It’s A System Thing

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in an exceptional learning opportunity. Several superintendents from throughout the province gathered together and we spent the day engaged in purposeful, focused conversation with each other. The day was facilitated by renowned researchers and contributors to our thinking about educational leadership – Michael Fullan, Valerie Hannon and Tony Mackay.

For me, the day served as an opportunity to spend time in deep reflection about the direction of School District 8, and to determine if I can sense alignment among the hopes and expectations of the communities we serve, our school district’s attendance to those hopes and expectations, and the provincial directions in terms of public education.

Part of our conversation was focused on what Michael Fullan refers to as “the right drivers” for whole system reform. To engage in this conversation does not in any way infer that any system is broken. Rather, it is meant to say that we need to be serious about evolving our work as public educators in order to meet the ever-changing needs of our students now and into the future.

Dr. Fullan identified four “right” drivers for whole system change: Capacity Building, Collaborative Work, A Focus on Instruction, and Systemic Solutions. He says that these drivers “are effective because the work directly on changing the culture of school systems (values, norms, skills practices, relationships). We could spend hours reflecting on each of these Drivers. The important thing, though, is to think about our own District and determine if we are engaging the right Drivers to position ourselves to meet the ever-changing needs of our students.

At a District Leadership Meeting in August of this year I summarized the present work of our District:
* Continuing to focus on establishing a coherent alignment of our resources focussed on the
instructional core;
* Continued focus on the instructional core as the fulcrum of change;
* Commitment to the personalization of the learning environment for each of our students;
* Establishment of a collaborative culture through the development of families of schools and a
focus on capacity building throughout the District;
* Myth Busting – putting to rest the stories that are holding us back;
* Culture shifting – focussing on values, norms, skills, practices and relationships);
* Ensuring the Public is actively engaged in determining our direction.

I believe this summary of our work is evidence that we are engaging the right drivers for continuous evolution of our district – just as our students continuously evolve in an ever-changing world.

The bottom line, though, as stated by Mourshed et al, 2010, “it’s a system thing, not a single thing…In the absence of a system mindset individual pieces, each of which contains half-truths, are pitted against each other as vested interests bash each other with proverbial baseball bats. No one wins; the system loses every time.”

Ultimately if we are going to serve in the interest of our learners – we have to do so together with a razor-sharp focus on engaging learners in the task of learning –

It is a system thing!

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One Response to It’s A System Thing

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