This past week I had the pleasure of connecting and sharing with the Somerville ISD and Snook ISD in Texas!
I want to thank them for rolling out a very warm reception and allowing me to give the opening year talk on how we can make a difference for our learners. Of course, part of the message was about how we can be the Revolution@ries our learners need by abandoning some of the one-room schoolhouse practices and systems we guard so intently and sometimes unintentionally.
After the presentation, I had a chance to talk to Supt Karla Sparks. She’s fairly new to the position but has been an administrator in the district for almost 10 years. Its always inspiring to hear stories from educators – their backgrounds, philosophies and motivations to work in our field. Karla had a great story to share about a recent trip to a national park. She and her husband were on a hike and came across this breath-taking waterfall. As they got closer they saw that some other hikers swimming and having a the time of their lives [who couldn’t]. It became a mission of theirs to have this once in a lifetime experience but learned that this was not an easy task because this was no path down – this waterfall was only for admiration. To enjoy this experience like the other hikers, she and her husband had to make the decision to take a journey. They know others had done it so it was possible, but it was unknown and unconventional.
Her story about making the decision to go and the work to get to this unique spot is a great metaphor for change in schools and exemplifies several #revoltLAP lessons:
- The path to change may not always be evident – Just like Karla and her husband saw, there wasn’t path down, just a way down. For them to get to the reward [and they determined that it was a reward worth it] they had to embrace the way down. They saw that others were successful and were enjoying the benefit so they embrace ‘Why not us?’ Change is often more about the decision and commitment to change rather than having a clear path. How many times in our lives have we needed to make a change and have had a clear, easy path to take? It would have been great to see some steps leading down to the water or better yet, what about an escalator – but there wasn’t. They did the math – this cable + the realization that others have done it = success is more than possible. For us, seeing the reward of learner-centered changed is worth the decision. There are many stories of successful change from other revolution@ries who have done great learner-centered we can emulate or modify to see great things in our schools that benefit learners. Its not always about safe or easy, its about the decision.
- The work is the reward – Once Karla and her husband took the way down, they enjoyed the reward of experiencing that breathtaking waterfall up close and diving into that swimming hole. For us, when we’ve made the decision to change and are in the process, we can sit back and enjoy real benefits – learners engaged in high-level discussion, teachers becoming facilitators, inquiry-driven learning, enjoying the knowledge that we’ve personalized effort for learning and creativity for our learners and many other things. But we have to be in the swimming hole to enjoy.
- Find your Pushers – After their swim, Karla and her husband had to climb out, again without a clear path. Now that we’ve enjoyed the risk we have to ask was the risk worth it? Their answer was an enthusiastic ‘yes!” But they had to climb. Like most of us, looking up the cable was from down below looked daunting and Karla has some trepidation. But doubt won’t get you out so Karla, and her husband, began to climb. Karla’s husband had to coach her, push her to keep her motivated up the climb and not allow her to feel discouraged. He truly believed in her and her ability and kept that positive word in front of her. The path to change is all about the work. If we allow ourselves to be isolated and trapped in our thoughts we can sometimes allow ourselves to not try or continue the work. Build up your tribe of people who will keep you on mission, not just so you can be successful but also so that our learners are benefitting. Our change is not about just us, its about our learners.
Be ready to take that leap and embrace that good work.