How’s your heart? From being busy to just being.

Two incredibly powerful, interlaced lessons about relating to others — about making time to truly be present with another.

In “The Disease of Being Busy,” an article shared by Krista Tippett’s On Being, columnist Omid Safi challenges what seems to have become the way many of us respond to each other when asked, “How are you?” Safi encourages us all to look past the to-do list when answering and instead to know the contents of our hearts — so that we might share heart with others.

And in Elizabeth Lesser’s TED talk, “Say your truths and seek them in others,” she offers a beautiful story about her “soul marrow transplant” with her sister. Lesser describes three lessons: “1) uncover your soul; 2) when things get difficult or painful, stay open; and 3) every now and then, step off your hamster wheel into deep time.” For in that soul-bearing openness of deep time, we discover true connection, compassion, empathy and awe.

And we need a bit more awe in our lives. Awe shared by making time simply to be…with one another.

REFLECTION: 7 Questions, May 13, 2016

7 Questions to End Your Week - HW

OBSERVE: What pleasant surprises did I discover this week?

This week, I was invited to serve on a panel of visitors to hear and evaluate some serious design work for a school’s learning-and-play space called The Frontier. The designers, fourth graders at MVPS, have been engaged in a design challenge connected to observations and collaborative interviewing they’ve been doing with Preschool partners. Among four classes, they created six design solutions, and they presented to the panel for feedback and evaluation. The most pleasant surprise – the format of the panel and some insider information from the students and the teachers point to the enormous desire they have to implement a solution and make a significant impact. Their determination to see a prototype through to implementation is even higher than I’ve seen it before with other challenges. I am thrilled that these learners have such a strong sense of agency, desire to change the world for the better, and the will to persevere through the complexities of real-world projects.

REFLECT: What lessons did my work teach me that I could build upon next week?

Being present for support and collaboration on classroom challenges – like that described above – makes my work more fun and rewarding. What’s more, my immediate MVIFI team reached out to the Fourth Grade Team to ask if they would document the project for the archives on mvifi.org/designthinking. That simple ask is the least an innovation team can do to encourage, promote, and amplify the incredible efforts of the instructional designers – the Fourth Grade Team – and the solution designers – the student learners. Then, the work has an even greater chance of being seen and influencing others’ work. #IdeasWorthSpreading

FOCUS: Are my short-term efforts and long-term goals sill aligned?

Long-term goals are connected to amplifying the thought and action leadership of the MVPS faculty, staff, and students. The short-term efforts to be with the panel, to meet with the Fourth Grade Team the week before, to reach out for their archivable story…those efforts are very well aligned and important. I wonder why the Fourth Grade Team thought to reach out to me a few weeks ago – I mean, specifically why. How might I make certain that I am seen as a willing and excited collaborator and amplifier?

BE PRODUCTIVE: What could I have spent more or less time doing?

I love my office mates and the serendipitous collaboration and creative sparks that happen with them. I would not trade that. At the same time, we all have aggressive To-Do lists that often require more secluded work. How might we balance these dually important work modes and make sure that we are in-phase and out-of-phase with each other’s frequencies at the best moments?

HAVE COURAGE: How did fear and uncertainly affect what I did and didn’t do?

In an early-week meeting with a number of education leaders, I sensed that there is significant tension over the perceptions of “what’s on our individual and collective plates.” I totally understand such tension – one to be managed probably, rather than resolved. I think I still “fear” (not sure that is the exact right word) that this group of education leaders possesses yet the best level of shared understanding of whole-part-whole collaboration needed to move forward the “right” set of objectives to advance the big-picture ideas in the most coordinated ways possible.

CLENSE: What mental clutter can I clear?

I experienced a setback this week regarding the way an educator graded a paper/presentation such that the student scored the maximum point value for the desired learning outcomes and mindset demonstrations, but turned in the work late and had 15 points deducted from the single-score, reported grade. I am puzzled why more schools have not worked faster (is that the right word?) to disaggregate the numerous assessment gauges that are inappropriately lumped together into a single number and a one-chance-to-show-proficiency. That’s partly why I tweeted these two tweets recently:

Should I just let this emotional and mental clutter go? In talking to a parent, they expressed that they think such penalties are completely and totally fair. So, perhaps I just need to get over it. #ThingsThatMakeYouGoHmmm

BEGIN ANEW: What is the first logical step for next week?

