So, it has been right there is front of me the whole time, my whole life.
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From early on, the experiences in my life pointed me in a direction that I intuitively knew, but was unable to manifest within my career as an educator. I was taught the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” As a youngster, growing up, helping my father to fix a broken lamp, or helping my mother to bake a lemon meringue pie, I watched and learned, but yearned for the day I could do it myself. As a parent, raising my own children who often use me as a sounding board, but they certainly are not looking for me to direct their lives, to tell them what, how, when to do something. As a educator, the innumerable times I heard teachers rail against the newest changes being mandated and feeling that they were not trusted to be professionals in their classrooms. Teaching in my own classroom, the inspiration and passion that blossomed as I developed a new approach or idea for enriching the learning of students. The excitement that bubbled out of students as they engaged in their own learning and self-reflection because of the choices available to them.
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How did I not see a different way to support teachers, students, and parents when it was so obvious from so many collective experiences in my life ?
Appreciative Inquiry offers a different approach.
A positive one.
One that builds on strengths.
One that believes in the power to leverage individual strengths to create the most desired future.
Undergirded by three Pathmarkers, Trust Building, Questioning, and Facilitating Design Thinking, Appreciative Inquiry empowers individuals to be the difference that makes the difference.
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Imagine the ability to empower individuals to be self-reflective and self-directed learners whose strengths are realized, unleashing their energy and courage to be the best of what each individual can be.
Imagine what we could accomplish.
Imagine how teaching and learning would be different.
What took me so long?
What teacher doesn’t want the passion they brought to teaching realized as a difference in the lives of children? Unfortunately, the system, bureaucracy, and culture of education also live within a climate of politics, testing, supervision, and mandates. Together they have wrought a world that is not especially conducive to building up and supporting those who need it the most. It impacts the teachers, who work tirelessly, to make a difference helping students as learners but find themselves, instead, caught in a spiraling world of frustration and self-doubt, leading to believing that someone just needs to tell them what to do. It impacts parents, who want everything that is good and engaging for their children worry that their children’s school experience is not what it could be. And, it impacts students, the bedrock of education’s existence, who know, intuitively (just ask them), what would be a better way to learn, yet no one asks, or if they do, they choose not to listen.
The current culture in schools focuses on finding problems, analyzing problems, and fixing problems. Why is that? According to Leslie S. Kaplan and William A. Owings, authors of a new book, Culture Re-Boot: Reinvigorating School Culture to Improve Student Outcomes,
"School culture may be understood as a historically transmitted cognitive framework of shared but taken-for-granted assumptions, values, norms and actions – stable, long-term beliefs and practices about what organization members think is important. School culture defines a school’s persona. These assumptions, unwritten rules, and unspoken beliefs, shape how its members think and do their jobs.” (pg. 4) Kaplan and Owings state that “school cultures develop in their unique ways because they once solved problems and continue to serve a useful purpose.” (pg. 7) In addition, the authors say: “Because society, people, objectives, and resources change over time…once useful solutions may no longer function in the organization’s best interests.”
Time for Change
It’s time to step back, reflect, and recognize that we need to refocus, to change our ways. If learning is truly a lifelong practice of keeping up with the changes of the world -- and we know that it is -- then the most important thing is to teach people how to learn. To support learners. To create learners. In other words, what are the ingredients we need to infuse into the culture of school to fuel passion, commitment, perseverance, and life-long learning?For me, my AhHA! moment was when I recognized that the Pathmarkers in Connected Coaching were the ingredients that could help to change the culture of a school one person at a time.
- Build Rapport and Trust
- Respect Differences
- Discover Connections
- Invoke the Thinking of Others
- Seek Stories that Highlight the Best Experiences
- Be an Active Listener
- Paraphrase and validate the Thinking of Others
- Help Others to Mediate Their Thinking
- Affirm the Potential Within Others
- Help Others to See Their Strengths
- Help Others to Become Self-directed
- Ask Appreciative Questions
- Uncover Possibilities
- Frame and Reframe Aspirations
- Invite and Engage in All Possibilities
- Brainstorm Ideas
- Accept Ideas Without Evaluation or Judgement
- Design and Field Test Experiments
- Encourage Others to Try Out New Ideas
- Discover What We Learned
Now, just for a minute, imagine what could be. Imagine all of us collectively listening, trusting, questioning, sharing and supporting one another’s visions and efforts at designing and creating.
What a difference it could make!
I’m wondering if you are open to actively listening to someone talking about their capacity, open to asking Powerful Questions of them, open to being a part of facilitating their journey as they take steps to realize the capacity within themselves to discover the “best of what is, to generate the best of what might be.” (Evocative Coaching, p. 24)