Byron's Babbles

Scaling Partnerships In Education & Telling Our Story

D-BSkhhXsAIXDRGI’m so sad to be sitting at the airport because I hate leaving Harvard University. I always learn so much from my friends at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. As always, my thinking as stretched, what I thought I knew challenged, and new creative and innovative ideas developed. As Dr. Mandy Savitz-Romer said last Sunday, “You may not leave here with complete closure, but with new questions.” That is learning at its best! My description for my learning this week is that I have been “coached up!”

Screen Shot 2019-06-26 at 7.48.22 PMToday’s learning was just as great as the rest of the week. I loved doing a case study on a partnership with the Nike Innovation Fund for improving Oregon student success. Dr. Monica Higgins did a great job of facilitating the case study and I learned a great deal about scaling the impact of public private partnerships. This learning was followed up by a great session by Dr. Irvin Scott on story telling and its importance to teaching and leadership.

As I have done all week in Thriving Students, Developing & Supporting Our Students: Future Identity Versus No Future Identity, and Changing The Narrative For Our Students, I compiled a top 20 list of the things I learned today. Here is my list:

  1. It’s not just if we do partnerships, it’s how we do partnerships.
  2. Partnerships should match the core values or mission of the partners.
  3. Partnerships are great ways for industry to understand education and for education to understand industry.
  4. It is very important to analyze both sides of all partnerships.
  5. Partnerships are a psychological contract.
    1. Everything’s not always explicit (context, risks, et cetera).
    2. In partnerships everything is not always spelled out.
  6. Move partnerships from individual to individual to organization to organization. This plays to sustainability.
  7. Open communication is key to partnerships, even when things go wrong.
  8. Agenda items versus surface level just for show.
  9. Eliminate hidden targets in partnerships
  10. Partnerships need an exit strategy so the innovation can be sustained without the partner.
  11. Partnerships should be mutually beneficial, with beneficial up for debate.
  12. In partnerships:
    1. Make implicit explicit
    2. Have clarity of roles and limitations
    3. Have flexibility built in
    4. Have mutual goals, timelines, and milestones
  13. Is the voice of the student heard in the partnership?
  14. You never want to scale until you know you have something that works.
  15. Need to decide to scale deep or scale out.
  16. Everyone has a story of how they got where they are. What is your trajectory?
  17. We need to be warm demanders for our students.
  18. We need to give an academic press to our students.
  19. You can’t lead if you don’t read.
  20. Why story/narrative in leadership?
    1. Stories are fundamentally human…
    2. Stories build connection…critical for leaders…
    3. Stories bring data alive…
    4. Stories capture what is possible…
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Changing The Narrative For Our Students

Yesterday was another powerful day of learning at Harvard University. It started out with Liya Escalera walking us through changing the narrative, valuing the cultural wealth of our underrepresented students in order to achieve equity. Additionally, she taught some great asset-based approaches to leading for student success. The best part was how she had us start this session. She had us reflect on situations in an educational setting that made us feel unwelcome and then reflect on a situation that made us feel welcome. This was a great way to get us in a mode of thinking about changing the narrative for our students. Liya also worked us through asset based communication. Below is a slide that does a great job of showing what our discussion included: IMG_6148Then we spent time digging into family engagement and making families true partners with Stephany Cuevas of Harvard University. We know that students with engaged families:

  • Exhibit faster rates of literacy acquisition
  • Earn higher grades and test scores
  • Enroll in higher level programs
  • Are promoted more and earn more credits
  • Adapt better to school and attend more regularly
  • Have better social skills and behaviors
  • Graduate and go on to higher education

IMG_6149The learning did not stop here. We then spent time with Daren Graves diving into issues of race with intentionality. This was very powerful learning. We discussed how racism can happen without it being intentional. In education we must be diligent in monitoring the areas where we see disparate racial outcomes or impact:

  • Curriculum
  • Groupings
  • Assessment
  • Relationships with students and faculty
  • Relationships with the community
  • Recruitment/Retention

IMG_6157Just like in Thriving Students and Developing & Supporting Our Students: Future Identity Versus No Future Identity here is the top 30 list from our Tuesday learning:

