Because Counting Our Blessings Just Isn't Enough

Posts tagged ‘Strategic Planning’

Twitter Travel

In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.   Eric Hoffer, Quoted by Will Richardson and Rob Mancabelli in Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education

cc licensed image shared by flicker user Rosaura Ochoa


This Friday, February 3rd, marked the one year anniversary of my signing up for twitter. An engaging keynote speech by educational technology leader Alan November at a conference I attended had piqued my curiosity.  And still, I tarried. A full year from that thought-provoking keynote address came and went.  During that year, I gently waded into the waters of social media, starting a blog for parents in my school and reading a few educational blog posts I received via Facebook.

I was struggling; charged with implementing an ambitious educational strategic plan, the magnitude of which none of us who had been involved in its design had initially understood. We were grappling with questions of the early twenty-first century, primarily how to prepare students in this rapidly changing world for a future we cannot imagine. The learning and leadership tasks, which were in and of themselves daunting, together presented significant new perspectives on schooling. I recognized the need to stretch my thinking beyond the training I had received in the doctoral program in education I completed in 1998 and beyond my decade plus worth of experience as a principal.  

Although decidedly skeptical about how much could be expressed in 140 characters, I embraced the possibilities of a medium utterly new to me, hoping to find insight and support in leading a process of change in my school. What I didn’t bargain for was the change and transformation that would occur within me. 

I embarked on a journey I lovingly refer to as “twitter travel”.

Twitter travel is not an expression I’d ever heard before. It’s my own terminology for a journey that has changed the way I learn. On a daily basis I travel the world from my computer, ipad or phone, conversing with inspiring educators around the globe. I not only travel geographically, but even humbly broach movement through time, gaining small glimpses into the future of schooling and learning with colleagues who have pushed the boundaries of education. I reflect, question, find resources, collaborate and wonder with educators who share my passions and interests in an informal, yet potent, professional learning network that is fluid, flexible, creative and profoundly meaningful.

So, how am I different as a result of my twitter travel?

Through my participation in organizing international #NoOfficeDay on which educational leaders close their offices and engage all day with students and teachers, I have come to understand the importance as an educational leader not only of “doing” but of “being”; of presence. I now spend dramatically more time not only observing, but actively participating in learning experiences throughout our school; two hours daily in classrooms along with a full day from arrival to dismissal with each of our grades K-5.

Co-moderating the weekly twitter chat #educoach on instructional coaching with Kathy Perret (@kathyperret) and Jessica Johnson (@PrincipalJ), has assisted me to redefine the role of educational leader, finding greater opportunities for teacher leaders and transforming my own job definition to emphasize coaching for professional growth more than evaluation.

Participating on podcasts with the dynamic Jeffrey Bradbury (@TeacherCast) and numerous talented TeacherCast guests has informed my thinking on the role of educational technology, supporting our school to consider how to shift learning with technology from a lab based experience to far greater integration into the classrooms where daily learning occurs.

Actively participating in the weekly #jedchat on Jewish education with wise moderators Rabbi Akevy Greenblatt (@akevy613), Dov Emerson (@dovemerson) and Rabbi Meir Wexler (@RabbiWex) has enabled me to share with Jewish educators serious about the connection between innovative contemporary learning grounded in our ancient, enduring tradition and values. Attending a #140edu conference last summer organized by the energetic super-connector Jeff Pulver (@jeffpulver) opened up imaginative thinking I previously hadn’t had the opportunity to consider. Skype conversations and Google + hangouts with some of the people in my professional learning network on whom I rely has enabled us to extend conversations beyond 140 characters or links to resources. Making a daily habit of reading numerous blog posts by educational thinkers inspires and helps me reflect. And finally, I have taken what for me is a significant step of engagement, beginning my own professional blog.

Perhaps the most substantive change in me is the courage I have gained to acknowledge unabashedly that as an educational leader I can’t offer all the answers, nor even pose all the questions. Instead, it is my task to nurture an environment of creative collaboration focused on student learning and growth. That is a far more complex task than I ever could have recognized at the beginning of my twitter travel.

And so, I end with my personal connection to the Eric Hoffer quote with which I began. These are times of change. It is our responsibility as educators to support our students to be learners who will inherit the earth. It is also our task to help them escape the very real danger of becoming the learned and finding themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.

I am grateful to my twitter travel for helping me to become one of the learners. I’d love for you to share ways in which you are among the learners rather than the learned and look forward to our continued learning journey together. Happy traveling!

What Will Be Different in 2020? What Will Be The Same?

What is the one most important thing that will be different in our school in 2020?” This profound question was asked at our headmasters’ tea welcoming parents new to our school.  Referring to a substantial ten year strategic plan, lovingly called Vision 20/20 because its realization is anticipated in 2020, this wise parent put eighteen months of strategic planning and another year of beginning strategic implementation into perspective. My mind raced; arriving at an understanding I had been grasping at, but had been unable articulate without the prompt of a meaningful query. Our strategic planning and implementation, impacting so many aspects of school life so substantially can, in my opinion, be described in its essence in one sentence.

In 2020, our focus will have shifted from teaching to learning.

 To some the answer may sound trivial; to others nonsensical; and to still others mere semantics signifying nothing. To me, the answer shapes a process of cultural change and school reform that has paradoxically been grueling and invigorating, oppressive and freeing, painful and joyous, and perhaps most meaningfully, transforming and eternal. Walking the narrow bridge balancing that which is in the process of being transformed and that which is eternal, I could not with integrity explain my answer to this parent’s question without first posing an additional question. What is the one most significant thing that will remain the same in our school in 2020?

In 2020, we will continue to be guided by the core values of our ancient, enduring Jewish tradition. Regardless of how much we change, our essence will remain the same.

Tradition and change has long been a tenet at the heart of Conservative Judaism, the Movement in which I was trained as a rabbi and with which my school is affiliated. But, I don’t believe I am being defensive of my theological heritage when I state that in today’s educational landscape, healthy schools – Jewish schools regardless of denomination, parochial schools of various religions, independent, public and charter schools – will need to balance all that must change with all that must remain the same. As we experience the tremendous responsibility to prepare students for a future we cannot imagine, in which many perhaps even a majority of our students will one day embark upon careers that do not yet exist, we must remember that values; enduring, eternal values, will continue to ground us, serving as a moral compass to help us navigate our rapidly changing world.

.There is no recipe for change just as there is no recipe for how to keep our core values central to all we do. Remaining the same does not mean mindless adherence to practices that no longer make sense, but rather embracing enduring values that are lived in the reality of our daily experiences. Changing does not mean throwing out all of the old, but rather carefully examining ourselves and our practices. We will have to reconsider curricula, the types of learning experiences we provide, student support models, assessment practices, educational technology and other resources, approaches to school leadership, and more. To be successful, we will have to shine the spotlight on the learner rather than the teacher, making each child the star of his or her own educational experience.  No matter how compelling or riveting a lesson may appear, no matter how interesting or engaging a curriculum may seem, we will have to be honest about how deeply students have understood, made our learning their own, and found a place in which their own curiosity, wonderings, talents and passions can emerge.

What will be different in 2020? What will be the same? Please join in this important dialogue and share your thoughts and reflections.


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