Sunday, December 30, 2012

Last week, I was able to spend some time on a project that is the result of a conversation with Mike Hansen.  Mike is a high school science teacher who is supporting our system in creating additional capacity to apply system thinking tools to difficult issues and embedding system thinking into selected curriculum.  In the conversation, Mike asked me some questions related to the future of our school system and challenged me to look more closely at the attributes that  I bring to our work.  What are those attributes and how will those that assume leadership positions continue the journey we are creating?

This is a difficult task for me because I rarely think about what "I bring" to the work, but I decided that it will be good for me and for others in the system.  It is also one of the reasons why I have been pushing my blog readers to share their stories that reflect the culture that we have created.  Unfortunately, there has been little response to my request.  That may change as I begin to share my reflections and others see the need to support our continuing journey.

Related to these reflections and struggles is a conversation with Mike Hansen that resulted in what you are now reading.  I see Mike has one component of the transition to support the system’s capacity to move forward.  I want his capacity to use the tools of system thinking to build upon the foundation that we have created.  The system needs this capacity to adapt to the national and state mandates we currently face and those that I believe will follow in the near future.  In the conversation, Mike made me look more closely at the attributes I bring to our work.  This is difficult for me, but he moved me to a place where I felt tension between my current reality and what I want for our system after retirement. 

What you are reading is the result of the creative tension that is now driving my behavior.  I want this system to experience little, if any, disturbance as we transition from a system where Mike and Nancy are seen by many as the face of the district to one where the face of the district is embedded in the work being done in classrooms.  It is greater than simply finding the “right” people to assume roles.  When people think about Tahoma it should be about our results in difficult situations with over-crowding in all buildings.  It should be about the quality learning that takes place every day in every classroom for every child.

So, how do I start this process?

I have made the decision that there is much to be learned through reviewing the books that I have read with a focus on those related to leadership.  As I write this, I am looking at over seventy books sitting on the floor that fit this category leaving holes in my book case and on shelves.  There are greater than that number remaining in their respective places, but I’ll move forward with my first cut.

I started not with a book on leadership, but with one that was published in 1983 that had a significant influence on my thinking, A Nation At Risk.  To give you a sense of what I am doing I'll share below some of  my reflections on this book.

I was in graduate school at the time of this release so I had multiple opportunities for conversations with colleagues.  It reinforced for me the importance of leadership as opposed to simply managing schools.  I realized the need for consensus if we were going to successfully meet the challenges embedded in the report.

Reading this caused me to truly reflect on the purpose of a public education; to graduate with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions for success in post high school learning and work.  I now understand that this was the beginning of our instructional model work.  It started with the development of our Student Profile document that led over time to what we now call our District Outcomes and Indicators.  Our Classroom 10 work is designed to support acquisition of the outcomes and indicators every day, in every classroom, for every child.

Thus far I have reviewed fourteen books and found that there are some important learning's that have influenced me in most of them.  Prioritizing time for the work will be difficult, but I believe that there will be some nuggets that others can take to support our future journey.  I will periodically share more in future posts.

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