Monday, November 7, 2016

Maintenance and Incrementalism

How do you deal with boring?  How do you deal with apparent half steps or side steps of growth, that you know you have to do in order to keep moving forward?  Even if it seems like treading water? Especially when you want to take full steps.

What do you do when you think you have a great idea or think you are really clear in your thoughts, only to be challenged or look out, and see nothing but evidence of confusion?

What do you do when you speak about vision, process, and consistency, then realize you have misstepped somewhere in your own steps?

How do you move forward and grow as much as possible while still dealing with incremental growth and maintenance? 

How do you do this in a school, that is a true moving target at all times, an ecosystem, that really can not be measured with sales numbers, likes, views, or consistent analytics.  There is certainly data, observations, and evidence, all very important, but it often tells stories that you feel are not 100% accurate.  There is still and probably always will be "softness" in school metrics.    

An anaolgy: If I was the coach of a team I would measure my team based on wins.  If we were losing, I would call a team meeting, talk about what is miss firing and set up practice around those struggling areas.

I am not a coach, at least not like the sports world.  I do consider my job a little like coaching, where encouragement, feedback, setting up practice, creating plays, and sometimes acting as a sounding board.

That being said, I don't think you ever lose working in a school, and certainly not how I feel now.

I ask my staff to push their students to reflect, construct, defend, justify, explain, create, etc.  We have practiced it over and over and I have seen so much evidence of this taking hold in classrooms.  It is subtle and not flashy, it is in the questions, tasks, and level of responses I see from students.

It is maintenance and incremental.  It is not flashy, sexy, or apparently evident from the outside.  It is practice, it is why I am having so much trouble reflecting on this right now!

How do we make practice and repetition of the same thing over and over again interesting?  How do we not just accept that we "got this" and move on.  Do we need a "program" or do we just figure it out on our own?

Do you explicitly explain what you want?
Do you leave it open for interpretation?
To what level do you monitor it and give feedback?
When do you judge that a tweak or a change is needed?

These are the questions I consistently ask myself.  My reflection is my own maintenance and incremental growth.  It is mind numbing, frustrating work within one's own self thought.

It is knowing you have to change the oil in your car, but really wanting to just upgrade your speaker system.

It is knowing you have to spend time doing laundry, when you wish you could just buy new clothes.

It is knowing you have to run 2 miles today so you can run 3 tomorrow, when you just want to run 5 and be done!

It is knowing you should drink 8 cups of water a day, but you really just want a Coke!

It is all of that stuff you do because you have too, in order for real growth to happen.

In a school is looks like training, conversations, feedback, reflecting on your plans, looking at student work, and practice.  The basics, it is the basics, and although they are not always fun, it is necessary.  
It is not a challenge, not a pilot, not an idea, but work.  Pure honest work with reflection and input that moves you through maintenance and increment growth.

I just wish it moved faster, and wish I could spend time upgrading the speaker system in my car instead of changing the oil!

It is ugly dirty work, but it is necessary, and it is getting easier knowing that there is evidence of real growth!

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