Saturday, September 29, 2018

Trust the Process. Embrace the Journey.

Although I don’t put too much stock into being identified as one specific “type” of personality, I would say I’m mostly type-B…but with some type-A tendencies.

Earlier this week I was at an Improvement Science Institute, which kicked off a partnership with my district and the IU School of Educational Leadership. First off I have to say that the institute ignited a passion about a process that I believe will transform schools and how we view school improvement. This process has already been implemented in other fields with much success, and I’m excited for the potential it has for moving my building forward, which will help move my district forward.

My type-B personality tendencies say it’s okay with a process. I’m good with that. It makes sense. My type-A tendencies tell me, “Let’s go!! Let’s start this! Oh, we identified a problem? Let’s fix it! Let’s implement a strategy right away!” One thing I learned is to trust the process of Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA). And here’s why.

I had a team of two teachers, myself, and my principal intern. My team and I were working on a diagram to help us think through issues to help determine a user-centered problem. We asked the teachers to identify deficits/problems they felt existed in their particular classrooms. After a lot of candid discussion and writing thoughts on post-its, the teachers decided that a major need for them was focusing on a more student-centered classroom.

Okay, let’s stop here for a second. Who automatically just thought, “I have an idea (or three) to help implement more student-centered activities”? Be honest. I, for one, am one of those people. In the spirit of trusting the process, though, I embraced the journey and kept quiet.

I’m glad I did because we dug deeper. We wanted to focus on being more student-centered, but we had to first come to a common understanding, as we knew it, of what “student-centered” meant. That’s when we also defined major causes to our Problem. Why weren’t we student-centered more often? My team embraced the vulnerability required to truly dig down to the root.

The two classroom teacher representatives chose the most important cause that they felt was a need for them – “Time allowed for students to be engaged in productive struggle”. (Yay, NOW I can provide strategies for my teachers to go back an implement, right???) I’ll be honest, it crossed my mind, but we dug even deeper. Here we implemented the 5-Why protocol…you know, ask “why?” five times to dig deep into the problems and discover the root. This is something my two-year-old is very good at.

Here’s where it all hit home. After completing the 5-Why protocol, the very bottom response stated, “lack of opportunities for PD around engagement structures.”

While I was ready to put more strategies on the teachers, it boiled down to the teachers needing more from me, not me needing more from them! I would never have thought that deeply unless I trusted the process of Planning and embracing the journey through the PDSA Cycle.

I was a little deflated at this moment. Think of the air being let out of a balloon, but not like the high-squealing-sound kind of deflation. More like a whoopee-cushion sound.

Then another diagram was introduced to this iterative process that enlightened me further. Through this diagram I discovered that the lack of PD didn’t necessarily mean I didn’t talk enough at my staff or that I didn’t model enough (though I admit I could do more of that). My teachers were more interested in going to other classrooms to see engagement structures in action. Yes! Now that is digging down to a root cause and figuring out an actionable step to help address the problem statement, right? My intern and I now could see how we could seamlessly fit into this process to help our teachers reach their goal.

I’ve only been introduced to the Planning portion of a PDSA cycle. We have to go slow to go fast. I’m happy it’s a slower process at the beginning because I want to learn the ins-and-outs of the process, so that our actions in school improvement are responsive, adaptive, efficient, and effective.

This process places the power back in the teachers’ hands while helping administration see how we can support the classrooms with what they actually need, not what we assume they need. It is truly user-centered and problem-specific.

Trust the process, embrace the journey.