  1. Reflect on a situation in an educational setting that made you feel unwelcome.
  2. Reflect on a situation that made you feel welcome.
  3. Asset-Based versus Deficit-Based Communication
  4. It is a bad habit to not look at all our communication through a critical lens.
  5. What is the problem? The problem is not our students.
  6. Is the problem that our students aren’t post-secondary ready, or that our education system is not student ready?
  7. Cultural competence will not cut it. We need to be highly skilled, not just competent.
  8. We need to make sure all schools are student ready.
  9. Google Translate™ is a good thing, but must be edited, or those reading will feel disrespected.
  10. We need information to go to parents as well as the students.
  11. We need to offer parents parents questions to ask their students.
  12. Our families are collaborators.
  13. We need to have parents presenting to parents.
  14. Have parents talk to each other.
  15. Students need to be thought of as part of a family, and then the family as part of all the practices of the school.
  16. Staff needs to view families as collaborators and partners.
  17. Staff Relationships With Parents + School Knowledge = Family Engagement As Confident Partner
  18. Staff needs to think of themselves as mentors to their parents.
  19. Family engagement is a way of thinking, not a practice.
  20. Family engagement is a value, not just a practice.
  21. There is no gene for race. Science saved the day!
  22. Race is an idea.
  23. Race is not culture.
  24. Race is something that happens, not something we are.
  25. It’s not about doing well in school, it’s about doing school well.
  26. Racism is usually pretty mundane.
  27. A system that confers privilege and produces disparate outcomes on the basis of race.
    1. historically-based systems
    2. actions/beliefs/policies/practices/conceptions
    3. confers visible and unacknowledged privilege
  28. Sometimes we set students up for failure by trying to not set them up for failure.
  29. Start with implicit biases, then move to structural biases.
  30. Racism can happen without anyone intentionally wanting it to happen.

 

Thriving Students

IMG_6110I have been learning at Harvard University this week on post-secondary success. As an exercise to help myself digest all of the information and make some sense of the learning, I like to come up with a top list from each day. This day’s (Sunday, June 23rd) learning came from Mandy Savitz-Romer and Francesca Purcell, and included learning about post-secondary gaps and opportunities and the data and trends behind public policies to increase post-secondary success.

One of the things that really jumped out at me from the reading and learning was the introduction of the Thriving Quotient. I was very interested in the thought and reality is that we always want to measure student success primarily in terms of academic performance and persistence to graduation. I became enthralled when reading “The “Thriving Quotient”: A New Vision for Student Success” by Laurie A. Schreiner, where she introduced this assessment tool. Thriving students are academically successful and also believe themselves to be part of a community and psychological well-being. These things make it possible for the student to get the most out of their educational experience. The thing I like about Academic Thriving is that it goes beyond what I call compliance – attending class, doing homework – going through the motions. In the Thriving Quotient, Academic Thriving students are psychologically engaged in the learning process. What really resonated with me about this was that the idea of making a connection between what the student already knows or is interested in. This connection to relevant contexts helps the student be an engaged learner and THRIVE.

The Thriving Quotient also includes Intrapersonal Thriving. This thriving is about the student having a healthy attitude toward themselves and the learning process. Additionally included is Interpersonal Thriving. We can’t truly thrive without relationships. So, time spent on the Thriving Quotient and so much other discussion on Sunday led to the following top 20 list of things learned:

  1. Learning with and from each other from different sectors.
  2. Pull don the walls and step outside our lanes.
  3. We have to get the singular narrative out of our mind.
  4. Sometimes we are creating a narrative for students that does not fit their why, or what is best for them.
  5. Actions of students do not match their aspirations.
  6. Only 10% of students that drop out of college had below a “C” average.
  7. Student problems vs. institutional problems
  8. We highlight student problems, but sometimes instead of highlighting problems, we need to change the process.
  9. With multiple pathways available to students, we need to make sure we are sorting in a way that is about best fit, not about other factors.
  10. We need to get better at moving from thinking about student success in terms of just quantitative box checking like graduation rates, number of applying or accepted to college, and test scores by moving to the idea of students THRIVING!
  11. We can’t think of college as just one singular thing because there are many different outcomes from many different types of colleges.
  12. The highest stakes tests students take are the placement tests once in college. Then, in some cases, we waste the students’ time in developmental education.
  13. We must find a way to scale up the things that work!
  14. A college credential is a solid investment that will pay off over time.
    1. More likely to give back to the community and vote
    2. Higher levels of personal well-being (health, et cetera)
    3. Higher earnings and tax payments
  15. What is it that the adult wants, versus what the student wants.
  16. Adults always think we know best, but many times we don’t know all the options, or nor does the student know all the options.
  17. “College is not for everyone, but it is for everyone that looks like you when you are a school.”
  18. We maybe need to think about amending the 14th amendment of our constitution to include higher education.
  19. We are nearing universal enrollment in college. What does this mean?
  20. A college going future identity.

