Partnerships

We’re reading Unmistakable Impact by Jim Knight together as a large team at work.  This is the second post in my series on that reading and reflection.  Here’s the first post.

I highlighted an awful lot of chapter two of this book.  The chapter is a focus on partnerships – the necessary criteria for successful ones, what they look like, and some of how to be a good partner.  It’s tricky stuff, building a true partnership, particularly when issues of power come along.  It’s hard to be equal when you’re in fear of your job status due to the other person in your partnership.

A few choice passages (Kindle locations in italics):

What is needed for choice to flourish is a structure that reconciles freedom and form. (863)

The solution is to create structures that provide focus for human experiences, while respecting the autonomy of each individual. (864)

When leaders choose to do the thinking for teachers — by creating scripts, pacing guides, and step-by-step procedures to be followed blindly — they engage in short-term thinking.  pacing guides and similar prescriptions may lead to a quick bump in test scores, but the long-term impact can be disastrous. (946)

Every act of dialogue is a hopeful act, a sign that we believe a better future is possible.  When I listen to you, and you listen to me, there is the hope that we can create something new and better, that we can advance thought, and, through dialogue, a better tomorrow. (1034)

People who live out the principle of reciprocity approach others with humility, expecting to learn from them.  When we look at everyone else as a teacher and a learner, regardless of their credentials or years of experience, we will be delightfully surprised by new ideas, concepts, strategies, and passions. (1070)

 

As I look back on these saved passages, I realize that what I’m taking away from this reading on partnerships isn’t how I want to build partnerships, but rather how I want to prepare myself for them.

The chapter speaks of partnering being a choice – it’s important to me that the people I work with, be it in a class or training or meeting or long-term teaching situation, are there by their own choice, and, if that can’t be the case, that they can shape the experience to their benefit through the exercise of meaningful choices.  This is messy.  Sometimes, this principle of choice means that someone I’d like to work with simply won’t want to.  That’s a loss for both of us, but I can’t force a situation to my liking and simultaneously honor the other person or persons involved.  Giving people choice means also allowing them to choose something other than you or the work you find important.  That’s essential to remember.

It’s also important to remember that the best we can do for ourselves to prepare for a partnership opportunity – and most interactions with others are opportunities – is to approach those others as honestly and openly as one can.  A simple question, addressed as a learning opportunity for all involved, can be an invitation to further learning.

I think partnership thinking should also impact how leaders handle conflict and change.  When a decision I’m involved in will impact someone, I can do my best to prepare them for that impact.  Better yet, I can seek their input before they are impacted as a way of working to mitigate or even prevent a negative impact.  That’s a way to create a possible partnership out of a potentially negative situation.  I hope my leaders approach situations as potential partnerships, opportunities to bridge division, rather than opportunities for creating distance.

I think of past partnerships where events that ultimately affected me were handled far beyond my control and awareness, for no good reason other than the comfort and convenience of the leaders involved.  As a district representative, I don’t want to take an easy way out or around a potential problem or sticky situation.  That doesn’t honor the humanity of the others involved.

So preparing for partnership is largely, for me, about preparing myself to be kind and open and curious.   And approaching others as if they’re the same.  Because most likely, they are.

When you think about partnerships, and preparing yourself as a possible partner, what do you think about?

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A 500-Year Flood (of Gratitude.)

It’s quit raining in Fort Collins at the moment, after three days of continual drizzle and sometimes pounding rain.  Last night, a patched hole in my roof began to drip a bit of water into the house.  That’s nothing.

The town where I work right now, though?  It’s cut in half by the river that’s blown its banks across the town.  Two other communities in the district where I serve are cut off from the rest of the world as all the roads that could get you in or out of there are no longer available for travel, or are simply gone.  And to the south, in Denver, more and more reports of flooding and evacuation.  They’re calling it, in Longmont, a 500-year flood event.