Start crafting my own prototype of a week-long PBL lesson connected to observation journaling, recording and archiving observations, pooling such observations together with a team, and operationalizing the ways in which collected, curated observations can become fodder for PBL engagements. Also, continue to explore how we might better know about and collect the incredible PBL/DT work of the faculty and those “tribe members” at other schools.

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NOTE: I am venturing into an experiment. I plan to use these 7 Questions to End Your Week as a discipline of regular reflection. I feel very strongly about reflective practice. As John Dewey has taught me, learning is not simply experience, but reflecting on experience. Additionally, I think we neglect a fundamentally important opportunity when we choose to assign “homework” as a school but fail to prompt reflections like these seven questions as a building habit in young (and old) learners. What if a menu of prompts like these, and others, became more integrated into the home learning that we expect from our students and colleagues at our schools? So, to explore this wondering, I am assigning the questions and prompts first and foremost to myself. And I have invited other members of my tribe to enter into this experiment with me. I cannot wait to see all that I/we learn.

REFLECTION: 7 Questions, May 7, 2016

7 Questions to End Your Week - HW

OBSERVE: What pleasant surprises did I discover this week?

This week I discovered some very complex commitment to our school norms. A leader and colleague at our school made some contributions during a meeting, and, upon reflection, circled back with several people to “fill the gap” between expectations and experiences. Because we all commit to #AssumeTheBest and #StartWithQuestions and #ShareTheWell and #FailUp, I, once again, was encouraged by the culture we are purposeful about building. I hope and trust that all will loop back to colleagues like this leader demonstrated.

REFLECT: What lessons did my work teach me that I could build upon next week?

Repeatedly, I seem to think that others understand the “range finder” and “gantt chart” of our mission-and-vision action steps in the same way that I feel I understand them — because we talk about them and collaborate actively on them. However, upon reflection because of some meeting conversations, I need to work to do a better job of creating deep, shared understanding about some of our PL focus and grant work and R&D efforts, especially as the division autonomy and division coordination/collaboration must work in dynamic balance and harmony with each other.

FOCUS: Are my short-term efforts and long-term goals sill aligned?

I need to continue to dig in and develop my deep knowledge and skills in PBL, so that I can be a resource, collaborator and support for the intensive and advanced work we intend to do in real-world contextual learning at MVPS.

BE PRODUCTIVE: What could I have spent more or less time doing?

I am working to (paradoxically) reduce the amount of information streams that come into my learning dashboard, so that I can concentrate on particular streams that require more concentrated focus right now — namely PBL and sophisticated assessment strategies that weave together learning-outcomes and habits of mind. Spending an hour on Fridays with my MVIFI Nucleus team in a rough version of “20% time” is proving to be invaluable to me, at least. We laugh together while we learn deeply together, and I have already made advancements in my deeper understanding of drawing, making, and PBL on campus because of my precious time with them.

HAVE COURAGE: How did fear and uncertainly affect what I did and didn’t do?

At the conclusion of a meeting this week, I feared that some key leadership groups still did not have a deep enough common understanding of some collaborative strategic work. I think this fear and uncertainty can affect my engagement with others in some ways. However, by being open and up front with each other, I think a majority of the team worked through some of the frustrations to a deeper shared understanding. By overcoming the fear and challenging one another, in positive and productive ways, we can build more deep collaboration and strategic teaming together. By leaving the frustrations unchallenged and under the surface, deterioration of teamwork can occur. I am blessed to work on a team that exposes differences and works through them.

CLENSE: What mental clutter can I clear?

#AssumeTheBest and let go of the mental clutter associated with wondering why someone might be acting contrary to our expectations. Have the courage to ask and talk with that person — that person!

BEGIN ANEW: What is the first logical step for next week?

SAME AS LAST WEEK: Create the pro forma for a multi-year project so that a team can have a clearer sense of several related issues for better decision making on connected fronts.

