Start With the End in Mind

This will be the first of several posts where I will describe my ideal school.

“The general purpose of education is to increase the probability of success for our students post-education. Until we embrace that notion, no radical change is going to happen.” Joe Harless, Ph.D., author, “The Eden Conspiracy”

This is the cornerstone for my school, preparing our learners for what’s next in the educational progression, or life. Focus will be given to the traditional transition years; grades 5-6, 8-9, and graduation to either post-secondary or directly to career.

“Education” is what takes place in a school. School is a concept wherein students are welcome to learn and enhance the quality of their lives without fear of intimidation or safety for their lives, guided by hospitable and caring people in a clean and orderly environment.

Guiding questions for my school, also asked by other evolving and improving schools:

1. What do our learners need to know in order to be successful in the world beyond our school?

2. What must our learners do in order to succeed in the world beyond our school?

3. What must our learners be like in order to succeed in the world beyond our school?

My school is designed to bridge the gap between what is and what should be, what the literature describes as Adaptive Challenge, which requires a response outside the usual repertoire of most schools.

I will close this introduction with what my school will not be. It will not be one-size-fits-all. As educators, we serve a very diverse population of learners. No one model is “our best” for all of them. While everything in my school already exists, either in schools I have visited, or schools where I have worked. The status quo will not necessarily be honored.

Life is different;

Work is different;

What learners must know and be able to do is different, so…

Learning must be different;

Teaching must be different;

Tools must be different; and

Leadership must be different.

Subsequent posts will focus specifically on “elementary” and “secondary” programs.

May the words of my mouth comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.

And so it goes…

Personal Growth – You Can’t Cross a Chasm in Two Small Leaps

The March topic for the Compelled Tribe is to write about a potential change and possible growth that may be ahead for each of us as we get closer to spring.

In 1993-1994, I was completing the coursework for the Superintendent of Schools endorsement on my state license.

My district was very socio-economically “challenged”, to say the least.

When we looked at our student performance data, and how well were doing/not doing on meeting the expectations of our State Department Accreditation Performance Targets, we were among the lowest in the state for districts with similar characteristics.

Yet we were doing everything “right” according to the literature on how to increase student performance for our demographics.

Yes, there is a difference between doing things right and doing the right things.

Working with our staff and community, we had to re-imagine what we were about and how we conducted our business. In other words, for the benefit of our students, we had to start doing the right things, not just do things right.

Which brings me to the Compelled Tribe topic. We started with a clean white board, dreamed big dreams, and decided to “boldly go where no (few) had gone before.”

We took some incredibly large risks, since we had few, if any, models to follow. There really wasn’t any “best practice” to build upon. Upside was huge, but the consequences of failure were enormous. Not only would our students suffer, but financially, we had the resources to only try something once, and we couldn’t invest in processes that did not yield the returns we needed.

In one of the papers in my program, I spoke about what we were planning. I remarked that it would have been very easy to do what had always been done, making incremental improvements in policy and practice, and I would have continued to make a very comfortable living to support my wife, children, and the lifestyle we had come to enjoy.

Was I willing to risk all that in an effort to “leap the chasm” and try some things that were not part of any of our preparation programs, but showed tremendous promise to positively impact our learners? I was willing to accept the risk for me and my career, but also risking the welfare of my family.

Spoiler alert – at all worked. Exceptionally well. And we not only made history, we changed the rules for everyone else.

So my response to the Compelled Tribe topic is to start with a clean white board and design my ideal school. From the ground up. What the physical structure will look like. What will happen both inside and outside the physical structure. And why.

On this site, I will be publishing my thoughts, for my school, over the next several weeks. Would love to have as many readers of this tripe join in and share your thoughts.

As before, I will dream big and in color.

A dream supplies meaning and intensive value. It is our deepest expression of what we want, a declaration of a desired future. A dream is an ideal involving a sense of possibilities rather than probabilities, of potential rather than limits. The passion is missing when we work with only our rational left brain. Without passion, there is little enthusiasm and vitality. A dream is a wellspring of passion, giving us direction and pointing us to lofty heights. It is an expression of optimism, hope and values lofty enough to capture the imagination and engage the spirit. Dreams are capable of lifting us to new heights and overcoming self-imposed limitations. Dreams aren’t limited by what you think can or cannot be done, or by what your rational mind tells you is or isn’t possible. It represents something that you really want, as opposed to what you think you can get. Goals are tangible, but dreams are intangible. Dr. King said, “I have a dream.” He did not say, “I have a strategic plan.”

But my dreams are grounded in the reality that school will go on while we are under construction…

Building Airplanes in the Sky

And so it goes…