Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Unleashing Our Collective Genius (Part 4)

Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others." -Jack Welch

As was the case with one of my very favorite students, I recently experienced an existential crisis around the use of "Genius Hour" for our weekly common planning time and professional development days. 

I have a firmly embedded set of core beliefs about leadership and what's important in schools that has been fairly unshakable for some time:

1.  A culture of trust enhances everyone's performance.
2.  As a leader, your job is to create a working environment and a culture where others can accomplish great things.
3.  Success and/or failure in personally meaningful, relevant, intrinsically motivated work can create powerful professional development and learning.
4.   The one thing teachers most want is the time to learn and collaborate with their colleagues.
5. Collaboration unleashes the most powerful learning tool of all time: a purposeful conversation. 

With that in mind, my principal and I began a journey of faith and turned over the time that administration had always controlled back to the teachers to pursue projects and learning that matters to them, that they feel would most benefit them professionally and the school at large... in short, "Genius Hour" for teachers.

That being said, last Wednesday a panic came over me.  Uncharacteristically, I lost faith.  My mind was filled with thoughts like, "What if people aren't doing anything?", "What if we are just wasting time?", "What if people take advantage of the autonomy and simply correct papers and gain nothing?"  

What if I was wrong about all of this?  If 60% of teachers are doing the right thing and benefitting, if they are creating something amazing or learning a new skill that benefits our kids, are we still way ahead of where we would be with the administrators deciding what teacher need to learn and do with planning/learning time? 

As an administrator, you have to live with the possibility of failure.  Failure is a part of learning, whether you are a student, a teacher or a principal... we all can learn something from failure in a school. I have preached that to many teachers during this process.  The most frequent questions are: What if I change my mind?  What if I decide I don't like what I wanted to work on, can I change?  What if I fail? In all circumstances, my answer has been, "It's OK.  That's how we learn something new."

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. --Martin Luther King Jr.”

But am I willing to live with that?  I will continue to let you know as this process develops.  For now, however, I have surveyed the staff to get a handle on where we are.  Below is the message I sent to the teachers yesterday:

Waiting for responses from all faculty.  Stay tuned.

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Good Morning:

This Wednesday we will have used Genius Hour for one month for PD/CPT time. Therefore, it is very important to me to have your feedback on the process. Please fill out this brief survey so that Mike and I can make decisions relative to the efficacy and use of this time. I appreciate your assistance and would appreciate if this could be completed by everyone by the end of the day on Wednesday. Thank you. - TC

Genius Hour Update


    Your Name

    What are you presently working on/learning/developing using Genius Hour time this week?

    Is this ongoing or a new project from the one you originally started?

    Please describe the progress/learning you have experienced so far:

    How useful/valuable has Genius Hour time been for you so far?


    Please Explain/Describe Your Answer

    How can we improve the process?

    Is Genius Hour the most productive use of our AM CPT/PD time?


    If Not Sure/No, what could/should we do instead?

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