If I had to pick a single piece of advice for school leaders it would be this: if you keep asking questions rooted in your past you are never going to get to your future.
Bless the hearts and minds of those who have come before, but so much advice given to schools rests on understanding where we have been, not on expanding the possibilities of where we might go. If we survey our customers with a list of words and phrases and ask them to pick what is important to them, we get a ranking based on those questions. It is like putting customers in front of a Chinese food buffet and asking them which dishes they prefer. We get great feedback in terms of Chinese food but it tells us NOTHING about what kind of food they prefer overall, what they might pay to get their favorite food, or what dishes they might imagine if the buffet contained a vastly wider array of options. Sure, it is easy to quantify our customers’ responses, but it tells us little about “the possible”.
If schools are going to be relevant in the future, they have to imagine “school” as something different from a relatively safe place to deliver (hopefully rigorous) academic content. We will never get past that if we are constrained by the current items on the buffet. So I will be blunt: if your school is asking the same questions in the same ways, and planning based on those responses, there are two potential outcomes: diminishing relevance and going out of business.
Ask questions like “what does great learning look like”. Schools are about learning; we have to be great at delivering learning that our customers value. If we don’t start there, we are designing for the past. Everything else follows.