Tuesday, July 26, 2016

It is a Journey, Not a Destination - A Leaders Work

Let's be honest. We've all heard the phrases, "This too shall pass" or "We just need to get this implemented." Although the individuals that have used these phrases had good intentions, it isn't what we should be saying in education. We need to think with development in mind so that we promote and engage continuous improvement.

The picture above is of my oldest daughter and three of her friends on the Donner Trail during the 2015 Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton History Trip. These four young ladies were about to set out on a journey of a lifetime. They were prepared to climb obstacles, enjoy the descents, maneuver rough terrain and overcome fears. It is the learning from this journey that has formed future responses to life's challenges. After all, life is a journey.

When school districts implement the following initiatives:
  • Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)
  • Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) 
  • Daily 5
  • Response to Intervention
  • Insert your initiatives...
They often get lost in the premise of the programs, systems, ideas, etc... Instead of focusing on the implementation process, steps, and "the end", districts need to focus on refinement and improvement. Learning organizations emphasize the need to improve current best practices and programming to improve student learning. These same organizations also understand the importance of eliminating ineffective programs as new ones enter.

Our hopes and dreams of our students is that they look at the journey, like the Donner Trail, as a life changing experience in the building of knowledge. This knowledge will provide them with appropriate future responses for each new situation they encounter. Ideally, in the end they will be, well equipped to handle life's obstacles, better decision makers, and contributing citizens.

This is where leadership is so important. As leaders we need to assist in the shift from, "This too shall pass" to "How can we improve this for kids?" I would like to propose the following process of the educational journey.
  • Evaluate current practice. 
    • What are you currently doing? 
    • How is it being done? 
    • What data do you have to support your argument? 
    • What is current affective data of the practice?
  • Make information rich decisions.
    • What does the information say about student effectiveness? 
      • If results are positive, what can you do to strengthen the offering? 
      • If not, can the process be eliminated or improved?
  • Implementation of the identified systems Kotter & Rathgeber, 200%).
    • Create Urgency - What information do you have that supports change?
    • Create a Guiding Team - Pull together those that will develop a process for change.
    • Create a Vision - What is the new culture being developed?
    • Communicate the Vision - Inform all stakeholders.
    • Empower Action - All others to do work. Provide strengths based objectives.
    • Create Quick Wins - Celebrate short and long term successes.
    • Build on the Change - Continue the process of change.
    • Embrace the New Culture - Continuously evaluate the process and improve.
Following this process will provide favorable conditions on the learning journey! Teaching and learning is a journey, not a destination!

Kotter, J. & Rathgeber, H. (2005). Our iceberg is melting: Changing and succeeding under any conditions. New York, NY: St. Martin's Press.

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