“Vision creates humility by requiring patience. We are often tasked with changing our communities and our world before we begin the important work of changing ourselves.” – Thaddeus Stegall
Today I am writing for those of you who feel you have to make bricks without straw. Sometimes in education, we feel SO FAR behind where we want to be in terms of the instruction we want to deliver, the relationships that we want to build, or the experiences that we want to provide for teachers and students. Please note, it does not take a miracle to build the kind of school experience that you want to see. It does not take an infusion of cash or a viral YouTube video to get your message out there. What it does take is bravery, ingenuity and a fresh perspective.
Recently I was invited to attend the Kansas State Department of Education’s annual conference. You can read more about my experience here. There I met school and district leaders who are doing just what I am telling you to do..repurposing resources. Kansas districts signed up to “redesign” their schools, with the goal that at the end of the process, they better prepare students for the future they will one day face. The incredible thing about their pursuit however is that they are doing it with no additional funding. You heard me. School districts are working closely with internal and external stakeholders by taking a hard look at their spending, programming, and partnerships to focus efforts towards establishing and attaining a common vision of education. It would appear that Kansans have decided that they have all they need to create the outcomes they want for kids and are now just working to use what they have in a way that maximizes impact.
So what does this mean for you? Well that depends. If you are a teacher or building or even district leader thinking of redesigning your students’ learning experience let this post affirm that you can. You have all that you need to get started. Trust me. I have been in A LOT of school buildings across states and observed A LOT of instruction. I would argue that if you have these three things in place, you can change the learning environment almost any way that you want. Ready for my list? 1. Students – gotta have those or there is no school 2. Technology – you don’t even have to be 1:1 you could be 1:2 or just have a lab that students can access 3. Telephone- you have to be able to call in support when you need it. If you have checked all three of those off of your list then you are READY to make the leap into real instructional risk and innovation! Here is how:
- Set a vision – the first step to redesigning learning is to determine what you want students to have that isn’t already there. I did this in my own classroom when I moved my high school ELA courses COMPLETELY online. I attended Google Classroom training one day and literally the next day decided that I needed to give my students a class that better reflected the learning they would do when they left me. It was rocky initially but totally worth it! What about you? What vision do you have for learning and how does what you are doing now stack up? What about your students? What do they want from their school experience?
- Look around – what resources do you have to reach your vision? Who do you know? Make a “hit list” of resources that you can use to reach the outcomes that you want. This can be everything from extra PD for yourself to friends that can come in and help kids with projects. Sky’s the limit here! In my own practice, I became a PD junkie. I attended (and still attend) every EdCamp I could find and became a much more effective teacher as a result. Best part? It cost me NOTHING to attend.
- Make a plan – You may be like me and set a vision and go for it immediately OR you make be like many of my friends and want to have a plan in place before beginning. Either way, you need to have a clear understanding of how you will roll this change out. Is this a change you are just going to introduce to students right away? Is this something that will begin second semester? Who needs to be informed? How will it impact the systems that you have in place now? When I did this, I just sprung it on my students and explained it to parents as I went. When students understood that essentially through using GOOGLE classroom they would have access to assignments 24 hours/day and their parents understood that they had a running record of their student’s progress everyone was fine. My grading became more streamlined and my relationships deepened with kids.
Here is my point. You do NOT have to keep showing up to work each day waiting for Superman. You ARE Superman. You ARE the change that you have been waiting to see and you HAVE everything that you need to get started. One of my FAVORITE Ted Talks on creating a vision is by Thaddeus Stegall. Take a look below and use his wise words to fuel your own professional journey.
Remember to lead is to constantly learn and while others may not tell you the truth I always will. You are the change you have been waiting for. Use what you have to achieve the outcomes that you want. – Dr. Kia