Sometimes you need to embrace chaos: taking on the challenge from @chrkennedy to take part in #LeadershipDay14
Many education leaders say (especially in interviews) that they want to spend their first year “watching and listening” – implying that any ‘changes’ will happen starting in year two. But that can be dangerous. Waiting too long can lead to making changes being more difficult. Much like the once quoted advice to “not smile until Christmas” is looked at with questioning eyes, so should the idea of “I’ll take a year before making changes”…..before being a leader?
Sometimes you can’t wait.
There are times when what you are listening to, seeing, and being part of, require you to lead in order for ‘change’ to begin. I refer to this as ‘embracing chaos’ – going into directions that you’re not always certain of what the final result will be. Not changing things for the sake of change, but because doing different will make the learning experience more relevant and meaningful to the entire learning community.
As a teaching principal, I try to “walk the talk” about taking risks to enhance learning. In the classroom I have used #geniushour and Self Organized Learning Environments (SOLEs) to model & encourage student-led classes (largely around science and socials). As a school leader, I have also encouraged and supported my staff and learning community in using eportfolios instead of report cards. All of which have had ‘uncertain endings’ – I had an idea of what might happen, and protected myself about the predictable “implementation dip” that happens when first tryings something new.
If I had waited, my science and socials may have been more ‘hands on’ but after being inspired by the work of Sugata Mitra and his SOLEs ( https://technolandy.wordpress.com/soles/ ) my students and I have done ‘very different’ learning which, along with geniushour, have very positively disrupted the traditional approach to learning at our school (and spread into other classrooms). It has also allowed other teachers to take up the leadership reigns around Physical Literacy, early reading interventions, etc – a risk-taking friendly environment where “fails” are not seen as bad things, and an inquiry mindset where ‘trying something out’ is accepted and supported.
After years of looking for a ‘better report card’ we have followed some of the sayings of Henry Ford: “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” (but not “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black” – I’m way too differentiated focused than that!) Steve Jobs quote also echoes with me: “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them”. This is when leaders need to embrace chaos and show what can be done…and our shift to eportfolios has greatly shifted the language away from “reporting student learning” to “communicating student learning” – a key shift in our provincial language around education!
Part of my mission comes from my own father passing away in the middle of his career as a principal. Another part comes from a friends son who has Duchenne disease and I hope that every day of his school experience is fantastic. My own sons struggle with anxiety also brings the importance of ‘doing different’ in schools. These and many others make me keep leadership ‘timeliness’ front and centre for me – making changes when (and as) students need it, not when it is more convenient. If you want to wait until tomorrow to be an educational leader….