Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Focusing on the Next Light

Photograph by Jim Richardson
School starts at Plymouth High School on August 14. Yep in less than two weeks we will welcome our second class of WSOI learners into our amazing new learning space. We will double our student body and double our staff. We were appointed Co-Directors of the Weidner School of Inquiry @PHS at the end of May, while still teaching. Needless to say we had our work cut out for us this summer.

So many things to do, so many lists to make, tasks to complete. It can be very OVERWHELMING. Fortunately our leadership team is comprised of a West and a South.

Two Wests as Co-Leaders would surely have sent sent us into panic mode (Jen’s words). Two Souths would have a hard time staying on task, being efficient and paying attention to the details (Michael’s words).  Have you figured out who is which direction?   The ebb and flow of our work throughout the summer consisted of compromising our own individual ideas of priorities and tasks and ultimately understanding that our work should be focused on the journey and not the destination, because it will ultimately evolve on a constant basis.

As we debated for awhile on our blog title, just another thing on our to do list this summer, this article on leading in the present, provided the perfect analogy for our title, The Next Light. South has frequently reminded West that WE WILL not get everything done on our to do list. And that is ok. THAT IS OK!  We will get done what needs to be done! We must focus only on the next light. There really is no light at the end of a tunnel when you are leading.  

Leading is more like a child chasing after fireflies.  Can you see it?  Better yet can you remember it?  “There’s one -  Oh there’s one over here.”  Sometimes you caught them and often times you didn’t.  However, in a child’s eyes the whole experience (journey) of finding and catching the next firefly was challenging and fun (for the visual learner).   Especially when you were doing that with a friend or family member because you could share the joy and excitement of the success of catching one.  

In our journey thus far, we have come to realize that  if we frame success through the completion of an ultimate to do list, we are going to end the day frustrated and unfulfilled.   That mindset is not only frustrating, it’s ultimately unsustainable. Our current lens of leadership is not to create the larger “to do list” of next lights but simply prioritize and focus on one(maybe two since there are two of us) at time.   

We also have discussed the importance of when we successfully reach that next light, we must mentally give ourselves credit for that success. Just like a child that catches that first firefly and puts it in the jar.   The focus for that brief moment is completely on the successful capture not the unsuccessful attempts prior to that point nor is it on the fireflies yet to be captured. After that moment of admiration and wonderment, the child’s attention returns the to field and THE NEXT LIGHT.   

There is a whole field of lights/fireflies/TO DO’S.  If we focus on the entire field, productivity is nearly impossible.  An individual person that focuses on two lights at the same time often finds that process slow and extremely unsatisfying.  Focusing on the pursuit one light ultimately produces either success or failure.  With success - celebrate.  With failure - reflect.  EITHER WAY YOU LEARN.  

The beauty of Collaborleading is that you can at times focus on two different lights.  In addition, if you practice distributed leadership among your staff and students (which is our goal), you can focus on even more lights at one time.  When those successes start piling up in the jar, the light gets brighter and brighter.  The brighter the light the more people are attracted to it.  So just like we have focused ourselves, we challenge you to find the joy in the journey(especially if you can share it with others) by focusing on THE NEXT LIGHT.  

Again please share your any thoughts, even if you disagree (especially if you disagree). Healthy conflict and debate leads to reflection and refinement.

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