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?


This post originally appeared on, Monday, October 31, 2016.

Threads of a Braided Cord…and Myelinating my Network

This morning, I read about 30 blog posts from my feed reader. How blessed I feel to be connected to so many powerful thinkers – working hard to figure things out – via Twitter, Google Reader, WordPress, etc. Are you a school leader? You don’t need a formal title to be such, of course! How’s your PLN? Is your personal learning network full of ever-expanding nodes held together by evolving silks of connectivity? Are you taking risks, reflecting out loud, writing with your students, and getting up after every fall?

In the past 20 years, we have learned so much about the brain…about how synapses that “fire together, wire together.” Since I began tweeting and blogging, I have magnified the sparks that are firing and wiring my brain. And my social network is a professional network that functions similarly to the biology of my brain. I am grateful for my co-learners who are helping me to myelinate my thinking about schools of the future and the future of schools.

Of the 30 blog posts I read this morning, three in particular seemed to weave together for me. To write is to see what we think…and to write requires active reflection…and developing these habits means making errors and mistakes from which we can learn and grow and improve. Here are the three links to the braided cord of my morning’s thinking…my most recent myelination. What’s wiring your brain? Are you practicing writing, reflecting, and getting up after a fall? Who is in your neural network? Who is challenging you and spurring you to grow?

Everyone’s a writer. NWP taught me that,” from Bud Hunt and the PLP network

A Lesson in the Importance of Reflection,” from Jeff Delp (@azjd)

Fall down seven times, get up eight: The power of Japanese resilience,” from Garr Reynolds

NOTE: Some people fear the “opening up” of so many feeds. I often hear, “I have enough to do without adding Twitter and RSS reads to my list.” If you dare, look at what Bill Ferriter and John Burk have written lately about how social networking saves you time. And never be afraid to “prune.” When I get overwhelmed by my feeds, I sometimes click on “mark all as read” and start with a clean slate. What about all that stuff I am missing? I would have missed it permanently if they were never in my feed reading. I – ME – I get to be in control of my reading…it does NOT control me. Take a chance today…try Twitter…start a blog. You will fall down, but you should get back up. Find the threads of a braided cord for your thinking. Provide some threads for others. That’s truly what learning is all about!