“What if…” Thinking on More Change

Monday means more change.  We are embarking on the gradual re-opening of schools, which represents the 3rd delivery model for education we’re innovating on in this school year.  We started with a traditional brick & mortar model, moved to an eLearning model, and now we are focused on re-inventing our eLearning program for both in-class and at-home delivery.  Just when we felt like we were getting the hang of things, they are changing again.

What if there is a gift in the process of wholesale change?  What if teachers, parents, and students are learning to tolerate change itself?  How could the possibility of managing change, remaining open-hearted, tolerating ambiguity, and being process-oriented help advance education for the sake of our children?

In his book Thriving on Chaos, Tom Peters concludes that our very context has been destabilized.  Organizations can’t plan or predict long-range trends because of the acceleration of change and the complexity of our society.

That idea, although written in the early 1990s, seems to describe the experience in education for all of us over the past 75 days.

The complexity, rapid change, and possibly even chaos is inviting us to foster learning teams, cultures of growth, and change-readiness.

My colleague and friend, Danny Bauer of Better Leaders, Better Schools is currently encouraging educators with an invitation to “What if…” thinking.  I am going to build on his thinking with the following “What ifs…” around cultivating change-readiness for schools.

1. What if questions are more important than answers?

I am leading more and more with inquiry.  In our school, asking questions shapes our culture, guides pedagogy, and invites learning both for the team, community, and the students.  I am not afraid to ask hard questions that guide my decision-making.  One current question is “How can we design both a conservative and life-giving budget and team for 2020-21?”

Even now, I am asking our team to creatively inquire, “How can we design learning environments deconstructing place?”  We are holding curiosity about how to invite learning forward for students who are both at home and in the classroom simultaneously.

2.  What if teamwork is most important for change work?

Most certainly, I don’t have all of the answers.  None of us does.  So, I’m interested in bringing our community together to solve problems.  Teachers, parents, and students, all need to be part of the conversation.  Everyone needs to be heard.  Even if we can’t do it perfectly, we can learn from each other and ideate new solutions.

I’m saying things like:

  • be creative and share with your teammates.
  • lean into the team.
  • ask powerful questions with your colleagues.
  • reach out for emotional support.

These are powerful ways of being that help us all adapt well.

As an example, this week, in a parent meeting, a delightful idea arose from the conversation.  It was another great solution for the last week of school, an idea on how to bring classmates together who are studying from home and from school.

3.  What if we focus on what matters most?

It’s all about learning.  Everyone is learning.  Teachers are learning and parents are learning.  Students are learning too!  And, to quote The Builder, “We’re all doin’ good.”

Let’s find ease in the truth that we’re all learning.

Actionable Ideas for Educators and Parents:

  • What is an encouraging question I could hold for June about school and/or learning?
  • If I could offer my most constructive feedback to our school community today, what would it be?  Who would I say it to?
  • To whom do I want to share, “We’re doin’ good.”  When will I do it?
  • For me, “what if…” inspires_____________?

For the sake of the children,