One of the simultaneously challenging and awesome things about this job is that I'm asked to do a lot of different things. Sometimes they are things that I have experience with and have some measure of confidence in executing. Sometimes, that's not the case. Working on a training? That's comfortable (though it wasn't a year ago). Facilitating the development or refinement of a new vision for a school? That's exciting and largely unknown to date, until this week. You see, working with vision is entirely new to me, at least on the school level. About all I had to work from was a book I read this summer by Simon Sinek called "Start with Why". It wasn't much to go on, but in the end it was enough.
This past Wednesday, I worked with a new principal and a cross-disciplinary team from one of our district schools. We started by looking at what was done last year. The school had been exploring STEM and had required STEM units be implemented in all disciplines, including history and English-language arts. No one said it outright, but it seemed clear that that approach had not been well received by all of the staff.
So, with that in mind we started exploring the "why" that forms of their vision for their site. I facilitated conversation by posing questions to the group, taking notes, and summarizing common themes. In the morning, we identified some themes and then I asked them to write them in a statement. One participant came up with the idea that their school aims to "empower our students to turn imagination into innovation." And that was it. Jackpot.
Their refined vision is to empower their students to be creative problem solvers in a way that transcends disciplinary identity. There are many ways to prepare students to be creative problem-solvers. STEM programs are just one possible "how" to their refined "why". The hope, of course, is that this concept is something that everyone can buy into. Who doesn't want their students to be creative problem-solvers? We need problem-solvers! It looks like they'll explore design learning as an entry point into this newly refined vision.
It still remains to be seen how they will move forward as a staff, and that's really where the hard work begins. Nevertheless, I'm really proud of the team for coming together in a positive and dynamic manner. Everyone stayed focused on the task, contributed and listened effectively. I can easily say that I'm honored to have been able to facilitate conversation for the group. It was quite the experience and I'm sure it will come in handy someday.
On a separate, though closely related note, check out my former principal's blog post related to vision from Wednesday. It appears that vision is the topic of the week! And if you have time, check out Sinek's TED talk below.