Big Leaps of Faith

I have a great respect for incremental improvement, and I’ve done that sort of thing in my life, but I’ve always been attracted to the more revolutionary changes. I don’t know why. Because they’re harder. They’re much more stressful emotionally. And you usually go through a period where everybody tells you that you’ve completely failed.

— Steve Jobs

I overheard a conversation between two teachers in the office commenting on how tired they were — “and it’s not even September!” they exclaimed. That brief comment gave me pause and a jolt of panic. Between Accreditation, IB evaluation, the Innovate and Global Issues Network conferences at Graded, and deepening practice around explicit school-wide expectations, have we tackled too much? At first glace, these events and next steps towards improvement are easily within the scope of work we usually investigate. Crafting and implementing the Continuum of Assessment Practices, for example, seemed much more daunting.

But then I started grappling with the difference between improvement and innovation and how we think about the two at Graded School. In brief, I think we can agree that innovation differs from improvement in that innovation refers to the notion of doing something different rather than doing the same thing better. Where I get stuck is I see improvements across campus that are resulting in doing things differently. And this is why that what I think appears to be next steps are actually big leaps of faith.

For example, the implementation of the Descriptors of Achievement is the result of improving our assessment practices based on what we’ve learned as a community and tighter alignment to IBO assessment philosophy. In practice, however, teachers are turning to one another to get feedback on assessment design and strategies for grading and reporting deep learning that reflects critical thinking and creativity. It’s time consuming. It takes revision. And we’re not even sure it’s always going to work. This would make anyone tired.

But it’s important. Maybe more important than the usual scope of work we’ve done in the past. Because this isn’t only about changing practice, it’s about changing the culture of our learning environment, both for kids and for us. It’s about taking risks because we’ve reached a point where it’s a greater risk not to change.

And it’s about being kind and having fun… and giving ourselves permission to take the time to learn. I go back to the faculty-driven opening questions at least once a week. The one that stands out again and again is How can we be model learners – and show it is a process to be enjoyed?

I invite you to take a deep breath… to recognize we need each other to figure this out… and to jump.


About Colleen

Senior Fellow at The Donnell-Kay Foundation Chief Learning Designer, ReSchool Colorado

Posted on August 26, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I am also a “Director of Teaching and Learning” and am thrilled to have discovered your blog. I look forward to reading every post and learning from your school’s struggles and successes. It sounds as though our school, although a different type of school, is going through similar processes of growth and culture change.
    Your links go to unpublished Google Docs, and I am not able to access them. Would you be willing to grant me access to those docs? Thank you so much!

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