Over the past few weeks I’ve been reflecting on my work in my new role as Superintendent. The greatest challenge I’ve experienced is to not be consumed by the day-to-day work and find time to slow it all down, making space for both reflection and professional reading. It’s analogous to the person who doesn’t find the time to exercise. Put it off long enough and you begin to see and feel the effects. In our field of education, reflection and professional reading together are the exercise of the mind, and I need to do better at making a more conscious effort to pause and reflect. When I do pause, I feel my mind is fresh and I’m physically re-energized. I’ll get there…
This past week, I was inspired to revisit Creativity, Inc., the story of innovation and creativity at Pixar Animation and Disney Animation written by President Ed Catmull. I shared a short post earlier when I read the book. The story of innovation and creativity at Pixar is inspiring, especially for those of us school leaders looking for ways to transform schools into more innovative and creative places and spaces. Even though we have a long way to go to transform our schools in Salisbury, I find myself drawn to the ideas Catmull writes about as we work to make school different.
In the final chapter, Catmull sums up the key ideas that drive innovation and creativity at Pixar. It has been fun to take each of the 31 firestarter ideas and think about how they might apply to what we are currently doing or need to do. Where are we falling short? And where are we doing some innovative work? I’m finding there are plenty of answers to both of these questions and much work yet to do!
As I reviewed the ideas summarized by Catmull, one in particular struck me and I made a connection to some of the work we are doing this month through the end of the school year.
Don’t wait for things to be perfect before you share them with others. Show early and show often. It’ll be pretty when we get there, but it won’t be pretty along the way. And that’s as it should be.
As educators, we’re good at hiding what we do. It’s easy to close our classrooms and make it a challenge to even visit the school. I know, it’s the fear of judgement. But we can overcome these perceived barriers and the fear of judgement by embracing transparency and sharing more widely what is going on in our classrooms and schools. Now more than ever, it’s easy with technology.
In Salisbury, we’re wrapping the year up with a project that provides a space for teachers and school leaders, district-wide, to share their work. With #STSDLearns, staff are encouraged to share snapshots of learning with the community through social media and offer a glimpse into the work our students and teachers are doing. Arguably, learning is more about process and less about product. Because we often feel the process isn’t worthy of “going public” and we fear criticism and judgement, we hide that work until it’s ready for prime time. When the work is “finished” there typically ends up being no time for sharing, and little ever gets pushed out. What a missed opportunity.
We need to work to change that routine. Why? For two reasons. First, because by hiding that work we deprive our students of a wider audience and potential feedback and interaction with other experts, not to mention the opportunity to develop their digital footprint. Second, We reinforce the traditional concept of school and our education system as not creative and not innovative. We want our schools to be vibrant places for learning. And in many ways they are. It’s our job as leaders to shape that reality and help share the work with our constituents. I hope that #STSDLearns contributes to a shifting culture where sharing our work and the work of our students is just another everyday occurrence. Check out the Storify from the first week of #STSDLearns!
How do you provide space for your teachers, students and leaders to “show early and show often”? Why do you think it’s important in a culture that values creativity and innovation?