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NOTE: I am venturing into an experiment. I plan to use these 7 Questions to End Your Week as a discipline of regular reflection. I feel very strongly about reflective practice. As John Dewey has taught me, learning is not simply experience, but reflecting on experience. Additionally, I think we neglect a fundamentally important opportunity when we choose to assign “homework” as a school but fail to prompt reflections like these seven questions as a building habit in young (and old) learners. What if a menu of prompts like these, and others, became more integrated into the home learning that we expect from our students and colleagues at our schools? So, to explore this wondering, I am assigning the questions and prompts first and foremost to myself. And I have invited other members of my tribe to enter into this experiment with me. I cannot wait to see all that I/we learn.

REFLECTION: 7 Questions, April 29, 2016

7 Questions to End Your Week - HW

OBSERVE: What pleasant surprises did I discover this week?

This week, like most weeks, a number of different events and experiences occurred. About ten college and university representatives came to MVPS to participate in a design thinking challenge with us related to showcasing unique stories of achievement and accomplishment. In mid week, two of our Innovation Diploma cohort members shared their Senior MoVe Talks as they ready to graduate soon. And the school published a longer-form article about four iDiploma members who participated in an event hosted by re:imagineATL to creatively hack some significant Atlanta challenges. So, my pleasant surprise was the degree to which iDiploma cohort members expressed deep learning as the result of their evolution of understanding in the program. Certainly, I believe in the power of the program and our methods. But when teens express sophisticated understanding of how the work is “altering our DNA” I get surprisingly giddy.

REFLECT: What lessons did my work teach me that I could build upon next week?

My work continues to teach me that a thousand small conversations and actions are necessary to build shared understanding and collaborative togetherness toward solving for complex challenges and vision achievements. The murmurations of an advanced flock of educators require significant trust and dedication to fly as a unit.

FOCUS: Are my short-term efforts and long-term goals sill aligned?

I try to provide servant leadership primarily in two roles at School – the Chief Learning and Innovation Officer and the Executive Director of MVIFI. Recently, I have been working with a small group of individuals to reposition and realign various aspects of each job so that I can continue to strive for my highest point of contribution. We have dialed up certain parts of one role and dialed down other aspects of another. I believe the systems situations involved create an intricate web of desired and unintended consequences. Yet, I think the efforts committed this week help forward the long-term goals of deep educational transformation and mission realization.

BE PRODUCTIVE: What could I have spent more or less time doing?

For the first time in weeks, I actually accomplished all of the items on my OmniFocus lists without having to defer any to a later date. That felt good from a task orientation. At the same time, I wish that a particular fuse16 project had been completed a couple of months ago, so I could have been more diligent about leading that item to a state of done that is necessary for my team. Always, I wish I had spent more time in various classrooms observing the work of our School.

HAVE COURAGE: How did fear and uncertainly affect what I did and didn’t do?

I fear a bit that my work might threaten some positive sense of autonomy in the various divisions as we work toward a right “dynamic balance tension” of whole-school alignment and transition of program threads among divisions. At the same time, I believe such alignment is deeply essential to effective school advancement. I also feared a bit this week how some faculty might respond to the carefully crafted announcement about our Summer+ Learning focus. We work with incredible professionals who are passionate about learning, and I deeply desire for our collaborative learning focus as a School to be meaningful to and fully “owned” by our faculty.

CLENSE: What mental clutter can I clear?

I can clear the mental clutter associated with thinking that an event’s numbers are very closely related to the quality and impact that an event can have. We can do amazing things with a relatively “small” group of committed and passionate people.

BEGIN ANEW: What is the first logical step for next week?

Create the pro forma for a multi-year project so that a team can have a clearer sense of several related issues for better decision making on connected fronts.

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NOTE: I am venturing into an experiment. I plan to use these 7 Questions to End Your Week as a discipline of regular reflection. I feel very strongly about reflective practice. As John Dewey has taught me, learning is not simply experience, but reflecting on experience. Additionally, I think we neglect a fundamentally important opportunity when we choose to assign “homework” as a school but fail to prompt reflections like these seven questions as a building habit in young (and old) learners. What if a menu of prompts like these, and others, became more integrated into the home learning that we expect from our students and colleagues at our schools? So, to explore this wondering, I am assigning the questions and prompts first and foremost to myself. And I have invited other members of my tribe to enter into this experiment with me. I cannot wait to see all that I/we learn.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Curious. Wise. Empathetic. Action-oriented. Optimistic. 

I wonder why the default response to that question is more typically a job or work role?