Updated: Jul 30, 2021
First, a moment of gratitude.
If ever there was a challenging year in education, and life itself... well, you know the rest. For the moments you felt like crying but you kept a smile, thank you.
For the days you felt like staying home but you stayed focused on students, thank you. For the months you wondered how much longer but you kept giving hope to your team, thank you. For the year some called a non-year but you made it great by uplifting each other, thank you.
The schools & districts that stayed true to their mission, preserved their focus on learning, and anchored decisions in who they are as a community, were the ones who passed through the storm onto dry land... just a little more smoothly, a little more productively, the journey just a little easier to bear. It's a timeless principle -- mission is the foundation for the realization of an organization's or individual's future. Mission leads to vision, which shapes our direction, and guides our actions. Imagine a horizon without a sunrise? Or a mosaic with missing tiles? Without vision, all we have is cobblestones -- disconnected steps leading to nowhere, albeit taking up space under our feet, and perhaps even entertaining to jump onto for a moment.
But we did persevere. We did adjust... resiliently. In fact, we experimented with approaches, methodologies, and tools we may not have tried otherwise, or... uh... gulp... perhaps for at least ten more years. We did get creative. We did cross over this Jordan. We. Did. It. Together.
And here we are. So now what? Now we rest. Yes, rest. Get some sun. Vitamin D is great for the brain, not to mention, the complexion. Get some inspiration. Reconnect with those you love. Laugh. Play.
And while you're at it, reflect. Get together with your team, and look back with an eye toward looking ahead. Ask yourselves these questions:
Who are we, as a school, district, organization? What is our mission? Why do we exist?
What is our vision -- for equity, for all learners, for our impact on and on behalf of our community?
What potential do we see in our students, beyond learning content and succeeding on tests? How will we ensure that all students are equipped to fulfill their purpose, recognize their gifts, and grow into all they were born to become?
Who among us will be courageous enough to shift the paradigm, to lead the hard conversations, to resist the temptation to return to business as usual? Who will arise as a voice of hope and healing, to drown out the voices of fear and tradition?
I know... These are not the typical questions we ask in education. No, in our field, we ask, "How are students doing? Where are the gaps? And how do we fill them?" We're so accustomed to the transaction that we deprive ourselves of the possibilities for transformation. It's time to stop treating education like a jar of pennies, to which we add in spurts when we get some spare change and from which we draw when we'd rather get a dollar back, never either filling the jar nor our pockets. We won't start seeing different results until we start asking different questions -- questions that will change the trajectory of generations of graduates to come, questions that stem from the belief that students are precious treasures, filled with gifts that we as educators are blessed with the honor of cultivating, gifts they are born to contribute to the world.
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.” ~ Pastor Martin Niemöller (around 1945)
Do we see a parallel in our world today? Who will be bold now and ask a new set of educational questions? Whose voices will arise to leave a legacy for the students of tomorrow? Let's return to our original question: Now what? Typically every 3-5 years, but anytime, and especially emerging from this past year, is an opportunity to re-envision.
Rest (i.e., reflection) and vision are timeless keys to unlocking the future. The more inspirational the mission and the bolder the vision, the more empowering the journey and the greater the impact. After reflecting on the questions above, now we move forward. Now we allow old photos of what school did look like to fade away, and give ourselves permission to envision what school could look like and can become when we don't compromise our mission.
Develop a "strategically systemic" plan that paints a clear picture of the journey from our mission as a school/district/organization to our vision to the direction that will lead us into the future.
Shift our view of curriculum, to a vehicle that ensures our mission & vision become reality through teaching & learning, leadership, and the culture of our school(s).
Build up and affirm each other's strengths and talents -- foster a culture of value, a mindset for growth, and a community of belonging.
Stay grounded in who we are -- our mission -- and centered on learning.
Go from strength to strength. Don't let anything hinder your team from making next year and every future year the greatest years ever. We can't wait to hear your stories.
~ Ronit Carter, President and Lead Consultant, Learning Lens
© 2021 Learning Lens. All Rights Reserved.
* Rest is a concept and element in the Become Transformational Learning Model developed by Ronit Carter, a systemic approach to designing learning experiences and environments that cultivate identity, purpose, and growth.
If you could benefit from a collaborative thought partner in your re-envisioning, planning & leadership efforts, we're here for you. Let’s have a conversation.