down right uncomfortable. We usually interpret this discomfort as a sign that we are doing something wrong or that perhaps, we should retreat. Part of this skewed sense of perspective lies in our expectations about the process. Many of us think that success is a straight line from the inception of a “great idea” to its implementation.
What success looks like

Here’s the rub. Growth and discomfort often go hand in hand. One does not happen without the other. Staying in the comfort zone of the familiar, rarely, if ever, yields growth. It is only by looking squarely at our practices, asking deep questions, and challenging our long held beliefs, that we stand a chance of creating the different kinds of schools that Scott McLeod describes.
A while ago, I came across this graphic (Thank you, Tony Borash @tborash via @poida). While it is intended to be used by teachers to guide their work with students, I think it also applies to the work of educational leaders who are grappling with the change process in school sites and systems.

IMG_0157We can easily reframe these questions to apply to adults working within the educational system. Which ‘zones” are you (or your staff) generally in? Where does the most learning occur?
There is little doubt that we are in the midst of monumental change. As we explore, experiment, fail forward (and backward), facing discomfort head on and working through it are essential parts of the process. Walking around it or staying put are no longer options. It is that simple. When we step out of our comfort zones into the unknown, we will squirm. And, we can create possibilities for deeper transformation.

Design Thinking Bootcamp #SCOE21C #DTK12chat

What I Learned at Design Bootcamp

To rethink and redesign learning for students, we as educators need to practice new ways of thinking and approaching challenges. A few weeks ago, I participated in a Design Thinking Bootcamp facilitated by Greg Bamford (@gregbamford), Carla Silver (@carla_r_silver) and Alyssa Gallagher (@am_gallagher) from Leadership and Design. Powerful learning stretches us beyond our boundaries, pushes us out of comfort zone, and leads us to new insights. This is exactly what I experienced. Here are my top five take-aways from the Design Thinking Bootcamp: Continue reading

A gentle nudge…slowing down #SAVMP

slow downphoto credit: Loozrboy via photopin cc

Sometimes inspiration comes at just the right moment. Lately, I have been moving at warp speed.  At times, I get so caught up in the “doing” that it is difficult to slow down and reflect.

Earlier this school year, I signed up to participate in an innovative program launched by George Couros (@gcouros), the School Administrator Virtual Mentor Program (#SAVMP). I have been fortunate to connect and learn with committed educators who are sorting through how to lead the way forward to innovative learning in our schools and communities. And, I have had a tough time juggling the competing demands of doing the work and reflecting on the work. I tend to lean more in the direction of the “doing” part (the slowing down part, not so much).

So, this week when George provided a “gentle nudge” to program participants to take time to stop and reflect and share our learning through blogging and tweeting, I was inspired to take stock. In his blog post, You can Close the Door (Sometimes), George offers a timely reminder that it is “high priority work” for educational leaders to stop and reflect and share as a key component of creating an open culture of learning among educators.

At first his post struck me as an interesting counterpoint to my recent post on the power of connections by “opening our doors” by sharing our professional practices.  The juxtaposition of open and closed doors made me think — both are necessary to our continued growth and learning.

It is only by closing our door (sometimes) that we are able to truly reflect on not only what we’re doing, but why it is important to our larger purpose. Running on empty does not really promote deep thinking or learning. Without our best thinking, it is virtually impossible to focus our energy on taking the next right steps to move forward. Taking the time to reflect enhances our ability to engage more meaningfully with others. It seems to me that both are essential to building a collaborative culture that promotes deeper learning and purposeful action toward our common goal.

What are your thoughts on how to slow down and take time for deeper reflection?

Why I Lead… #SAVMP

Lead and learn photo credit: AnsonLu

I am excited about the opportunity to participate in an innovative program launched by George Couros  (@gcouros), The School Administrators Virtual Mentorship Program (#SAVMP). The idea behind the program is “to help develop administrators to lead innovative school environments that meet the needs of students today.” Leading innovation begins with our own learning.

As a starting point for thinking about our own practices, George has asked us to reflect on our “why” — why we lead. I have to admit that when I began my career as an educator, I never envisioned myself as a leader. Early on, I saw myself as a learner and a teacher, guiding and facilitating the learning of my students. Inspired by my own teachers who saw me — as a person and a learner — I wanted to follow in their footsteps and give back the life-changing gift that they gave me.

As a teacher, the connections I made with students — getting to know their strengths, their passions, their challenges and their dreams — gave me a genuine sense of purpose and meaning. Seeing the spark in a student as they discovered new skills, talents and capabilities inspired me to continue to learn and grow to be a better teacher. Empowering students to step boldly onto their own path, in turn, inspired me to seek out and pursue my own learning.

At that time, I associated “leadership” with “administration” — as something embodied by a single individual, separate from the essential connection between learning and teaching. As my path has meandered, however, my understanding of leadership has profoundly changed. Continue reading