Share the Well – A Thirst for Innovation

Share the well.

At Mount Vernon Presbyterian School, we work to be very intentional about culture. Our mission begins, “We are a school of inquiry, innovation, and impact.” To continuously live into this mission requires a deliberateness about our culture. So, we are responsible and accountable to one another in our school community through the norms that we’ve chosen. One of these norms is “share the well.”

To “share the well” originates from the offering of one’s water source to another. It literally means to invite others to one’s own source of sustenance and refreshment. Also, to “share the well” means to offer well-ness to one another… to share the health of oneself to others.

By sharing the well, we are setting the conditions for connection to others, to other ways of thinking, to deeper collaboration. To stand at the proverbial water cooler allows for essential exchange to occur. Repeatedly. Intentionally.

In addition to strengthening relationships, sharing the well also makes possible the networking and associative thinking that we know is essential to innovation. Being students and stewards of The Innovator’s DNA, we draw on “share the well” to heighten the possibilities for 1) observing, 2) questioning, 3) experimenting, 4) networking, and 5) associative thinking.

Because MVIFI (the Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation) serves as a major component of Mount Vernon’s R&D efforts in educational innovation, MVIFI feels responsible for helping to set the conditions so that sharing the well can happen systemically.

During the month of October, MVIFI has hosted three events that function to share the well at various scales of community. For in sharing the well, we enhance the opportunities for networking and associative thinking.

  1. MVPS School Visit Day.  On Thursday, October 6, MVIFI hosted 45 people from 14 different schools and organizations around the country. During the morning program, we offer a “crash course” in learning walks and instructional rounds, and we send our visitors to conduct an experiential learning walk. At the conclusion of the morning’s learning journey, we listen for feedback from our visitors. We ask them to describe what they saw, as well as what their observations made them think and wonder. By sharing the well with those who do not spend every day at MVPS, we grow from their particular vision and perspective. Such associations help us to innovate our practices by inviting outside experience to look at what we are doing as a school.
  2. Collider. On the very next day, October 7, MVIFI produced an internal professional learning day that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Schools often describe their faculty as their greatest asset. Yet, ironically, few schools seem to make time and room for faculty to gather and “collide” across regular work flows to take next steps with specific strategic objectives. So, Collider was created so that Mount Vernon faculty could share the well on particular work that we are advancing as a school. Various teacher leaders offer sessions that function as test kitchens and camp fires to forward our ambitious intentions as a school of inquiry, innovation, and impact.
  3. A Night of Inquiry, Innovation, and Impact. On October 20, MVIFI and MVPS hosted an evening entitled A Night of Inquiry, Innovation, and Impact for us to “look up and look out” so that we could learn from what other mavericks are doing and experiencing in innovation spaces connected to PK-12, college and university, and corporations. We curated six speakers and a looping cellist to share powerful talks and performances about what it means to pursue three design drivers that we’ve positioned in our next strategic plan: a) How might we make school life more reflective of real life, b) How might we encourage all learners to be seekers and explorers, and c) How might we inspire each other, and the broader world, with the work we undertake? So, these seven innovation agents shared the well so that we could be challenged and stretched from our daily thinking.

As a school of inquiry, innovation, and impact, we believe deeply in sharing the well – within our own community, beyond our immediate school community, and across perceived industry boundaries – so that we might set conditions for networking of people and ideas and so that we might optimize the power of associative thinking to advance our work as mavericks.

How are you being intentional about the culture you create at your organizations and schools so that inquiry, innovation, and impact can flourish? How are you sharing the well?

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This post originally appeared on mvifi.org/blog, Monday, October 31, 2016.

Challenging Assumptions – Grade Reporting Timelines

What conditions and characteristics of school do we simply assume are engrained parts of the system? You know, those things about school that we take for granted are just baked into the structure of school.

During the 2016-17 academic year (there is one of those assumptions, right?), I plan to post a series of blog entries about these assumptions along with a few ideas and questions about how we might challenge them.

Why am I interested in thinking about and sharing these assumptions? Well, when our school year started at Mount Vernon, our Head of School Brett Jacobsen shared some powerful messages about being Mavericks – those people and organizations that step up, stand out, and face their giants. When talking to the faculty at the opening-of-school gathering, he named three things that Mavericks must do:

  1. Mavericks must vary their routes.
  2. Mavericks challenge assumptions.
  3. Mavericks live fully.

So, I’ve been thinking even more than usual about what assumptions we might challenge about the structure of school as it has been designed by so many educational organizations in the last century.

Additionally, I am currently reading Inevitable: Mass Customized Learning by Charles Schwahn and Bea McGarvey. Recently, I spoke to Bea, and she and I discussed a few of the items she highlights in Chapter 8: “Weight Bearing Walls.” These weight bearing walls are the elements that supported an industrial model of schooling. They are also known as the assumptions we take for granted about the structure of school. In the conversation, Bea expressed that school design of the future must develop new weight bearing walls.