As you can see, there was a lot to digest after a single afternoon of work. If any of these statements resonated or made you think, please comment here on this post.

Strategic Urgent Action

IMG_6001

My son Heath’s Pin Oak Tree

Fostering Innocence

Recently, in a meeting, someone made the comment that we need to create places where innocence is fostered for our children. This really got me thinking about how we do this both with our own children and the students we serve in our schools. The notion of innocence refers to children’s simplicity, their lack of knowledge, and their purity not yet spoiled by mundane affairs. Such innocence is taken as the promise of a renewal of the world by the children. One of the most delightful things about children is their sense of innocence and wonder, yet helping them maintain that sense of wonder can be challenging in our sophisticated, hurried society.

Knowledge Ruining Innocence

This rapid and early gain of knowledge by our children is quite the paradox. We all know that knowledge is powerful, but when children learn the wrong things to early it can really be detrimental. Vast amounts of knowledge and information is readily available to our children, and we, as parents, want our children to have this knowledge because we believe it will help them grow and compete. However, this same knowledge can ruin their innocence.

What Can We Do?

Have fun. Build time into your schedule to allow for silliness, downtime, and play.

Leverage nature. Children are instinctively attuned to the wonders of nature. We do not have to prompt students to enjoy playing in the mud, seeing the beauty of flowers, watching kittens play. I love the idea I heard one time of planting a family tree and then having family time at each season change to note changes in the tree. My family has a Pin Oak tree that my son brought home from school when he was in the fourth grade that we use for this. In fact, I blogged about this tree in Lesson Of A Pin Oak. Now, it is a beautiful iconic part of our yard (pictured in this post).

Reading together. This is so important and can still be done with high-schoolers. I chose to read the same books my son had to read for school. Wow, what great conversations this spurred for he and I. All I can say is, “try it.”

Use technology wisely and discreetly. Children should not be burdened with information that is too adult in nature. They have neither the cognitive nor social-emotional skills to process this information.

Family events. Or, family events where the children bring a friend. We do a lot of family activities and my son and I have always done Dad and Lad events/trips. The beauty of these is that we control the content.

This is way too complex an issue to solve with a blog post, but I believe we all need to be reflecting on creating places of innocence. Most importantly we need to be mindful of what our children are being exposed to and give them more age appropriate choices.

Using A Different Runway To Help Students Take Off To New Heights

This morning as I was trying to fly home from Charlotte, North Carolina, the pilot came on and said there would be a slight delay. Because of the storm that was Hurricane Michael, we were going to have to use a runway that they usually do not use. He told us we would be using the runway going to the northeast, whereas typically the north/south runways are used. They would need 15 minutes to recalculate takeoff speeds, routes when in the air, et cetera. I was cool with it as long as we got in the air, headed north, and away from the storm.

As you know, I love metaphors, analogies, and similes; so here we go: I compared this to how, as teachers, we must constantly be making adjustments. We are constantly having to recalculate for our students and use new runways. We regroup students based on data, we spiral in new material based on mastery, we develop ways to maintain the proficiencies already mastered. Adjusting and recalculating instruction also means providing more opportunities for students to learn successfully based on information you gather such as their interests, work habits, motivation and learning styles and academic performance. Doing this on a consistent basis helps refine instruction so they can succeed.

Great teachers are those who know their students abilities, know the students proficiency of standards, and then use that information to determine how and what they will teach. They use educational standards and differentiation to guide instruction, while constantly focusing on 1) what the students know, and 2) what objectives (or steps) they need to take) to fulfill their goals. They focus on what the students can do today. How about you; Are you recalculating for a different runway for the success of your students?

