1) OBSERVE – “Looking back, what pleasant surprises did I discover this week?”
With this past week being the first full week of Preplanning with New Crew and Veteran Crew on campus, I (re)discovered how exciting it is to work with the people and teams I love. My MVIFI team, my MVPS Lower School team, my MDE Team and my Connections Team are full of incredible people – incredible people in terms of talents, diverse beliefs and ideas, and shared excitement about the good hard work that we do as a profession for the learners in our school community.
Perhaps it was best summarized in a bumper sticker I saw while I was out and about: “Go to where you are celebrated – not tolerated!” I really #lovemyschool because of the people that are there!
2) REFLECT – “What lessons did my work teach me that I could build upon next week?”
Perhaps the biggest lesson involved some of my leadership work during Preplanning. It has to do with offering ownership in the projects I lead, instead of just seeking buy-in on them. This has been a powerful influence upon my leadership style ever since I heard Dave Jakes and Bill Ferriter articulate it.
The specific context for this reflection has to do with the rollout of the new 2017-2018 Lower School schedule. As part of the rollout, a variety of “In Front of Us”* Needs became apparent from the See, Think, Wonder work we did. Rather than attempt to address all of them myself, I had people volunteer, or be tapped, to act as “beacons” for each need. As beacons, they became the folks that people could go to if they wanted to also work on the need, or to give input regarding a possible solution.
Perhaps my best example of how this ownership produced amazing results is from the work of Eileen Fennelly and Brittany Schmutzler, the Lower School science and performing arts Connections teachers, respectively. They took on the need for a Week 0 Connections rotation. We explain to our teachers that Week 0 needs to be about forming relationships with your students, and that important element needed to be a part of their rotation plan.
The solution they came up with blew that idea out of the water, because they crafted an experience that also helped form relationships between all of the Connectors as collaborative team teachers (CTT)! The experience takes advantage of the upcoming eclipse, and explores it through the lenses of science, performing arts, visual arts, and Spanish. As Kat Mattimoe, the visual arts Connections teacher, said so eloquently, ” The Connectors are connected!”
And it didn’t stop just there. The team is so excited, they’ve planned a similar CTT experience for Weeks 1 and 2! All of this because ownership over a piece of the schedule was offered.
3) FOCUS – “Are my short-term efforts and my long-term goals still aligned?”
I’m using an old post as a template for this one, and what’s funny is that that post is from nearly a year ago, during Preplanning 2016-2017, and what I wrote then easily fits for this year too!
I haven’t yet completed my goals for the coming school year. I’ve gone through our goals workshop, but I haven’t put it in final form. I feel comfortable with that too because so many of the authors and researchers of the books I’ve been ready say that waiting is a good thing:
- Steve Johnson talks about the “slow hunch” as being a key aspect in the natural history of innovation
- Benedict Carey discusses the value of “percolating” in terms of the mind’s ability to learn and be creative
- Adam Grant went in to great depth regarding how procrastination can influence a person’s ability to original
But it isn’t that these authors are saying that things can be put off until a later day simply because you want to. They each talk about how the mind continues to work on ideas even when you are consciously engaged with the idea. Your mind becomes more perceptive, and receptive, to information related to your idea as time passes, which makes the idea mature more fully. Plus, associations and lessons learned from those that “go first” makes is more likely that your idea will be more successful overall.
My (still forming) goal(s) for this year revolve around my roles at work. Most people look at me as the “Maker Teacher” because that is where I am most visible. I am seeking to change that this year by increasing my visibility and involvement throughout the School, with my MVIFI role as the most forward facing.
In the meantime, stay tuned while the language for that goal is formed! :-)
4) BE PRODUCTIVE – “What could I have spent more or less time doing?”
This is a hard one for me to write about because it is something I regularly coach people to do, but failed to do myself in this instance.
Let us return to the 2017-2018 LS schedule rollout, shall we? As the Needs came up, part of my plan was to put out a school-wide “Call for Beacons.” The process of creating that call, which involved writing documents, consolidating reflections and quesitons, and then crafting an email to explain it all, took an inordinate amount of time to do so – 16 hours if you are wondering.
What I should have done was create a much simpler prototype to get feedback on to see if I was headed in the right direction. Instead, I went and asked for help since I wasn’t even able to get it all done in that 16 hours. That help session became the feedback session that I should have gone for in the first place. And as a result, we made some very sensible changes in the scope of work and in the Call for Beacons plan which resulted in some outstanding work.
So the lesson is to listen more often to these wise words: “Be wrong early and often, so you can be right sooner rather than later.”
5) HAVE COURAGE – “How did fear and uncertainty affect what I did and didn’t do?”
I can’t pinpoint a particular instance of fear influencing my actions, but I can share a pretty big revelation I found while preparing a Preplanning Opening Day activity.
I was researching the Circle of Comfort in Leadership the Outward Bound Way: Becoming a Better Leader in the Workplace, in the Wilderness, and in your Community. It was in Chapter 6 which was titled “Finding Courage, Overcoming Fear.” There is a section about identifying your fears, and how there is often a bigger underlying issue behind most people’s fears – kind of like a he-said-this-but-the-real-root-of-that-is-this thing. The quote that struck a cord with me is as follows:
…in leadership situations, many leaders say that they are afraid of asking for help, when what they really fear is appearing weak as a consequence of asking for help.
I’ve reflected on this once or twice in the past, but seeing it again in a book made it sink in further. This is something I need to be consciously thinking about in my envisioned new role at school, lest I let imposter syndrome set in.
6) CLEANSE – “What mental clutter can I clear?”
My response here probably isn’t in following with the spirit of the question, but I would say that my mind is certainly clearer now that this phase of the schedule rollout is finished. However, work still awaits us…
- Two “Beyond the Trees” Needs still need to be addressed, but I’m envisioning a different method for creating ownership with those – perhaps new Hot Teams.
- A third “Beyond the Trees” Need is up for some work as it was moved out from “In Front of Us” based upon the work of the other teams.
- An “Over the Mountains” Need will be back on the radar much later in the year when we can do some proper discovery and empathy work.
But with the logistics and balancing act of working on the other needs now over, I have definitely freed up some cranial space.
7) BEGIN ANEW – “What is the first logical step for next week?”
The first logical steps for next week involve being a supporting and visible leader, and modeling the behaviors we are looking for from our teachers. Students will finally return, and we have new teachers, and veteran, that are anxious to meet them. My first steps are their first steps: forming those relationships which are so foundational to learning.
The genesis of this reflective post comes from an experiment that Bo Adams invited a group of MVPS leaders to be a part of. His hypothesis in the experiment revolves around the idea that the process of regular reflection by learners, student or faculty, can produce remarkable positive learning results. That, in and of itself, is not a new belief.
Where the twist comes in is making it a regular occurrence, as opposed to just after a major event – or in a student’s case, when a project, test or unit of study is completed.
Essentially, what if regular reflection was an “assignment”, or some other form of home learning? How might this practice of reflection become habitual and motivated by intrinsic value? By doing this as lead learners, what empathetic insights might we gain to better enable us ask others to take on this practice? Or might we discover that we shouldn’t ask them?
To guide our reflections, Bo shared with us these seven questions shown to the right.
They are based on a post written by Mark Chernoff on their site Hack Life. I highly recommend reading the post to help unpack the thoughts and motivations behind these seven questions.
Well, consider this post my way of getting my homework done so I can participate in the class discussions to follow. :-)
Images in this post, but not shown in the Image Credits section, are my own.