Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Fun Method to Create a Vision For Schools

Yesterday, we had our annual September Professional Development day with my staff at Sa-Hali.  It was the culmination of a few weeks of planning by the large and dedicated bunch known as our PD committee, and each of us was excited to see how the day would play out with our staff.   Having gone through and led visioning activities before, I feel that activities such as these need to be approached very carefully.  When done without thoughtful consideration and planning, vision exercises can become nebulous, ethereal and, well, vision-less.  However, when done with a focus on engaging the participants in an exercise that is tangible and meaningful, visioning activities can lead to guiding principles that can set the course for the entire organization.

Or at least that's what I've heard.

However, there was just one tiny problem I was having heading into the planning of this day.  I wasn't totally sure how to do that.

But one thing that I was totally sure of--as a group, WE would know how to do that.

When the PD committee met, we decided we wanted to create activities for our staff that REQUIRED learning, and that REQUIRED their participation.  Not in a "thou shalt" way, but in a way that built on our theme for this year--we do things TOGETHER.  And suddenly it started to happen.

We started with our English Coordinator saying that we needed to do some team-building at the start.  Then another teacher said "How about a scavenger hunt?".  Our Technology Coordinator jumped in with "We need to keep them touching technology, so let's make it a QR code-based treasure hunt!".  A member of our Learning Assistance department chimed in and said "We want them to be creative, let's have them design a costume and team T-shirt!".

The juices were flowing.

We turned to visioning, and our Art teacher said "If we are going to create a vision, we need an authentic visual--let's make a life-sized "Sa-Hali Grad" with the body parts containing attributes that we want our students to be equipped with when they leave!"  But we needed to get people in the mindset, and another person suggested a YouTube video of something--I said how about watching Sir Ken Robinson and "Changing Educational Paradigms" while modelling a literacy strategy to ensure that participants would be engaged and have something to take away.  Our English Coordinator jumped back in and said "Speaking of a literacy strategies, how about a multi-perspective carousel activity where groups create those body parts filled with the attributes of a Sa-Hali grad?"  He then came up with some guiding questions...

  • What do we think employers want of our grads?
  • What do we think society wants of our grads?
  • What do we think post secondary programs want of our grads?
  • What kind of attributes and personal empowerment do we want them to have?

Wow.  This was getting really cool.

But I wanted to make sure that we didn't just leave with a picture, we needed to leave with a plan.  And we came up with an activity that allowed us to:
  • reflect on activities we do in our classrooms that require students to demonstrate these attributes
  • get specific with looking at the tasks that we felt required the demonstrate these attributes by describing what it looked like, sounded like, and felt like in descriptive (rather than inferential) terms
  • design and implement an activity that we could do to elicit these attributes from our students in each of our collaborative groups to bring back to the December staff meeting to share.

And so it came to be...

We worked with QR codes in our staff scavenger hunt (here is one of the sample clues)

We had unbelievable team building, tremendous creativity and a whole lotta laughs:

Utilized literacy strategies in our activities such as Save the Last Word and Multiple-Perspectives Carousel 

Designed a visual aide to guide us in terms of our vision of attributes that we want for our graduates.

We met as collaborative groups to design an activity that we could do to require students to demonstrate a positive attribute.

And, as challenge to myself, I created a video archive of our day with Movie Maker, just to see if I could do it while we were working (and over lunch).  I presented it to our faculty as a "Thanks for all of your hard work" at the end of the day--I hoped they enjoyed watching it as much as I loved making it.

In the end, while this format for beginning to develop a vision may not work for another school in its entirety, I believe the important elements of this day can be applied to any school situation. By using tasks that  
  • are co-created by numerous staff members;
  • are built intentionally to require participation of each of our colleagues;
  • are built specifically to require learning in a meaningful (and fun!) way through their design;
  • model ready-made literacy strategies that can be used in each of our classes tomorrow to engage our students;
we can meaningfully engage our faculty in vision development.  My evidence?  We now have built a collective vision.  We now have a document that will guide us to design and implement the tasks that require students to demonstrate the attributes that we want for our graduates as they cross the stage and graduate from our school.  

And we had a great day continuing our theme of "Working TOGETHER".  Is there anything better?


  1. Hey Pal,

    Just a quick note to let you know that this is still MORE proof that I want to work for you.

    What a brilliant activity. Glad all y'all made vision building meaningful. It's a part of the #atplc process that is frequently ignored because people don't know how to make it happen.

    Hope you are well,

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