Here is the list of weight bearing walls in Chapter 8 of Inevitable: Mass Customized Learning

  • Grade Levels
  • Students Assigned to Classrooms
  • Class Period / Bell Schedule
  • Courses / Curriculum
  • Textbooks
  • Paper and Pencil
  • ABC Grading Systems
  • Report Cards
  • Learning Happens in Schools
  • Nine-Month School Year

So, what about grade reporting and grade-reporting calendars? Typically, summaries of grades come out every quarter of the school year (for the many schools on the quarter system). In many cases, teachers are expected to add narrative comments to those grade summaries, and the grade-comment combos are sent home to parents via email or snail mail.

For my mother, when I was in school as a child, this schedule probably made more sense. There was no email, no online grade books, no Twitter, and no online dashboarding that she could use to “keep up” with what I was doing in school and how I was performing relative to the standards set. Given that students and parents today are much more technologically capable and empowered to monitor progress in real time, why do we keep to the quarter summary of grading? (And I am not yet even challenging the assumptions of the grading system itself – that will come in a later post.)

What if student learners had a more regular practice of reflecting on their learning and progress, and what if they sat more in the driver’s seat of reporting on their learning? Perhaps with a tool like “7 Questions to End Your Week,” student learners could send their own email or online-based progress reports, and teacher-mentors could comment on the student learner reflections. And perhaps on a monthly basis student learners could reflect and report on their overall learning and progress relative to some power standards and habits of mind. Sure, it would take developing such systems for reflection, and a school would have to commit to building those muscles in learners. But such a newly designed system could definitely provide a more modern and effective load bearing wall for the future of school.

What do you imagine to be more effective timelines and systems for reporting on learning?

#MustRead Shares (weekly)

  • Maybe one of the most important leadership articles we can read…and implement.

    tags: leader radar leadership newnormal #MustRead #MVIFIshares change

    • Keeping pace with the hockey stick curve of exponential change requires being deliberate about evolving as a leader.
    • Too many leaders — both at the top and across organizations — are taking a linear perspective that focuses on small incremental gains, often achieved by squeezing harder on what they already know. The problem is that, in a world of exponential change, a linear path is an exit ramp.
    • RADAR believes that “new normal” captures the emerging truth that change and volatility will continue to accelerate and intensify. Equally important, we believe many leaders have been led to think that new normal means things will level out again, and that there will once again be stable times they can get their arms around.
    • Transforming from normal to new normal leadership is the single most important variable in sustainable success.
    • transforming how you lead is difficult because leadership has become, more than ever, a team sport. A leadership team’s ability to become more adaptive requires not just individual change, but collective and coordinated change.
    • Something makes us think that greater speed should require more intense focus on the road immediately in front of us. In reality, it is exactly the opposite.
    • The most powerful and dramatic shift you can make toward new normal leadership is to reset your and your team’s perspective, to follow the racer’s rule of thumb and look out of the top 1/3 of the windshield. Like in racing, focusing farther ahead is the key not only to speed, but also to both seeing greater possibility and avoiding potentially
      deadly disruptions.
    • What stands out most about how this team works is the time commitment they make to developing and maintaining up-and-out perspective.
    • “Perspective is worth 80
      IQ points.”
    • However, managing speed requires more than perspective. Leaders also need to develop alignment.
    • In organizations, alignment is what makes foresight an accelerant.
    • Resetting perspective is the most powerful evolutionary step you and your team can make toward new normal leadership.
    • With strategy, sensemaking pushes leaders back into the role of explorer rather than just decider.
    • With leadership development, sensemaking forces leaders to teach high potentials how to learn, rather than what they know.
    • Sensemaking — especially when approached as a team with a goal of producing aligned foresight — gives an organization one of the most remarkable assets imaginable: clarity of possibility.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

New normal leaders set conditions for non-conformist growth

In the newly launched resource, Radar: The Journal of Adaptive Change, Paula Champa authored an article titled, “Don’t Follow the Leader: The Demise of the Mini-Me and the Future of Talent Development.” In the piece, Champa weaved together the research of Adam Grant and Carol Dweck.

An organization stands a greater chance of positively influencing its future trajectory when it fosters initiative and an adaptive mindset in its people.

The article is a must read for leaders working in transformative organizations who are mindful of culture within the leadership team. The provocation provides fodder for continuous reflection and kaizen around the dynamic equilibrium among “shared understanding” and “non-conformist diversity strength in a team.”

Included below are Adam Grant’s and Carol Dweck’s TED talks. How are your subtle leadership tactics communicating conform and comply versus agitate and grow?

#MustRead Shares (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.