Employers Need To Know What To Expect

Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 4.43.46 PMIn meetings this past week a theme developed: Employers need to know what to expect. This was referring to the fact that employers need to know what to expect that students coming to work for them will know. As I have continued my work, as an Indiana State Board of Education member and Chair of the Indiana Graduation Pathways, I am spending a great deal of time with employers, learning the employee skill needs. It is abundantly clear there is a skills gap, but I do not believe it is insurmountable. I believe the answer is to identify those transferable skills and competencies that every student needs. Additionally, the transferable skills and competencies needed for specific trades need to be identified.

Even though the study dealt with college students, The Chronicle For Higher Education reported on a study that dealt with the question of “The Thing Employers Look For When Hiring Recent Graduates.” What the study found was that employers really value experiences outside of academics: Internships, jobs, volunteering, and extracurriculars. I have to believe this would also apply to high school graduates. From the many employers I have visited with, I would have to say that these things do apply to high school students. Maybe even more!

Below is the graph of the results from what employers want:

Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 4.03.54 PM

One of the pieces of our Indiana Graduation Pathways we were very explicit about was the need for Work Based Learning and Project Based Learning. Just so we are on the same page, Work Based Learning is an educational strategy that provides students with real-life and real-world work experiences where they can apply academic and technical skills and develop their employability skills in a relevant context. Work-based learning encompasses a wide array of learning experiences, from exposing high school students to careers through activities like job shadowing, to providing incumbent workers with specialized training. Work-based learning extends into the workplace through on-the-job training, mentoring, and other supports in a continuum of lifelong learning and skill development. I really want to highlight the point of lifelong learning. We really need to get out of the fixed mindset that the pathway everyone should take is to graduate high school and go straight to a four year college/university. This is not for everyone and Work Based Learning can help provide an avenue for our students.

Work Based Learning is at its most powerful when experiences advance along a sequential, purposeful continuum. Experiences along the continuum are increasingly personalized and aligned with specific industries and occupations, providing participants with opportunities to contextualize what they learn and build their skills and knowledge. This also can provide the employer with a pipeline of employees that have been trained in their own environment and on their own equipment. In this setting employers know exactly what they are getting.

Even beyond the Work Based Learning, however, employers need to know what to expect from the students that will become their future employees. We need to partner with employers to develop transferable skills and competencies that all students need to know. We really need to take a step back and fully develop what every high school needs to know when he/she graduates. Make no mistake, I am not saying students do not need math, English, and the other cores we always discuss, but that there is more. Employers need to know what to expect from the future employees, that are our students. We need to listen and make sure what employers expect is what employers get. Furthermore we must also make sure our students know what to expect they will be expected to know when entering the workplace.

 

Pathways to Success after High School

A high school diploma no longer is the finish line—it’s now the starting line. Job growth and trends over the past 10 years have shown about 95 percent of jobs require some education after high school.

Recognizing that Indiana must offer more than a one-size-fits-all standardized test, the Indiana General Assembly took action to provide meaningful pathways for Hoosiers’ success. In the 2017 legislative session, lawmakers directed the Indiana State Board of Education to modify Indiana’s graduation requirements, ensuring students are better prepared to enter a new economy. The goal was simple: offer pathways that provide relevancy for students and better prepare them for life after high school.

Later that year, the State Board approved what is now known as Indiana’s Graduation Pathways. During this process, the State Board collaborated with national and state experts while engaging students, parents and educators on how to effectively deliver lasting value to all students through their education journey.

To complete a pathway, a student must take several actions, including fulfilling Indiana’s course requirements and completing an employability experience by applying classwork to real-world situations. This could include completion of an independent research project, participating in meaningful civic engagement or having a part-time job, apprenticeship or internship. Students must also choose a benchmark that best suits their career goals, such as taking the SAT or ACT to attend college, completing the ASVAB to join the military or earning a state-and-industry recognized credential or certification to join the workforce. Selecting and completing a pathway ensures students are better prepared to transition from high school to college, the workforce or the military.

While Graduation Pathways won’t be a requirement until the class of 2023 – this year’s eighth graders – some Indiana schools are implementing Graduation Pathways right now. In these school districts, parents and educators can have conversations with their students about an individualized graduation plan that provides students a relevant education, prepares them for the global economy fuels a desire for lifelong learning. Parents should have conversations with their local school officials to determine the implementation timeline at their child’s school.

