The principal goal of education is to create men [people] who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done – men [people] who are creative, inventive, and discoverers. – Jean Piaget (quoted in Time Magazine, 1969)
Since I announced that I would be stepping aside from my current post as principal at the end of this academic year, a number of friends, acquaintances, and never-before-knowns have invited me to coffee, lunch, or dinner to talk about my plans for the future. Through these conversations, I am gaining the benefit of prototyping and revising my “elevator speech” detailing what I want to do next. These dialogues are invaluable back-and-forths in which I get to hear myself express what I am thinking, and I gain the gift of garnering other perspectives.
I find myself explaining, “I know exactly what I want to do, but I do not know yet where I will do this.” I dream of working at the exhilarating intersection of LEARNING COACH, EDUCATIONAL DESIGNER, and INNOVATION STRATEGIST.
As a middle school principal and educational leader, I count myself very fortunate to live in each of these roles as parts of what I do many days. However, I want to amplify the roughly 35% of my job into 90+%. I see my evolution as a cog in the gears of school evolution.
Schools must evolve. Our children and our future demand that we continuously improve our schools. Yet, where is this R&D (research and development) formalized in schools…between schools…among schools…among schools and other industries?
Teachers are often so busy with over-filled plates that they lack the “room” to think, research, innovate, and implement. (Some are innovating and implementing, gradually building tribes within slow-changing schools, and I feel connected to a number of these folks through the greatest faculty lounge in the world – Twitter and the blog-o-sphere.) Administrators, consultants, and professors of education run the risk of becoming “theoretical planners” who can lose connection with what it is like to be “in the trenches” (I despise that metaphor for teaching, but it makes the point). Powerful thinkers in other industries possess insights that are invaluable for schools that are readying students “for college and for life,” but they often lack pathways or invitations to school communities. If possible, I would like to serve as the “connective tissue” or the “roundabout” that pulls together the bones and avenues of learning coach, educational designer, and innovation strategist. I hope to work in the intersecting Venn of those teachers, administrators, consultants, professors, and other-industry professionals.
I imagine continuing my “pracademic” work in the following areas. Think of these as some of the lanes on the intersecting roads pictured above.
- Synergy (a non-departmentalized, integrated studies, problem-based course for student learners) or some similar course(s) devoted to transdisciplinary, project-based engagement, so that I can continue to practice and promote the complex challenges of PBL and authentic assessment with student learners and adult learners;
- Professional Learning Communities, so that I can remain in job-embedded, relation-based, professional growth with teams of dedicated people;
- Strategic Design, so that I can continue the core-messaging and story-telling work that I pursue as a visual communicator and that I was able to be a part of during my sabbatical at Unboundary and with such communities as TED and TEDxAtlanta, and so that I can help advance the needed work in program and space re-design with such organizations as RE:ED and educational architects;
- Entrepreneurial Teaching and Learning Support, with such institutions as The Center for Teaching and RE:ED, so that educational innovation, strategic coaching, and learning design can be re-mixed, re-purposed, and re-shared among schools and businesses rather than silo-ed in various places all working on similar goals.
I believe I am capable of being one of those people that Piaget describes, and I want to devote my work to co-laboring with others who are dedicated to shaping education – particularly schools – into that principal goal that Piaget described.