But it’s not raining here right now, and tomorrow my children will head to school, as they have a pretty normal day.

Across Twitter and Facebook and the eavesdropping police scanner app I promised that I wouldn’t download or turn on, I’m seeing/hearing/checking in on lots of folks who are having terrible evenings.  Homes flooded.  Families separated.  Water seeping into places water just doesn’t usually go.

And there’s pretty much nothing I can do tonight from my reasonably dry home not so far away from the communities and students and teachers I serve.  Save for listening and watching and cheering on the bus drivers and support staff and police, fire, and community leaders who are digging in and helping out as best they can.

Being helpless isn’t something I’m all that good at.

So let me say this, as I’m wringing my hands in helplessness and thinking of how to help down the line:  If you’re in the thick of it tonight, and bringing comfort, or blankets, or warm snacks to those without; if you’re driving a borrowed bus around the drowning streets of a Colorado town, taking families to safety, or reuniting them; if you’re coordinating shelters, or support, or just passing information along as a way of making sure it’s out there; if you’re helping right now; if you’re doing what you can,

well, then.

Thank you.

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Come to the Grand Opening of the Discovery Center for Make/Hack/Play

I’m excited to announce that we’ll be kicking off our programming and opening the doors of the Discovery Center for Make/Hack/Play at Spark! Discovery Preschool on Saturday, September 14th, from 10am to 2 pm here in Frederick, Colorado.  If you’re in the neighborhood, you should come make something and bring your family.  Admission is free – and there’s plenty to play with.

I’d love to see you there.  And I love that this idea is becoming a real place.  Now to build the community . . .

 

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Oh, the Humanity

Professional learning that dehumanizes its participants carries the seeds of its own failure. When a select few do the thinking for others, when people are forced to comply with outside pressure with little or no input, when teachers asking genuine questions are labeled resistors, when leaders act without a true understanding of teachers’ day-to-day classroom experiences, those dehumanizing practices severely damage teacher morale. And when teachers feel disillusioned by the professional learning they experience, their disappointment, hurt, and unhappiness surface in the classroom and inevitably damage the very children they are there to educate and inspire. – Jim Knight, Unmistakable Impact, Kindle location 385

In the first chapter of the book that some of my colleagues and I are reading together, quoted above, Jim Knight lays out the idea that one of the core concepts for a truly great school is that we must build schools that are human, and that respect the humanity of the people serving them and served by them. A discussion question we’re talking about in our book group this week asks us to consider how we move closer to learning communities that empower teachers to online indian pharmacy embrace proven teaching methods. While I’m hesitant to take a stance, just this minute, on “proven teaching methods,” I feel like I want to advocate right now for a stance in a learning community, professional or otherwise, that focuses on the humanity of all involved.

A humane learning community takes time to explore ideas before rushing to move forward. This takes, well, time, but it’s time well spent. You can move fast, with shared purpose, when time has been taken to ensure purposeful conversation has been a part of the community building.

A humane learning community is one where questions are honored and taken at face value, where the presupposition of positive intent is absolute and intentional by all in community together.

And a humane learning community is one where learning is modeled by all in the community, especially the leadership.

These things are difficult to do, to take time to learn, or to honor questions, or to explore purpose together. Modeling learning, in my experience, seems most difficult. But they matter. And they carry messages, whether done or undone, that will impact the efficacy of the community.

I’m looking forward to being in conversation with my colleagues about this text. If you’ve read the book, I’d be curious to know what you thought of it.

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"What Apps Should I Buy?"

It sure seems like, whenever I tell someone what it is I do, that somebody wants to tell me about the tablet they just bought. Then I’m immediately asked this question:

“What apps should I buy?”

And I guess I understand why. Once you’ve got a piece of hardware, then certainly you need to put software on it. And there are plenty of “Top 100 Apps for X” posts out there, getting passed along and around like the candy that they really, in almost all cases, are not. It’s pretty easy to think that apps are everything.