Using Graduation Pathways allows Hoosier students to transition from high school into life’s next steps. Together, we’ll raise the bar for our state’s future workforce, so that today’s students will graduate with the relevant skills needed to compete in a global economy.

Independence Day Leadership Lessons From Maine & Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

On this 2018 Fourth Of July morning I am reminded of the great leadership that has been necessary for the United States to become the great country it is. My family and I are vacationing in Maine right now so, of course, I had to do some studying of influential leaders from Maine. Boy did I come across a great one: Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. Now I know that Independence Day is observed to honor our Declaration of Independence from the tyranny of Great Britain and those who provided the leadership during this important time of our country’s founding, but since I am in Maine I am going to honor and remember Chamberlain too.

Raised from a modest life in the small town of Brewer Maine, Joshua Chamberlain chose the professions of ministry and academia filling in the post of Professor of Rhetoric at Bowdoin College during the tumultuous 1850s. As the Civil War broke out, Chamberlain felt the impulse to serve based on his belief in preserving the union and his moral conviction against the institution of slavery. In early 1862, Chamberlain expressed his desire to serve to the Governor of Maine, who offered him the rank of Colonel in the Maine volunteers. He turned that rank down because he did not believe he had the experience necessary for the rank. This is lesson one learned from him – be modest and know what skill level you have and what you still have to learn. Believing he needed to gain experience and knowledge of the military profession, Chamberlain’s uncommon act of humility set a tone for the remainder of his service.

But the cause for which we fought was higher; our thought wider… That thought was our power. ~ Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain went on to have a very successful military career and ended that career as a Brigadier General, but two Civil War stories are worth telling in this blog post. Here they are:

Battle of Gettysburg, July 2, 1863, Little Round Top

Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain, who he now commanded, ordered the 20th Maine Regiment to execute a daring counterattack against the 15th Alabama Regiment of the Confederate Army on July 2nd 1863 during the Battle of Gettysburg. At the extreme left flank of the Union Army, the 20th Maine fought off repeated assaults for the past several hours against the determined Confederate Soldiers. Even though the 20th regiment was outnumbered and low on ammunition, Chamberlain’s bold decision and courageous leadership led his men of Maine down the slopes of Little Round Top at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and stopped the Confederate assault against the Union Army’s left flank. He showed tremendous insight and leadership in making this bold move. Colonel Chamberlain was inspirational to his men and as a leader, a true influencer.

Confederate surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, April, 1865

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain taught us what it meant to be a man of character and compassion when he was personally asked by General Ulysses S. Grant to preside at the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Courthouse over the surrender detail. It was not the fact that he presided that is noteworthy here, it is the awesome act and example of leadership he performed. As the 20,000 Confederate Soldiers paraded by to turn over their arms and battle flags, Chamberlain gave the Union Army detail the command of “carry arms” to salute Confederate’s service and gallantry in battle. Many, then and now, credit this leadership gesture as the beginning for the country’s healing process toward reconciliation.

This act took courage and would bring him accolades and plagued him politically for the rest of his life. The southerners deeply respected him for this show of compassion and respect. Conversely, however, many northerners, including those in his home state of Maine, did not see it that way. They wanted to continue the humiliation of the Confederacy. Chamberlain did what was right and faced the consequences.

Congressional Medal of Honor

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was awarded the Medal Of Honor for his service At Gettysburg. He saw combat at Fredericksburg, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Five Forks, and the Appomattox Campaign.

Chamberlain Leadership Lessons

Chamberlain always positioned himself in the middle of his brigade’s formation. He led shoulder to shoulder with his men. This built trust and gave him the ability to truly know what was going on. Chamberlain reassured his soldiers through his cool and calm presence during the heat of combat. He garnered the trust of his men through his actions in combat. The other thing that really impressed me as I studied this hero was his commitment to studying his new military profession, and his commitment to developing his subordinates. We need to pay attention to these lesson learned and apply them to our daily lives as leaders.

Learn More About Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

There are so many more leadership lessons to learn about this great man that went on to be President of Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine and four term (one year terms at that time in Maine). Let me suggest two ways that I did to learn more:

  1. Visit Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine and visit the Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain Museum. It is awesome! I learned a great deal from the tour and curators there. The museum is the restored home (the only home he and his wife, Fanny, ever owned). There is family history, Civil War history, history of his time as Bowdoin College President, and history of his Governorship. It is awesome!
  2. Read the great book by Alice Rains Trulock, In The Hands Of Providence: Joshua L. Chamberlain & The Civil War. This book is awesome and I gave it five stars. Is a very well written well told story of this great leader. This book inspired me to dig deeper and explore more to understand how this man became the great leader he did, at a crucial time in our nation’s history.

