One of the things I have been enjoying lately is fixing up my front and back yard. I have planted a lot of new things and I love seeing how it is developing. Some things have taken root and grown because I specifically put them there. Others are coming about more organically, taking on a certain shape or characteristic as I go. I have also become more knowlegable about what the ground needs to be like in order for things to take root. Which is, in a way, how I might describe our work now as we start planning and preparing for next school year.
If you are an administrator, I am sure that about this time of year you are thinking about some fresh ideas and new things you want to see at your campus next year. Some of those things may be totally new and might be somewhat uncomfortable for some. Other things may not be so new, but are in need a kind of pruning or shaping in order to become more hearty, to encourage new growth or even take on a new shape. Other ideas or systems…well, they might just need to be dug up and removed altogether so as to allow new growth to emerge.
While I have been learning more about landscaping, I have discovered something else. Zones. I never knew this before, but I live in planting zone 7. I have mistakenly bought plants that I realized later were best planted in a different planting zone, like say 5. They are beautiful things..and both zones support beautiful things… but no matter how much I love them, they won’t grow in “zone 7”, which is where I live. They are not designed for the environmental influences that are present here. Now, I might be able to make some of them work if I can artifically manipulate the environment a bit, but for the most part, I have had to start paying attention to zones. Bringing in some plants that I love, resolving to admire others from afar because I know that they just won’t do well here. Won’t likely last more than a season.
Like gardeners, we have to be mindful of our environment. We have to know and understand our zones. We have to put in the early work creating hearty conditions that will encourage, support, and sustain new growth. We have to examine and see if something needs to be planted, or reshaped, or removed in order to support the overall landscape design while also encouraging organic growth.
In a recent meeting with our campus design team, I was fortunate enough to work with a group of educators and have a front row seat as we spent the morning doing just that kind of work.
Preparing For The Harvest
Before we can begin implementing new ideas or designing changes, we have to make sure that conditions are right. Some questions worth asking might be:
- Is this in alignment with our beliefs about what’s best for kids?
- Is this something that will have a direct impact on student achievement?
- What other areas might be affected by the implementation of this process/idea/procedure?
- How might this change our practice; or current reality?
- In what ways will our stakeholders be affected?
- How can we best communicate the reasons, desired outcomes, and considerations given to this?
And of course, to take a cue from Todd Whitaker:
- What will my best teachers think of this idea or change?
Campus Core Beliefs
Thinking about the above, and the things we are wanting to plant or harvest next year, our campus design team came together and tackled a key goal: Establish a set of core beliefs that will guide our work here at our campus and prepare the landscape for future designs.
This meeting was a very collaborative conversation that took on some pretty big ideas and questions. It required a transparency and an open dialogue. Justifying, rejecting, and building upon the ideas and thoughts swirling around the table, we tried to put our core values into words. To find common ground and mutual language. This is much more difficult than one might imagine, but I believe it was a necessary step in this journey. We were able to not only define and narrow down a set of five core values, but provide a clarifying sentence and some “Demonstrated by” examples for each one that will help make those values visible.
Now, as we begin sorting through our (rather large) collection of new, reshaped, pruned and even removed campus practices and initiatives for the upcoming school year, we have given visibility and transparency to our landscape. We know what will fit–and especially, beautify—and what won’t. We know our zone and the type of growth it encourages and supports. This was a very good learning experience for me.
In a future post, I will share our campus core values. Today’s post is just a reflection on the most imprtant work that occured…that hard, laborious task of preparing our landscape for the upcoming season.