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Saturday, February 27, 2016

Positive Process for Evolution of Organizations

What processes does your organization use to develop in positive ways?

Is the process inclusive including multiple voices from many roles or do just a few make decisions for many?

This came to mind yesterday at PLC as we reviewed our overall efforts for English Language Arts. As we worked to really look at the data and think about ways to develop the program, it was clear that scheduling was an issue.

Overall the schedule is great especially given the fact that this our first year with a shared model of teaching with three fifth grade classrooms, but if we were to make change with the schedule we would be able to do an even better job next year.

As we talked about this, I wondered how we might make this change. Also after being part of the NEA/MTA/CTQ Teacher Leadership Initiative (TLI) School Redesign Cohort, I've come to realize that scheduling is a critical issue in every school organization, and in many ways, the schedule holds the key to our best efforts.

In the old days, before TLI, I might not have the confidence or skill to use good process to advocate for scheduling process changes--changes that would invite more specific voice and choice on behalf of all stakeholders, but after yesterday's discussion and the TLI work I've been doing all year, I know it's in the best interests of the children to advocate for the better schedule, hence I asked administration what would be a good first step with regard to this advocacy. It was suggested that I try to fit in what we wanted while also fitting in what everyone else needs too.

So this morning, I worked for about five hours rearranging the puzzle pieces of a K-5 elementary school scheduling puzzle. It was much like playing a game of chess. I didn't have all the parameters, but I worked with what I knew to be true (or at least thought to be true). It seemed like what we desire at fifth grade is possible after all that puzzle work, but of course, I could never do this alone since I don't stand in everyone's shoes.

Therefore I sent the schedule idea forward with the hopes that we could perhaps change the process a bit this year in the following ways:
  • Start scheduling earlier.
  • Include more voices with greater specificity and detail.
  • Look for ways to make the schedule meet everyone's needs more (don't forget we already have a terrific schedule, and I'm grateful for all the work that's gone into it. I'm looking for the frosting now, the even better than really good schedule.)
Yesterday as I watched IDEO's classic shopping cart video, I was reminded of the need for good process no matter what decisions we are making. That film sets a great example of modern day problem solving--an example we may want to use as we move forward with our advocacy for an even better schedule next year.

Change and evolution takes time and optimal process. As teaching and learning change, process becomes the centerpiece or linchpin helping us to reach the potential and promise, or as some might say the "collective genius" of the group.

Step one is to advocate. Step two is to recognize that change takes time and many voices. Step three is to be patient during the process and the many, many reiterations this will take as many educators work together to craft a wonderful pattern for as some say our "little city" of a school, a "city" with multiple, wonderful endeavors happening all at once.

Schools truly are microcosms of society. There is a lot of complexity involved in what we do together, but there's tremendous potential too, and if we're willing to give the problems presented the time and good process they deserve, we'll continue to develop our collective craft with the goal of teaching children well. Onward.

P.S. If you have some great scheduling software you'd like to share, let me know. I know in my mind how I would code this, but my facility with coding is weak. I can see it, but not really do it (yet!).