I am thankful on this Independence Day, 2018 for Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. What leaders are you thankful for on this day of celebration of our great country, The United States Of America?

Excavating Lifelong & Engaged Learners

Today’s world absolutely requires collaborative and critical thinkers, creative and courageous innovators, and true lifelong learners. Then comes the question – how do we achieve having our students become all these things? First of all, I believe we must do a better job of providing career exploration opportunities for our students at a much younger age. This means so much more than just hearing about jobs or walking by a booth at a job fair and getting a piece of candy. It means really digging in (no pun intended) and learning about what career paths fit the interests and passions of the student. It also means facilitating the creation of a plan of how to get there. We need to be thinking about internships and pre-apprenticeship programs. If we get this right, I believe it brings relevancy to the students’ education and will improve student engagement. We do a pretty good job of mapping out the courses and plans for four year colleges (mainly because there is a list of courses needed to get accepted). But, when it comes to helping our students into other paths, we need to improve.

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William E. Dugan Training Center

I was reminded of this recently when spending some time with Mark Kara, Assistant Apprenticeship Coordinator for the International Union Of Operating Engineers Local 150. While at the Apprenticeship and Skill Improvement Program‘s William E. Dugan training site, he made the comment that he would go to a school job fair and “…when I leave I suck everything that I told the kids or that they learned about us out of the room as soon as I walk out.” This really resonated with me because as I toured and learned more about this amazing training program and facility, I realized how we need to have our students realize these opportunities exist. We need both our students and parents understand the career opportunities that exist outside the normal four year degree track. The jobs associated with the apprenticeship programs I was witnessing were high wage/high demand and highly skilled. We owe it to our students to get better at this!

img_2920While at the training facility I had the opportunity to run a Caterpillar Excavator Simulator. Wow, what an experience! Apprentices start out on the simulators for so many hours before moving to the real machines. I’m not going to lie, the farm kid in me was coming out and they had to pull me off the thing. The cool part is that the Cat Simulator you see me on in the picture, for example, has hand controls that can be switched out for different CAT machines. In other words, the same simulator can be used to simulate all of the heavy CAT machinery. And, as new models come out, the new controls can be purchased and put on with software updates. The controls are the actual control panels from the machines. Bottom-line, however, is we need to be using real world experiences like this in some type of pre-apprenticeship programs to get students interested and then teach our courses in a real life context. These are just the kind of things I researched and discuss in my book, The Hand In The Back Of The Room.

In my opinion, a rather clear pattern of practices has emerged as to what works for engaging students and certain “best practices” are recommended and should be put in place. Exploration and relevancy are at the top of this list. You can’t do much more exploring or be more relevant than actually sitting in the same seat using the exact same controls as the real equipment I would be using if I wanted to be an excavator operator – let me tell you, I could get my mind wrapped around that!

excavator-slew-ring-also-5230-caterpillar-excavator-with-excavator-for-sale-together-with-cat-390-excavator-bucket-sizes-plus-yanmar-b-50-mini-excavatorsOne common prerequisite for engaging learners is “relevancy.” Today’s learners ask that their learning apply to real-life scenarios whenever possible as opposed to being theoretical and text-based. Working with authentic problems or community issues engages students and builds a sense of purpose to the learning experience. Students, themselves, clearly want their work to be intellectually engaging and relevant to their lives.

Additionally, today’s learners ask for the opportunity to explore and to find solutions and answers for themselves. We need to be giving our students the opportunity to explore different careers by actually living them; just like I lived while running an excavator. Here’s the deal: Our students want to turn the thing on, get in there, mess around, and see what works; and, what does not work.

As we enter a time where we are making Graduation Pathways available to our students, we must increase and improve the opportunities for our students to explore different careers first hand and facilitate their learning by connecting school work to real life.

