Sunday, October 6, 2013

Reflection and leadership - #SAVMP

This week as a part of our SAVMP (School Admin Virtual Mentor Program) we have been asked to consider the role of reflection. I have written in other posts about my own need to think before I act and take time to listen without distraction to the person in my office. I have also written about the role of reflection in my student's self-assessments of minor and major projects/papers/presentations in my classes. I know that at the beginning of the year, most students write cursory reflections and only when asked to re-write and consider specific questions they have actually posed do they come to see the value of self-reflection.

I ask my faculty to write reflections after they have completed any major professional development activity whether its attending a conference or workshop, completing summer curriculum development, or participating in a fellowship or sabbatical opportunity. I want them to think about what they have learned in terms of what it will mean for their students. I also want to build us as a community of people who think about their own learning and share it with others.

This week I want to reflect on an experience sharing a concept for a new program with our high school faculty. This is a faculty that has had to absorb an extraordinary amount of change in the past two years -- after years of incremental, barely noticeable change. Some have become weary of change and understandably want time to become expert at what is new -- and not take on any new initiatives. On Wednesday I went before them with an idea that was disruptive in how we think about that most precious of commodities -- time (I am asking them to innovate and change again) -- giving over regular course/class time for two weeks of problem based learning.I worked with a great partner on the presentation (our faculty clerk) and began by reminding the faculty of how I had come to be standing in front of them -- I provided context.

This is what I want to think about some more, the importance of providing context. I hadn't arrived at this proposal on my own or gotten the idea from some alien visiting from Mars, instead this was an idea that had its roots in several years of self-studies and side conversations around other related projects and discussions. Furthermore, the concept was developed by other teachers working with me. While it had the backing of administrators, the leading committee bringing the idea forward was made up of teachers and administrators. One of my teacher partners in this work helped with the presentation and finished by tying the concept to our school's mission.

Once the context was established, I sat down and our faculty clerk asked the teachers to turn to a partner and consider the wonderful possibilities arising from this concept. What followed was 5 minutes of creative, open, positive imaging and brainstorming. We then shared out with the entire group.

What I have learned from this is to remember that in all change, at any given moment I need to remember that leadership includes building consensus through reminding folks of how we got to where we are, how it fits with our vision and at least initially focus on what is possible. (Later of course, we will have time for others to voice their concerns and help us find solutions to challenges). But context and focus on creative possibility (rather than allowing a single grumpy voice to shut everyone down), opens up space for the creativity that is at the core of my faculty; it makes space for us to collectively imagine the ends we wanted all along. It helps us realize our mission in this century.

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