At the first staff meeting of the 2022 academic year, our entire team of coaches and coordinators was exhausted. We spent the first two weeks of the year living in buildings, handling lunch duties and pitching in wherever we were needed. COVID-19 was on the rise and our time in the buildings, while mentally and emotionally exhausting, amplified the difficulties facing our students and faculty as they were recovering from the loss of the pandemic. We were reflecting on our current challenges when my boss shifted the conversation to the future by asking:
What are we willing to lose to change a child’s life?
The question hung in the air.
As a teacher, when something needed to change, I usually found myself pointing my finger at someone “in charge” who I believed had the power to quickly resolve my issue. When I became an administrator, some of this attitude persisted, but after two weeks of shifting from classroom to classroom and building to building, I began to realize that the person who needed to make the change was really I was As I moved from school to school and classroom to classroom, teachers were telling me that technology was too much, and students had accepted the permanence of education on computer screens, long after the days of learning from tiny boxes on Zoom had been abandoned. Had taken.
As the weeks turned into months and the pandemic boom finally ended, the question still hung in the air: What are we willing to lose to change a child’s life? We are still burdened by the unequal education system that existed before the pandemic and the ad hoc solutions created during the pandemic. Also, we have the fear of losing what has kept us going. To answer this question, we need to move from a mindset of scarcity to one that claims abundance.
minimum viable product
When we are afraid to let go of something that no longer serves us, we adopt a mindset of scarcity, believing that once something is gone, nothing new will replace it.
In the world of technology, a minimum viable product is a version of a product that has been developed for access only to the end user. If you’re coding a piece of software, the minimum viable product will have enough features for the user to be able to test the functionality of the app; It works, but it’s minimal. In academia, this is often described as “building an aircraft while we are flying it”. A new state requirement is announced, but the implementation date is before any school has acquired the resources or knowledge necessary for success; So naturally, people do their best, do it and move on.
The weight of old mandates and teaching demands was intensified after the pandemic and compounded by the technology we quickly acquired to meet the needs of the moment. Time and again, we come up with a minimum viable product and move on. Whether these solutions are out of necessity or habit, they take place in our classrooms and drive our desire to improve the education system. We know we must move on, but are afraid of losing what we have.
running beyond scarcity
When we think of loss as the absence of what once was, we often mourn what is gone. In the days of Vashikaran last year, I mourned the loss of my job as I believed it to be, projects left untouched and meetings cancelled.
The loss could be something else. Sometimes we must lose what we have in order to make room for more important things. This loss is generative and necessary, but it is difficult to welcome the expansion that emerges from letting things die. The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh said, “It is difficult for people to overcome their suffering. Fearing the unknown, they prefer the pain of the familiar.” In education, this familiar agony manifests as the everyday rigmarole of requirements and mandates, schedules and procedures, meetings that could have been email and assigned other duties. When we are afraid to let go of something that no longer serves us. When we don’t, we adopt a mindset of scarcity, believing that once something is gone, nothing new will replace it.
If our goal is to have transformative educational experiences for children, experiences that transform their lives and our communities, then a few things must go.
I am choosing to let go of tools that no longer serve students, policies that take time and energy, meetings that could have been email, and the belief that there is only one solution to every challenge. At its best, a minimum viable product helps a developer discard what is no longer working and focus on the most important features for users to rapidly develop a robust tool. We must transform our minimum viable products into useful practices, policies and systems that transform education for our students and teachers.
What are we willing to lose to change a child’s life? What practices are we willing to let die in order to change the life of a teacher? What are we willing to lose to make a positive impact in our communities? These are the questions that now hang in the air.
visualizing and claiming abundance
If we are really going to change and reform education, all administrators, policy makers and leaders must let the old practices die and imagine something better.
When we welcome the expansion that comes with letting go of what is not working, we begin to work in abundance. In early spring, gardeners prune roses to start the growing season and welcome flowers on healthy plants. This is abundance. When we remove programs that fill time and space in our classrooms but do not broaden the hearts and minds of our children, we make room for creativity and deeper learning experiences. This is abundance. Our students and our teachers deserve abundance.
As a new administrator, I’ve often envisioned this abundance, but I haven’t always acted in ways that made room for those around me. I planted more and pruned less, not realizing that in order to thrive, we all need a little room. To claim abundance by imagination requires will and purpose; It is necessary to acknowledge that in order to give the best to our students, we need to give the best to our teachers. If we are really going to change and reform education, all administrators, policy makers and leaders must let the old practices die and imagine something better.
The first time I went to my school after being hired for my first teaching job, I didn’t have my classroom keys, so I peered through the window of my door. I had no idea how I would teach, who my students would be, or what my rules, policies, or procedures would be. That night, I went home and filled ten pages of notebook with my thoughts and dreams for the year.
Sometimes when I’m caught up in the weeds, I think about this moment and what steps I can take to give the students and teachers a little more of that wonder I first saw my empty classroom. . What can I give up to change a child’s life?
Although I am an administrator in a department in a district, I am committed to letting go of what no longer serves us in order to make room for the imagination, creativity, and hope that brought me into this profession. Together we must move from scarcity to abundance to manifest education justice for all.