Conversations About Possibilities

IMG_2575As I write this post I am literally about 488 miles into my flight from Dublin, Ireland to Chicago, Illinois – USA. I am returning from an outstanding education research trip that started in Berlin, Germany 12 days ago with stops also in Paderborn, Germany, Bern, Switzerland, and finally Zürich, Switzerland. This was an incredible experience and I was proud and honored to be a part of the Indiana delegation that included Governor’s office officials, state legislators, business/industry leaders, higher education leaders, k-12 school officials, community partners, state government officials (myself as an Indiana State Board of Education member), and organizers from Horizon Education Alliance.

My goal was to write a post each day of the trip and I believe I have accomplished that goal with this post. Including this post, I have posted 11 different posts about my journey of learning on this trip. If you want to follow along with the learning I have put links to all the posts here for your convenience:

Reaching For New Heights In Talent Development

Application of Practice & Theory

Learning 4.0

Fully Qualified Worker

Leading Work 4.0

Leadership To Tear Down Walls

From Best Practice To Next Practice

What Does Industry 4.0 Mean?

Learning to Do, Doing to Learn!

Focus On The Wider World

As I continue to write this post, I am now 1,778 miles into the trip home I am reflecting on what the gains were from having had these 12 days together with my colleagues. As I reflected I believe the value of this experience was in the convening of over 20 stakeholders who came together with the intent of making the lives of Hoosiers better and in the process making the economy and education system better in the state of Indiana. This study trip gave us the opportunity to shift our attention from the problems of the community to the possibility of community. To do this, however, we must be willing to trade our problems for possibilities.

There was tremendous value in the apprenticeship and training models we visited and experienced first hand, but the real value was in the conversations we had during this experience. There was value in having a conversation that we’ve not had before, one that has the power to create something new in the world. That is truly what I believe we did on this trip. On this trip, all members of the delegation became citizens. This was a very important shift. A shift in the thinking and actions of citizens is more vital than a shift in the thinking and actions of institutions and formal leaders. We were all learning through the lens of a citizens wanting to make the world a better place for our state’s students and citizens.

Citizenship

Citizenship is a state of being. It is a choice for activism and care. A citizen is one who is willing to do the following:

  • Hold ourselves accountable for the well-being of the larger collective of which we are a part.
  • Own and exercise the power we have rather than delegate it to someone else and expect them to act.
  • Develop a shared community of possibilities – always asking, “What can we create together?”
  • Remember that communities are not built by specialized expertise, great leadership, or more/improved services, but by great citizens.
  • Attend to the gifts of the citizens and bring the gifts of those on the edges to the front and center for the betterment of the community.

One thing I have learned for sure: we cannot legislate the future. We visited countries on this trip who have been doing apprenticeship and vocational training for a long time. In the case of Switzerland, their current Vocational Education and Training (VET) system has been in place since 1932. As our group considers next steps, we need to remember that something shifts on a large scale only after a long period of small steps, organized around small groups patient enough to learn and experiment and learn again. If we want to make meaningful and transformative change to our education system we cannot command speed and scale. If we do that we are created an environment that will work against anything important being any different.

I really believe that a leader’s role is not to develop better models, or even to necessarily drive change. The leader’s role is to create the opportunities that bring the citizens of communities together to identify and solve their own problems. I really believe that is what Horizon Education Alliance has done in Elkhart County, Indiana. That organization has become masterful at focusing on the structure of how we gather and the context in which those convenings take place. The study trip that I am returning from is one such convening. The context was being in schools, training centers, and manufacturing facilities and having the opportunity to keep our own points of view at bay, leave our self-interests at home, and be present in the moment to learn rather than advocate for a certain position.

There will certainly need to be lots more conversations and work following-up from this trip, but I do believe we have all truly thought about the question: “What can we create together?” I believe we all want to be a part of transforming education in Indiana to a place where a student’s education does not define them for life, but prepares them for life. In turn, this should have our students ready to enter the workforce with a growth mindset ready to be engaged employees that are lifelong learners. Even so, the challenge is not to create a shared vision or plan (both important to the process), but the real challenge is to discover and create the means for engaging citizens that brings new possibility into play. We need our citizens to be the authors of this change.

I will close with this, as my plane completes the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean and is now over North American soil; transformation is about altering the nature of our relatatedness and changing the nature of our conversations. This study trip experience abroad certainly did that for this group. I believe this journey shifted the context and language to thinking about possibilities. We owe it to our k-12 students and incumbent workforce to get this right!