The “Systems Thinking Conference” at Puget Sound Educational Service District provided a powerful opportunity for our Tahoma team of approximately 20 classified staff members, supervisors and administrators to work with coaches who are well grounded in systems thinking to begin to tackle a complex issue with which our district has struggled over time.
There are few administrators in comparison with the number of classified staff members. It presents a significant challenge to provide a system of feedback that genuinely promotes growth and accurately describes the employees’ performance. Our conference team agreed that if we are to commit to a supervision and evaluation process which promotes a sense of value and professionalism, we need to look deeper using systems thinking tools to challenge the mental models and structures we have developed around this issue for many years. As a result of the two and one-half days our team engaged in meaningful learning and the application of systems thinking to this issue, I have a strong belief that the collaborative efforts of the team members will draw many others in our system into related planning and change efforts in the near future in order to create and implement a more effective process.
The conference team was composed of staff members which included some who have a solid grounding in systems thinking, concepts and tools through their work over a number of years. Mike Maryanski presented the “Tahoma Leadership Journey” in support of our Classroom 10 Vision which really served to energize the conference and provided an overview of the tools and terminology which many in our system now apply routinely. Dawn Wakely and Mike Hanson contributed greatly by sharing their expertise and assisting Steve Byers, our PSESD primary team coach. For some on our team the terminology and concepts were completely new, however their contributions to the discussions were invaluable. For me the structure of this experience allowed me to understand the application of systems thinking tools far more deeply than I have previously experienced. We worked intently to apply learning to this very real and complex issue in our school system. We know so well that the best learning occurs when teachers “Make it real,” and this a great example of professional development providing new learning made real through the applications to a genuine and complex issue.
All of our team members shared their meaningful insights as the conference concluded. Some partial comments which were similar to views shared by others included:
“What an experience. I have lived my life by what’s possible. I had the opportunity to spend these days reminding myself of what’s possible and a new and exciting tool to use for stretching myself to what’s possible.” Barbara Roessler
“ The experience was exciting and at times very eye opening because of the stakeholders in the process. Thanks for an awesome learning experience!” Sharon Monaco
“Awesome training for professional and personal growth. Great to see how our team grew, opened up, and collaborated for a shared commitment.” Cindy Erickson.
“ I learned that while I thought I understood my ladders, I didn’t realize that my mental models are driving my decisions.” Lori Cloud
“In order for us to see the whole picture we all need to make a constant effort to seek a deeper understanding that helps build relationships that promotes success for all.” Ruth Mackie
“This conference has been meaningful for me because it gave me a context for using tools I had previously been exposed to in isolation” Rhonda Ham
Thanks Bruce for sharing this with us.