Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Art of Possibility

At our recent Pro D day, our staff watched Ben Zander and his wife talk about the Art of Possibility. The intention of the viewing was to start the day off with sparks of inspiration and thoughtful reflection on our practice. The debrief was intended to be 15 minutes or so. An hour and a half later we were still have one of the most self reflective discussions I have ever had the pleasure to be a part of.

It is not necessary for me to share the contents of our conversation here because, while the value of the conversation was high, the context of our staff is required to have it make sense in a public conversation. Having said this, I would like to share that our conversation revolved around how to motivate students. How to engage. What can we do to better our teaching practices so that students will want to direct their own learning.

The conversation was peppered with debate around the role of healthy competition and the role of collaboration. One teacher brought the conversation to an audible pause of reflection when she ask why we can't just let the students be. She wanted to let her students quiet the inner voice and just be curious.

Another teacher asked where do we go wrong. Students seem to start kindergarten with an innate sense of learning and then it progressively dwindles.

While other teachers rightfully reminded us of our ministerial duties to report to parents and others. So the question was left floating out there for water-cooler consumption. How can we provide an environment that minimizes the inner voice noise of evaluative pressure and still meet the administrative requirement of our job?

As an administrator, I feel so lucky. I get to go into classes and teach for the purpose of learning. My evaluative relationship with the students is benign.

Sometimes, as a principal, you get lucky and your staff lead you down a path of learning that you did not intend. Thanks Guys!

A footnote: Leadership; the Art of Possibility is a video that the Zanders put out for purchase. Our district is lucky enough to own a couple copies of this amazing video. However, if you are not so lucky, Ben has a presentation that is archived on TED TALKS that speaks to many of the same ideas that is well worth the view, called

Shining Eyes

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