I was about to facilitate professional learning with school leaders in a large, urban school district a few months ago. The topics had been planned, the content and process had been reviewed, and I was ready to go. Right before my time started, I had the opportunity to meet the central office educator who was in the room and, according to the organizational chart, in charge of school improvement, instruction, and student performance.
How do you use the power of words to spark positive change? How are words being used in your setting to create a culture of caring? Words matter. They can offer perspective, insight, and understanding. Words can bring encouragement and hope.
The Learning Forward team had a very successful weekend in Toronto with our Academy cohorts, affiliates, institutes, and board meetings. Our Academy 2017 cohort got off to a great start, and many of the Academy 2016 members shared with us how much their learning is starting to gel. The affiliate leaders appreciated the choices of learning opportunities they had throughout the weekend, and several institute participants shared with me that the learning they experienced was both timely and impactful.
Time after time, conversations with decision makers in successful organizations reveal the high value they place on the relationships they try to build among people. The focus on relationships is not to be taken lightly. Toxic relationships diminish capacity (Lewin and Regine, The Soul at Work, 1999). With multiple, increasingly complex initiatives, leaders in successful organizations generate their best work and results from the interactions they have with the people who work there. To create new solutions for challenging problems, they have to have these relationships to enlist the ability and creativity of the people in their schools.
Followers of the Learning Forward blog know that we changed our name several years ago from the National Staff Development Council to Learning Forward. Later this year, we’ll reach the five-year anniversary of the new name. As I reflect on those years, I think about some of the learning I’ve seen in schools and districts that leads me to ask, “Are you learning forward or backward?”
When I was a local school board member, parents frequently asked for my advice on how to ensure their child got a particular teacher in a school. I knew how the game would be played after I reminded them this wasn’t the role of the school board: They would write the principal with their requests for the next year. The principal would respond to assure the parents that no matter which classroom their child was assigned, he or she would have a great year.