Saturday, July 27, 2013

Good to be home . . .

Even though today was weed eating and mowing, it was good to be home.  The work in the yard was also a good opportunity to reflect on the week and the work.  It was different living in a dorm room, eating three full meals+ every day, and teaching and being in meetings until after nine Monday through Wednesday.

Sharing our learning journey and the conversations it sparked in our module reinforced for me that the time and energy we have spent on creating a foundation for reflective conversations may be a significant factor in what sets us apart from many other school systems.  The more I engage with others and the feedback I get about our work, makes this more evident so that even I can accept it.  Dawn, Mary Jane, and I shared many tools, but the one that resonated most for many in the module is not a system tool, but something that we put together to capture our work.

We filled it out to show growth in or capacity to engage in reflective conversations and move an aspiration to a shared vision, two of the three legs of the systems thinking stool.  It helped them see that to change their current reality they would need to find and intentionally use structures and strategies aligned with the aspiration they have identified. We had discussed the possibility of also using the tool in our leadership meeting with principals and teachers and after teaching this module it makes good sense to use it to review the importance of the three legs and the need to revisit the tools that have influenced the cultures in our current reality.  These tools include mental models, ladders of inference, SPACE, balancing advocacy and inquiry, public/private, Influencer, see/feel change, the power of story . . .  We have hired many new staff since the last time some buildings and we have revisited these tools so it is time.

We can be proud of what we have accomplished and who we are knowing that we have much yet to learn and new structures and strategies to create and influence our future.  Being a part of this learning journey is energizing and rewarding for me.  How about for you?  It would be good to hear the reflections from others that shared the Camp Snowball experience with us.

1 comment:

Monty-Kinz ;) said...

There is quite a bit in your blog post that really spoke to me. I want to focus on the validation component.
In the four day module that Brett Thompson and I facilitated there were 27 in attendance. 8 of these were administrators (From an assistant superintendent to assistant principals). We were not aware of who would be in our module until the module started. From previous experience we were expecting teachers and curriculum developers. With the number of administrators in our module it was important for us to share not only what this work can look like in the classroom but also how it, and many other strategies and tools our district uses, help to create an effective school system. Both during our module and after each day there would be quite a few inquiries from folks about "how can I learn more about" and "can I get a copy of what your district does with...". One school system (comparable in size to Seattle) asked to meet outside of the module to hear our district''s story. These folks were interested enough in our story to want to get together at the end of a 14 hour day. We were able to put the tools we are using in a broader context for them. Tools which our classroom teachers and administrators practice on a daily basis such as SPACE are a part of that foundation.
The most helpful component of the meeting with these twelve central office folks from the larger district was the graphic we created for use with administrators around the three legged stool. The language at the bottom of the graphic combined with examples (and non-examples) within our system helps folks understand the context for some of these tools. We met for an hour and a half and as 10:30 was closing in on us there was a fantastic energy in the room. I would have to go back a little ways to find the right word. Barry Fountain used it regularly - synergy. There was a definite synergy in the room that felt like the beginnings of a vision.
Brett and I were asked to facilitate a module at this conference because of our experience with using Systems Tools in the classroom. We believe that we did this well and that folks left with a plan for implementing the tools. However, like so regularly happens, what really seemed to speak to many folks was the Tahoma School District's story. It is a powerful one.