Throw It All – Some Will Stick

Big snow came to our city last week and the students at my school basked in their glory. There’s something about kids playing in newly fallen snow that makes us all smile. They go all out; jumping, diving and rolling in it with this renewed sense of reckless abandon. They risk everything, as though nothing can stop them from their mission of utilizing every last ounce of the fluffy white stuff. Like Ken Robinson says, they are in their element.

As principal, my job of course, is to make sure all this fun fits within the guidelines of our school rules and consequence those that step over that line. So on Friday afternoon I walked throughout the school grounds to make sure all was right with the world. As the bell sounded and students were entering the school I took one last glance around and saw this.

Snow thrown against the wall.

Some snow got stuck on the wall

It appeared as though some students thought it was a good idea to hold target practice on a wall and I was taken back to my own childhood when my friends and I did the exact same thing. We loved throwing the snow at a target and then being able to see that some of it stuck. We always knew how close we were to our desired target because some of it, not all, would be left there to see.

This gets me thinking about my work as a principal who desperately wants to move my school forward to better engage todays learners. It’s easy to get discouraged when I introduce what I think is a forward thinking idea and not everyone feels the same way. As a matter of fact, many of the ideas I put out there fall flat on their face. Each teacher, it seems, has their own reason why they feel they can or can’t entertain the latest initiative, proposal, or suggestion.

I had an excellent conversation with my grade 4 and 5 teachers a few days ago. I met with them to introduce the 100 Word Challenge, a weekly creative writing activity for children where a prompt is given and they can use up to 100 words to write a creative piece. It is then posted on a class blog and linked to the 100 Word Challenge blog, where others from around the world comment on the entry. I thought this was a great idea as the teachers were looking for better ways to utilized their Kidblog accounts and this was the perfect platform to do just that.

During the conversation I made a point to let them know (as I always do) that there was no pressure to use the website – “My job”, I said, “is to bring these things to your attention and you should decide if its something you see of value to you and your students.” Then, one of the teachers said something very interesting. “Does that mean”, he said with a chuckle, “that if we don’t see its value you’ll meet with us again next week to share something else?” To that I smiled and answered “Yes, I will do that even if you see the value in this activity.” By the way, this time they saw the value and all of them are giving the 100 Word Challenge a try.

By now my teachers know that I share a lot but force very little. Isn’t that our job as learning leaders – looking out over the horizon and introducing our teachers to all the new things to consider? Shouldn’t we lead by example? Like the children’s approach to a blanket of newly fallen snow, shouldn’t we be taking it all in and sharing it all out?

If we throw it all – some will surely stick.

Categories: Education Transformation, ETMOOC | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Throw It All – Some Will Stick

  1. Another interesting, timely and topical post Greg. I found myself nodding my head throughout and had 3 aha/vigorous head nodding moments. 1. The part where your staff member laughed about you introducing a new idea the next week if this one didn’t stick. I think we’re both cut from that cloth in our view that we should keep trying new things (and yep I’ll introduce the 100 words as well) 2. You indicating that you don’t force ideas but rather see your role to introduce and allow staff to choose. I agree with this and do things the same way but often wondered if I should be pushing more. I know leadership is about modeling and living it and I try to do just that but that brings me to third point that resonated. 3. I’m glad it’s not JUST me who disparages sometimes when ideas don’t stick. I often am so excited about a new idea only to see there be little buy in. I need to step back and not worry about that and realize that to stick with your snow ideology, not all snow will let you build a snow person and that sometimes you just need to wait for the next snowfall! Enjoy your winter wonderland and keep blogging. Your posts are always looked forward to (shared with my staff) and read with interest.

  2. Tammy

    If nobody ever introduced us to new ideas, thoughts,or different perspectives then we’d never grow, move, change, learn and be inspired. One week there will be an idea that will resonate with some of your teachers and not others. The next week, perhaps just one teacher will leave the meeting with something they’d like to try. And maybe even another week,it will be a teacherwho will introduce a concept to the group and inspire his/her colleagues. It is just like the classroom. We as teachers never really know what activity or project or words said resonated with our students. But the point is, we keep trying everyday to hook them, as many as we can. Keep throwing the snow around- people will do amazing things with it!

  3. Dj

    Great post Greg. I just finished listening to “Made to stick” by Dan Heath on audiobook. It was quite an interesting read and had some connections to teachers and education, who try to make things stick everyday.

    I too liked how you pointed out your resiliency in bringing new ideas to the table for your staff. We certainly cannot go, where we ourselves are not willing to go; so, as long as you are willing to walk the walk with your teachers (as you appear to be), then keep up the great work.

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