Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sustaining the Vision

I was asked to attend the ISTE Leadership Forum as a panelist discussing the steps our district has taken to share and sustain it's vision of what education needs to be for the students of Van Meter. I appreciated the opportunity to sit next to and learn from Patrick Larkin, Chris Lehman, and Sheryl Abshire. As each of us built on the five minute description the prior speaker gave sharing the vision in our own districts, a few common themes came to light.

First, the vision has to be something you live, not a mere statement you post. There are a variety of ways to do this, but for us it includes asking your staff and community, "What key points are part of who we are?" and "What do we want to see for our kids?" In this discussion common themes come to light and these common themes become part of the "elevator speech" that each staff member can give in 30 seconds or less describing what our district is striving towards. In Van Meter we want to empower kids so they can:

  • Communicate
  • Collaborate
  • Innovate
  • Solve Problems
  • Think Globally
  • Live Ethically

We also mentioned providing time and resources for staff to learn and collaborate. Van Meter embraced a Professional Learning Community (PLC) model for professional development three years ago to help teachers collaborate around meaningful, shared goals. Teams meet weekly and work towards their SMART goal tied directly to student learning. How can we best help students improve their learning? This question drives the use of technology in our district, not the other way around.

The most notable theme in our panel discussion was around administrators modeling the vision - walking the talk. For me to do this, I ask the question as I'm planning each professional development session, "Am I creating a learning experience for staff that mirrors the type of experiences we want to see for students?" Did I pick the best tools to make their learning happen at deep levels? Administrators model the fearless use of technology as tool. 

A brief discussion in the airport with a Canadian gentleman on my way home from the conference reminds me of our district's vision.
"How do you stay ahead of them with all that technology?" 
"I don't try to. I want them next to me when I have to find a solution to a problem."

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