Like dog years, time passes differently in schools than in the world around us. I have been thinking a LOT about what “school” will be in August of 2036 or so, which in school-time is really not that far away. Certainly five years can pass in the blink of an eye and while the world changes dramatically in that time…not so much at schools. I am one of the lucky few who get to visit and work with many schools, so I see a variety of responses-in-progress to the challenges of school evolution in a rapidly changing world. Some are effective while others just feel like change, but do little to impact actual organization-wide shifts in culture and the kind of preparation our students need.
Here is a list of some (certainly not all) of what I think will characterize a school that is successful in August of the year 20XX. This list focuses on the adults in the school community. What that year is will be different for each school depending on the challenges each face, but there is one constant: the enormous changes already underway WILL change schools at a very foundational level within the next 1-3 decades. Some schools will embrace these changes; others will resist, and of those some or many will not be around in ten or twenty years.
- Faculty, staff, students, parents, and trustees are all able to communicate a brief summary of the school vision and how what they do each day contributes to that vision.
- Faculty and administrative staff are frequently connected in professional learning communities that includes members both inside and outside of their own school community.
- Faculty and administrative staff are increasingly viewed as educational thought leaders within the school community, the local region, and increasingly with a national educational network of educators.
- Professional growth resources are closely aligned to specific elements of the school vision.
- Ongoing professional learning and growth is a core element of faculty and administrative staff assessment.
- Most adults are eager to come to work most days; they would rather work at their school than at other schools; they are generally happy and having some fun!
- Adults increasingly feel comfortable with taking risks in their work and know that school leadership supports them. Board and school/district leadership teams have developed a transparent risk profile that sets out broad boundaries for others to follow.
- Adults embrace the role of “leader” in their respective jobs; they are able to articulate what that means and how they lead. Authentic, innovative leadership is expected and supported throughout the organization.
How are you and your school doing according to these measures? Can you make an honest appraisal, or is it easy to say “we are good at that”? When I come into a school or district, these are the “adult attributes” I look for, and try to help develop where they are missing or weak. They are critical attributes of a learning, innovating organization. Take an honest walk through your school or district and see how you are doing. Of course there are other areas of school organization that are needed in August of 20XX, but schools are people places, and this list is a really good place to start your self assessment. If some or many of these are “weak” in your school, will you just ignore and hope for the best? Or will you paint a picture of how school will open in August 20XX and create a path to get there?