Reinvent and Redesign Your Growth System in 2021

With glimmers of hope on the horizon in the form of vaccine development, we’ve begun to hear more from school leaders whose thoughts center around questions like, “How can I help my school emerge stronger post-pandemic?” At some schools, emerging from COVID stronger than before in 2021-2022 might come in the form of a professional growth “reset”. This has been a year that has highlighted programmatic and leadership strengths and areas for growth, as well as a year where almost everything has been upside down, on pause, modified, or otherwise in violation of the status quo. Why not take that natural pause as a pivot point, using it to reinvent, redesign, and launch the changes you’ve wished you could make in your professional growth systems for years?  Start with these big ideas: 

  • Identify the why and the how of your big shift: It’s not always wise to change everything at once. Whatever the change, start with the why and try to create a simple, compelling crystallization of the change you want to make. (See Simon Sinek’s work for a pep talk about the why and the how.) If you’re going to make one big change in your professional growth system, what would that change center around? And what’s the rationale for the change? 
    • Collaboration: Maybe you’re focused on collaborative learning in your school, so it’s time to make the growth process more focused on coaching and peer interaction. 
    • Instructional Practice: Perhaps you’re focused on raising the bar around instruction, so it’s time to create a more robust and thoughtful observation process or create a clearer articulation of what instructional excellence looks like at your school. 
    • Reflection: Perhaps reflection has taken on a more important role in your school’s learning process, and so it’s time to add more time and structure around individual reflection for faculty and staff as well as students. 
  • Use teamwork to make the dream work: Without exception, change happens most effectively in schools when there is a team involved. Bring a diverse group together, either formally or informally, to help you think about your idea for a redesign. As Sam Chaltain, a Folio Summer Institute speaker said, “We participate in what we create.”  Get a few people on the team whose natural inclination might be to push back on your idea – those people will ultimately improve not only the quality of the idea but also its likelihood of successful adoption by others in the school. Working with your team, figure out how you can best articulate your why and how to the rest of the community. A team of communicators and advocates can do wonders for rallying a community around a new idea. (See John Kotter’s work for best practices around teamwork and communication in change management).  Some helpful questions to get the conversation started are:
    • What do faculty and staff need to feel supported? What’s missing in our current culture? 
    • What’s missing from your proposal or plan?
    • What might be the best ways to design and implement it? 
    • How will this be received by others? 
    • How does it connect to other things going on in the community and the institution.
  • Explore intersections: The most effective systems in schools are the ones that connect to existing structures, roles, and initiatives. Avoid contrived connections, but look far and wide for authentic ones, to make sure the growth process is crowdsourced and well-integrated into other important things happening within the school.
    • How do you want your growth system and your evaluation system to feed into each other? 
    • Are there changes to the org chart (recent or in-process) that should be taken into account? 
    • What strategic initiatives or new programs need to connect to professional growth structures? 
    • What school focuses — like diversity, equity, and inclusion, for example — need to be woven into professional growth? 
  • Prototype and test to ensure success: Working with your team, sketch and prototype the process to look for surprises, holes, and factors you hadn’t considered. Get out of the clouds and into the details to set yourself up for success. Try a few approaches and multiple designs. Move from the back of a napkin to a poster to a spreadsheet and a myFolio mockup, to help you see the in’s and out’s of your new idea. Working out these details ahead of time is a key factor in the degree to which your system will work, be adopted, and become a lasting element in your school’s culture of growth. (See Tom Wujec’s TED talk on the Marshmallow Challenge to learn more about the importance of prototyping and testing.) Questions to consider:
    • What are the key milestones and waypoints in your new structure? 
    • What are the timelines? 
    • How will you build the time  — the most valuable resource in schools — for the components of your system to occur? 
    • What are the key roles and responsibilities of each player in the new system – and how will you communicate that? 
    • What systems or components of myFolio will you be using to make it all work? 

Members of the Folio team are always excited to talk about redesigning professional growth structures! Drop us a line today if you’re interested in the idea of using this year as an opportunity to do a reset on the design of your professional growth system!


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