But the advice I usually give goes something like this:

I really don’t have a clue about what apps you should put on your tablet, because I don’t know why you bought it. I don’t know what it is that you want the tablet to do. So let me ask you a question back: “What is it you want to get done with the thing?” Then we can have a conversation about what software to buy.

I’ve found there are two common scenarios when it comes to how people put apps on tablets. The first is the app junkie. Constantly on the lookout for the new stuff, they’ve downloaded dozens, and in many cases, hundreds of apps to their tablet devices. They might have spent time organizing them into folders or screens. And they don’t use any of those apps, but they sure do have a bunch of them. Their home screen is like the bookshelf in the house of someone who wants to impress you with his or her reading habits. Plenty of books. Few of them read.

The other common scenario I find is the one I want more people to embrace. This one involves folks who, when they realize they have a particular thing they want to get done, or a purpose in mind, approach their respective app store and search for apps that do the thing they’d like to do. They read reviews. They ask friends. And when they pull the trigger on an app or two, they poke at that app once they’ve installed it, seeking to see if it’s really the thing for them. They don’t have a ton of software, but what they have gets used.

You should be the second type of person.

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Don't Make It About the (Digital) Tools When You Want It To Be About the Learning

I was sitting in a meeting today with some administrators, and we were discussing what we were looking for when we were looking for the thoughtful use of technology to support learning. What, we wondered, does the thoughtful use of digital tools for learning look like?

And that’s a good question to spend some generic propecia online time on. It was a good conversation.

But why do we always wonder about “digital” tools?1 What about the analog ones?

What does the thoughtful use of pens and pencils to support learning look like? How about the thoughtful use of sticky notes and index cards? What does/can/should that look like?

Seems to me the push to understand and separate digital tools from the analog ones can often confuse the real issue, the meaty question that is really the point of talking about iDevices, or tablets, or touchpads or whatever.

And perhaps exploring more familiar tools can help us get to the bottom of that in a better way.

That question is, of course, “What does learning look like?”

How do you know?

Defend your answer.

  1. Certainly, in the particular conversation I was in today, it was specifically about some new digital stuff. It made sense for us to focus on the digital. At least a little. But I’m wondering more broadly here. []
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Making Equity – Saturday, August 10th, 2013

I’m looking forward to this event, coming up in about eight days:

The CSU Writing Project is pleased to invite you to a free and fun day of hands-on activities for students, teachers, and families called “Making Equity.” The event will be held Sat., Aug. 10, 9am-4:30 (registration at 8:30), on the CSU campus. Please see the attached flyer for specific details.

This will be a day of “making” that’s connected to the Saving Our Stories project–a summer program that CSUWP offered to help local ELL kids “save the stories” of the Fort Collins Latino community. Some activities that day will include making cardboard cities, book sculptures, quilts out of foam squares, computer games, Ipad stories, tweets, and more.

In the afternoon there will also be professional development breakout groups to help teachers learn how to incorporate making activities with an equity focus in their classrooms. We will have PD certifications of participation for attending the breakout sessions. National speakers from the National Writing Project (including Bud Hunt), will be facilitating these sessions.

This event is free to all and includes breakfast muffins and pizza and cookies for lunch.

Please help us spread the word, and contact Cindy O’Donnell-Allen (cindyoa@mail.colostate.edu) or Antero Garcia (antero.garcia@colostate.edu) if you have further questions.

Hope to see you there!

See you there?  Here’s the flyer (PDF) with more information.  You should come.

making equity

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What Socrates Would Call Wisdom

It seems, more and more, that there’s more and more to experience in the world of the Interwebs. But I suspect that this continued experience that there’s more to experience is, in fact, a continuation of my growing awareness of just how big the world is.

And that’s a gradual experience – meaning that, as one begins to notice more of the world, he or she recognizes how much of the world is left to experience, and just how limited one’s experiences actually are.

Right?

