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…

One thought on “Personal Growth – You Can’t Cross a Chasm in Two Small Leaps

  1. You know as a creative person who loves learning I’m right there with you. You also know me well enough that I find many “either/or” choices to be flawed up front. My dad was a naval architect. His creativity was not limited by physics, it depended on it, or people would die. I suggest our design for any ideal school should be grounded in how people learn, and that ALL the people who participate in this ideal school must have THEIR needs as learners met first. Instead of only focusing on teaching. Yes, teaching is essential. Yes, the first stage of the Saturn5 was the biggest rocket ever made. But the later stages took us to the moon. Teaching is the booster rocket, but application (authentic doing) is what it takes to reach the goal.


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