If the end point is the same, but we all start from a different place, what does that say about our paths to success?
I have increasingly used the metaphor of a “North Star” around which schools can build a shared vision of where they want to get to in terms of “great learning”. We need a North Star, because if we don’t agree on where we are going, then a combination of random motion and inertia mean that we move nowhere with purpose.
Creation and use of a North Star is critical. It is a fixed point in the distance, and we know we will make course corrections on our way, and we know we are never going to get “there”. But we define direction, and then we align our resources in support of that direction. If we have such a North Star, it is much easier to say “yes, we are going to do this, and no, we are not going to do that“. If new programs or ideas get us closer to the North Star they receive support, and if not, they don’t.
But here’s the deal: just like students, no two educators start towards the North Star from the same place! We can all face towards the North Star, but our compass headings may be completely different, depending on where we are right now, and where we have come from. What does this mean?
It means that those responsible for setting up professional growth strategies and opportunities for their teams better not be looking for a one-size-fits-all solution, because it wont! Just like we have to teach to the needs of the individual child, we need to provide growth pathways for the individual adult educator. This is a central finding of many studies on the effectiveness of teacher PD, yet ignored more often than not because it is messier, less convenient, and belies the source who shouts “I have THE answer!’
Adults must own their learning just like students, and it will most effectively start with this: “There is our school’s collective North Star. Identify where you are with respect to its location and chart your path.” How cool would it be if you had an actual map of all of these trajectories for your school!