So, the more I know, the more I realize that I actually know much less than there is to know, you know?

And, if that’s the case, then how do we help people to realize that what they know is, you know, not all there is to know.

You know?

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Stomping on Sandcastles

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Last week, my family and I made our annual pilgrimage to the ocean to visit with family and reconnect with all that is good and true and beautiful about the beaches like the ones I visited as a child. My children have begun to appreciate the beauty of the ocean and the creative canvas that is the sand on the beach. Most mornings of our trip, we hauled our buckets, shovels, rakes and other tools and toys from the house to the beach to play and dig and make and tinker around.

My children being children, we didn’t make the greatest castles. Their creations were often abandoned mid-creation as they noticed a new tide pool or an enticing wave that drew them away from the sand. But our little bits of towers and tunnels were strewn about the beach every day, awaiting either a little more attention or the daily scrubbing from the tide as it rolled in. One great thing about a beach is that it’s a fresh canvas every day.

One afternoon, my wife and I were sitting by the ocean, making plans and dreaming dreams and having all the conversations you can have when freed from the daily grind of work/home stress. Mostly, we were just being in the moment of sitting together in the presence of something delightful, watching waves and smelling salt air. As we talked, I was people watching, one of my favorite past times, and I was paying particular attention to how walkers, runners, and the motley crew of assorted beachcombers were navigating the sand creations strewn around the shore – both “ours” – the ones my children and nephews made, and also the ones made by other folks who shared the beach with us that day.

The tide was coming in, and it was clear that the time for the castles was short. They’d be gone within an hour or two. But most folks didn’t think about that. They worked their way around the castles and trenches, giving them as wide a berth as they could, taking care not to trod upon the things that other people made. I remember when I was a child on the beaches of North Carolina, and coming across others’ castles when we made it to the ocean. Sometimes, we’d find an exceptional one, and look for ways to make it better, or we’d finish up a section that clearly was incomplete, decorating towers and moats with bits of shell and driftwood washed up the previous day. I spent an especially memorable day helping a kid I’d never met before – and haven’t seen since – digging out an elaborate underground fort, complete with plywood walls and sand steps down while my father and his father looked on and surf fished closer to the water.

It’s always been my thing to make better the stuff I see, or to admire the beauty that others had left behind as their day took them away from their labors of love1.

But back to this particular day.

There was a group of folks walking down the shore who came across a small series of towers my nephews has made that day, already beginning to be kissed by the approaching tide. What others had avoided, these folks stomped on, knocking each one down as they passed. On their walk back from where they started, they again stomped across the towers, reducing each one to a damp lump of sand.

And I wondered why anyone would do that.

I’m sure they didn’t think about it as they passed, about the time and attention a five year old gave to making sure the lines and angles and compactness of the sand was just right, about the care an eight year old gave to ensuring the towers all matched once finished, about the tide licking its way across the castles. These castles were doomed, certainly, and abandoned by the children, but did they have to end like that?

I’m sure those folks didn’t think about what they were doing while they did it. They were in the moment and enjoying their friends. And they didn’t do anything wrong, really. I just thought it was odd.

And I wonder as I write what it is that pushes some of us to admire and add to the beauty that we find, and what pushes others of us to stomp on it. In the public spaces we all share, how do we ensure that we’re inviting appreciation and contribution, making sure the canvas is refreshed and available, while keeping the stomping to a minimum.

My moment on the beach was a good reminder to me of the types of spaces I want to promote and build and perpetuate. And maybe a reminder about the type of guy I want to be when I’m walking through a gallery of other people’s stuff, wherever I might happen to come across it.

Certainly, the castles and creations that many of us will make aren’t always very good. But I hope you’re helping to make them better, and not stomping on the ones you come across. And I hope, too, that you’re working to build spaces where we can encourage things getting made and made better, rather than just stomped down as they pop up.

  1. At least, I try to make that my thing. But I fall short. Lots. We all do. []
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