I had the tremendous honour to work with the Sage Creek School staff in Winnipeg, Manitoba, recently. I work with schools all of the time, but this was extra special in that this staff is starting a brand new school that will not even open until the 2017-2018 school year. To have an opportunity to set the stage for not only a new year, but a completely new opportunity to start a school from scratch was amazingly humbling. As I left them, I challenged them to ensure that they do not create an “old school in a new building”. My best hunch based on the team there (all staff) is that this will not happen. They are going to make something incredible from this opportunity.
As I have stated before, change is an opportunity to do something amazing; they have an incredible opportunity to create change that will not only impact their students but students all of throughout their division and world, based on what they create.
One thing that I noticed was an activity that I usually do and how different it was with this group. It is a simple activity. After sharing some ideas with them, I ask them to share their name, position, what they want to learn on this day, and any big questions they have, but openly in a google form. I have done this several times in workshops, but this group seemed to take longer than usual in submitting their responses. I shared this with them, and based on my best guess, they really cared what they put into that document because they have not worked with one another. They are not at that “comfortable” stage yet, and they wanted to make an amazing impression on one another. I told them straight up that if you can come together as an amazing team, but still act like you are always new, you will create something truly special.
This reminded me of a conversation I was having with a principal regarding a district moving towards Google Apps for Education. They shared a major concern that although this was a great move for our students the “secretaries” were so used to Word that they would be against it. My response? Get a new secretary.
Now did I really want to get rid of all the amazing secretaries in the school district? Not a chance. If you go to amazing schools, the secretary(ies) are your first line to welcome anyone new in the building, and they are crucial to the running of a school. I have learned as much from some of the amazing secretaries that I have worked with, as I have from any position in a school.
But what I did challenge was the thinking that it was okay to not want to learn (from any position). Our focus was that this move would be hugely beneficial to our students and we need to always start from there. We also need to understand that if we were to interview new secretaries (or any position_ and ask them the question, “Would you be willing to learn Google Apps (insert anything)?”, my bet is that their response would be “Yes! Of course! Whatever you need me to do!”, or something along the lines with the same level of excitement. Yet, if they are there for a few years, they are no longer expected to learn?
One of the teachers on this staff is three years from retirement age and chose the opportunity to go to another school and embrace change, late in her career. What I told her is that if you are willing to learn and grow, your age doesn’t matter. I have seen amazing educators grow and develop way past “retirement” age, while others could retire five years into their career. It is the willingness to learn that divides them, not their age.
With anything new, support and time are needed. But if we are scared to learn something “new”, because it is “new”, even while focusing on ensuring that it will be better, we have lost that same eagerness to learn that we brought with us the first day that we work. Some will argue that the people with experience have seen initiatives before that have been shared and eventually shelved; “change” was done simply for the sake of change. Like others, I do not want my time wasted with something that is not beneficial to students. Yet, I also understand that the best organizations in the world are always learning, eager to learn, and are moving forward. They have an insatiable curiosity, desire to create something meaningful, and become part of something that is bigger than themselves. That same enthusiasm that I just witnessed from a new school staff excited about the possibilities of what they can create, is something we should all embody in education throughout our careers. Imagine if we brought that same “new” enthusiasm to schools every day, while continuously developing our knowledge and experience, through the process.
The places our schools could go if we embrace and embody the same wonder, curiosity, and desire to learn that we expect from our students, throughout our careers, not just at the beginning of them.