A Rising Tide…

…reflections on supporting each other in a sea of change.

Every once in awhile, I have the privilege of sitting with bright and dedicated minds to discuss education.  It is very rare, however, that the privilege includes someone who deeply understands the educational systems in the west, along with those in sub-Saharan Africa with breadth.  I am grateful for these opportunities!



Bright minds within education understand we are amidst a sea of transformation.  There is no debate there.  But, the questions are the same: what principles of change are not only transferable, but are universal? 

I share the themes from our conversation with the hope that we will all take the opportunity to debate this topic:  the universal principles of the transformation of education!  I call the movement #LearnForward.

  1. 3 Cs – Cultures of Continuous Change – During our discussion, the words ‘continuous improvement’ were used, but what really resonated is the word “transformation!”  The enemy of transformation is conformity.  Within education, we need to adopt more willingness to think outside-the-box, to risk, to challenge, to fail, to iterate.  The rate of this change must happen faster.  This will require everyone to think about their work differently, to learn, and to grow!  The longer I reflect on it, the more I like the 3 Cs: Culture of Continuous Change.  Of course, I’m not advocating change for the sake of change, but rather thoughtful, pedagogically sound, evidence-based, locally-inspired shifts in practice.
  2. Everyone at the “Table of Learning” – In order to adopt a change mindset, positioning us for transformation, we must all become ‘learners.’  I don’t just mean casually dipping our tow into this idea of growth every-once-in-awhile, I think we all have to pursue learning.  Learning keeps us creative, encourages risk-taking, and creates a collaborative learning community.  It includes everything from working on action-research within our practice to dedicating ourselves to listening and learning from our students each day.  If we can keep learning central on our table, our communities will navigate the sea of change.
  3. Leadership Willing to Risk – While the heart of change is in the classroom, leaders must also believe in change and push forward into unknown territory.  While much is being written on how to prepare students for a world that we cannot imagine, there are still many questions on how to do that effectively.  Educational leadership must support the emergence and risks of the teacher, allowing for individual personalities to take initiative and be innovative. I appreciate Robert Dillon’s honesty about our perspectives on change within education in his blog.  What I’m sure we agree on is that leadership can turn the key to unlock the potential of classroom teachers.
  4. Educators at the Heart – While there may be vigorous debate about this, I truly believe that teachers are at the heart of all educational change.  While leaders play an important role and the students’ self-directed pursuit of learning should be the outcome, the shift must happen in the hearts and minds of the classroom teacher.  The first “bite of the proverbial elephant” must always be the belief that things can change!  Next comes what Ann Cunningham Morris is calling in her blog on teacher effectiveness, “school-based, job embedded professional learning.”  When teachers begin to believe in change and then experience something different through professional learning, transformation of practice can happen.
  5. Supportive Collaboration – Within a context of rapid change, nothing is more important that an emotionally nurturing and supportive environment to establish a sustainable culture of change.  In our school community this ranges from quick hallway chats, to devotions twice a week, to professional learning communities.  I am grateful for the supportive team I have both in my brick-and-mortar school and my professional learning network to support my growth as a professional.  Without a sense of community, the pressures could easily overwhelm.  I definitely hold with great gratitude the team at Willowstone Academy.

With deep appreciation for the gifts of sharing, I am certain that we can all open our hands to realize that a rising tide raises all ships, particularly on the sea of change.