The impetus for change at a high school with over 200+ staff members came this school year when a group of enthusiastic leaders was determined to see the vision of student-centered learning live inside and outside of the hallways at Wando High School. Like many high schools around the country, members of the 21st Century Learning Team (also known as a School PL Team) of the largest high school in Charleston County School District were struggling to get the message and communication out to their own staff members. Overall, the staff was aware of the vision for the work but unclear on the indicators of the implementation and how the school was measuring success.
As I mentioned in my earlier posts, I was fortunate throughout September to be able to attend and present at a number of really great conferences. In my final dispatch from the Responsive Conference, I am excited to share about Lindsey McGregor’s presentation on the power of total motivation. Lindsey is the Co-Founder and CEO of Vega Factor, and the author of Primed to Perform: How to Build the Highest Performing Cultures Through the Science of Total Motivation.
Curiosity has driven some of the most important innovations in our world. Albert Einstein famously boasted, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”
Curiosity is an attribute we actively work to develop in our teams at EE (one of our core values is Never Stop Learning) and in the leaders we support (our Innovative School Leaders Competencies include Learn Constantly and Cultivate Curiosity is one of the Coaching Competencies we’ll release later this month). I see curiosity as so critically important to shaping individual practices and organizational culture, I’ve included Constant Curiosity as one of the five key ingredients in my culture of innovation framework.
Last month I had the opportunity to collaborate with Kawai Lai, a former Education Elements (EE) teammate who recently founded VizLit with Lisa Kay Solomon and Dan Roam. Kawai and I are working together to create a Responsive Org Playbook for EE (sneak peek here). We believe the playbook will help us clarify our organizational design, support us to continue evolving as a company, and enable us to share our responsive practices with others (and build on what we’ve already shared with The NEW School Rules). During our three days huddled in a room together, it became increasingly clear to me that visuals are the best way to simplify complex ideas. This isn’t an insight unique to me, in fact, many others including Nancy Duarte, Dan Roam, David McCandless, Willemien Brand, and Jamie Slater have expressed the power of visuals to clarify and synthesize your thinking.
As someone whose career has spanned everything from circus performance to management consulting, I am constantly impressed by people. Individually, humans can be incredible learners, capable of resilience and adaptation. And, in well-organized teams, we can accomplish even more. Yet our schools are failing to adapt to the quickly changing culture and technology around us.
In Rule #1 Planning: Plan for Change, Not Perfection Alexis and Anthony articulate the importance of a clear purpose to help drive the actions and decisions of individuals and teams in an organization. As they’ve written, “We need to stick vigilantly to our purpose, not the plans we make to get us there.”
In one of the panel presentations at the Education Elements Personalized Learning Summit , Julia Freeland-Fisher (The Clayton Christensen Institute), Anthony Kim (Education Elements), and Lydia Dobyns (New Tech Network) shared what they’ve been reading, thinking, and writing about networked teams and learning. All three have new books out this year exploring the power of networks. I’ve also been thinking a lot about how we learn and how we share information as I’ve worked with Alexis Gonzales-Black and Anthony Kim to develop activities to support their book, The NEW School Rules.
Last month I was privileged to be one of 175 leaders selected to attend the inspiring Culture Conference in Santa Clara, CA. There were so many brilliant thinkers and ideas at this event that it will likely provide fodder for many future blog posts.
I was recently introduced to The NEW School Rules book on a webinar with co-author Anthony Kim. After learning about the book, I decided to dig into Chapter 1 Planning: Plan For Change, Not Perfection and Chapter 2 Teaming: Build Trust and Allow Authority To Spread. As I read, I found myself looking through a distributed leadership lens, starting with the question: How do superintendents bring innovation into their district while balancing the pressures for high levels of accountability for student success, as well as the maintenance of a professional learning environment for their teachers?
In high functioning schools and systems, leaders play four important roles: governance, operations, community building, and change leadership. As El Paso superintendent Juan Cabrera and I discussed in a recent post, each of these these roles can feel like a full time job.
Just maintaining the status quo (governance and operations) are complex and politically charged roles. Mobilizing collective community action to better support youth and families can be an enormous lift -- and school leaders almost always have a role in making it happen.