As I wrote about recently, I had the pleasure of participating in the BCPVPA Short Course for administrators last week. We had many inspiring speakers, great connections with administrators from around the province and heart-felt conversations about kids and the future.
On Friday, we had the pleasure of learning from Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser. I always enjoy listening to them and being pushed to think as a result of their powerful questions. Much of their work over the years is associated with the Network of Inquiry and Innovation (previously known as the Network of Performance-Based Schools). They have written a wonderful book, Spirals of Inquiry, which is an easy read, full of local success stories and inspiration (along with a bit of research with the why behind inquiry). They have also been involved with the Aboriginal Enhancement School Network and Changing Results for Young Readers. To say that these two leaders in education have had a huge impact in learning around the province and the world, would be an understatement!
While I could go on for pages and pages about all the wonderful messages Judy and Linda presented us on Friday, I would like to focus on a question they asked us to explore briefly with an unknown colleague in the room. I talked with another principal in the room about the question, “What kind of society do we want?” This is such an important question that must guide the work that we do in our schools each day. This question should be the focus on our minds every single day and should be the focus of the mission and vision of our schools, our school districts, and province. I am fortunate to be inspired by a district that has this focus on everything they do, as seen in our mission and vision and a video that was created for our district:
So, as I reflected with a partner, I shared that I wanted the members of our society to be resilient.
According to the Mirriam-Wesbster dictionary online, resilience is described as:
: the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens
: the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc.
This is what I want for our students. Our educators. Our parents. Our grandparents. This is what I want for those who will be helping us all grow into the future. Our students need to be able to grow and change and dust themselves off when they fall down. Our children need to be able to develop curiosities to enable them to understand change and how to work through change. They need to be able to bounce back in difficult times. Believe in themselves. They need to be life-long learners. We need to help lead them to a place where mistakes are common and are celebrated as how we learn.
So, as leaders in education, how do we do this? As teachers in the classrooms, how do we foster this? As support workers, how do we help our students with special needs reach this lofty goal? As parents, how do we encourage this in our own children?
I believe we need to celebrate challenges and failures (flops, if you will). We need to talk about them openly and provide each other with suggestions or just an understanding pat on the back. We need to listen to one another and feel each other’s pain along this steep learning journey we are all currently embarking upon. As parents and as teachers (and leaders), we need to encourage trying something new. We need to be there to listen, to say, “It’s okay. Keep trying.” Our focus needs to be on the learning, not on the letter grades. Not on the marks. Not on the scores. What do those things tell us, really? Those things just mean that someone knows how to do school effectively.
I welcome the opportunity for the teachers at our school to try new things. I encourage them to go slow, in order to not overwhelm themselves (and revert back to the comfortable). I encourage them to work with a partner – it’s easier to have someone there with you along for the ride. At the beginning of each staff meeting, we talk about the wonderful things they see in and around the school and they give kudos to one another. They also share their “flops”. They share what didn’t go the way they wanted it to go, why, and what they might do differently next time. They encourage one another. They take risks and we celebrate those risks! We laugh together!
All of these things, I believe, will, in turn, foster a culture of risk-taking and help to develop resilience in our students and educators.
If you’d like to learn more about the work of Judy and Linda, you may want to take a look at this link where you will find a video about Spirals of Inquiry and a few others useful resources.
What do you believe is essential for our society?