An Intense Focus

May 8, 2017

 

One of the things I like most about virtual collaboration is the diversity of thought that’s made possible regardless of proximity. I also appreciate seeing how different people approach the same professional learning experience, and how they also make connections to different ideas and books that weren’t previously on my radar. I’m hoping this blog post returns the favor in some small way.

 

During the first week of our Renegade Leadership Virtual Cohort, I was struck by many of the different exchanges taking place in our forums and on social media. Maybe I’m still carrying fond memories of my doctoral research, but I really appreciated how one cohort member, Michael Miller, shared his reflections while citing specific pages from the book we’re studying. In addition to some great thoughts, Michael made a passing comment that really gave me pause. He described the initial chapters of the book as having an “intense focus on students...”

 

After reflecting on what Michael had shared, I began to wonder why the same intense focus on children can tend to be crowded out of education at times. Most meetings I attend involve incredibly talented and experienced educators who strive to collaborate on creating optimal learning conditions for kids. Despite all the dedication and wisdom in these meetings, we occasionally lose sight of the child-centered simplicity that I believe is vital to meaningful change.

 

It’s not that the adults in a meeting cannot add value to a dialogue because they most certainly can. The challenge comes from our inherent need to get things perfect. (Not just right…but perfect.) We need to start valuing progress over perfection. It seems like kids understand this better than anyone else. They appreciate trying something new and are not afraid to abandon (or improve upon) an idea that is not working. Kids are less worried about ego and more focused on the user-experience.

 

I’m currently reading Leaders Make the Future: Ten New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World, by Bob Johansen. Two of the concepts that Bob shares in his book relate to conversations we’re having in our Renegade Leadership Virtual Cohort right now. Bob talks about having an “urgent patience” (p. 22) and how leaders can practice this by pulling back to relieve pressure, or applying pressure when things get too comfortable.

 

Sometimes I wonder if we are too comfortable in education. More to the point; am I too comfortable? Have I afforded myself the luxury of time when what our students really need from me is more urgency…more focus? Students only get one 1st grade year, one middle school experience, and so on.

 

It seems like we’ve lost our sense of urgency when we continually debate the merits of an idea or approach until the proposed plan is perfect. The problem is that ‘perfect’ is not a realistic standard, and it certainly won’t serve our students anytime soon. We need to up our collective urgency and occasionally settle for simply starting. Progress matters.

 

Bob also talks about continuous prototyping in his book, but that’s an important conversation we’ll circle back to another time. Suffice it to say that the conversations occurring in the Renegade Leadership forums and hashtag on Twitter are stretching me, and simultaneously connecting me to some pretty incredible educators. Thanks to all the teachers, instructional coaches, principals, and others who are joining the dialogue.

 

Don’t forget to “follow” others on #RenLead, and if you haven’t already shared a shelfie photo please do so. It’s not too late to connect and choose from this week’s challenges. I’m posting a preview below for those who want to begin to dive in a day early.

 

 

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Dr. Brad Gustafson is an elementary principal, author, and speaker. He believes schools can be spaces where creativity and innovation thrive, but only when we prioritize relationships and a relevant, connected pedagogy. 

 

Connect on email at:

AdjustingCourse@gmail.com

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