Innovative Leadership

Collective Capacity – this summarizes my vision for a learning organization of educators, students, and community stakeholders / partners who are committed to a clearly articulated vision, and learn and work together in various ways to bring that vision to fruition. This year, more than other year of my career, I have experienced the power of collective capacity. Seemingly, despite the policies, procedures and systems’ decisions that need to be made and are a significant part of making our work visible and sustainable, it has been the sum of human interactions that contribute to the masterpiece we hope to create.


January 2016 – the start of a new year provides opportunity for contemplation; that is to think about the past and plan for the future. Upon our return to school, I was inspired by George Couros, principal and author of the “Innovator’s Mindset” ,to share the following quote with the Harwood Leadership Team.

“Transformational leaders don’t start by denying the world around them. Instead, they describe a future they would like to create.” Seth Godin

I then posed, his suggested questions, “In thinking about our work and the new year, as a leader, what is your vision for the learning of educators and students? What will we create? How will we bring it to life?”

The Harwood Union Leadership Team is 15 strong – 5 teachers, 5 students and 5 administrators. We meet four days a week and are responsible for carrying out the Harwood Personalized Learning action plan. For a little over a month, I have been reviewing their responses and trying to synthesize them into a cleverly, engaging post. The responses are so unique and each response depicts the articulated Harwood vision of learning in a very personal way. Collectively, the responses depict the articulated vision more holistically, inclusive of a mindset, a practice, and a means to the end. The responses also depict hope and judiciousness which I believe are both essential attributes in innovation. Combining their responses and composing a single post, although doable perhaps, seemingly was no longer appropriate.  The innovative capacity of our team truly stems from the sum of our parts; therefore, for the purpose of this post, honoring the individual contributions was essential.

 A vision of learning for educators and students: excerpts from a leadership team

  • A growth mindset that will allow all members to give it a try, be positive, and contribute to our collective learning. [Sarah]
  • A more supportive and cohesive community environment – a community where faculty and students support each others learning and well-being. Keep standards high, while creating differentiated learning opportunities and supporting faculty and student learners where they are. [Carolyn]
  • I envision teachers and students sharing in ‘driving the bus’. [Jonah]
  • Educators and students feel more confident about personalized learning. Teachers are more confident in their knowledge of the proficiency-based reporting system, and as a result students are stronger, more independent thinkers better prepared for life beyond high school. [Renee]
  • Educators and students sharing in the effort to make Harwood a place where every student gets the right education for him/herself. Education has to be teacher and student together. [Emma]
  • A learning atmosphere where students have the capability to expand upon the things that they are passionate about in school and the things that they excel at. [Cole]
  • An environment where everyone has a positive and innovative attitude, are knowledgeable about proficiency-based learning, and all members of Harwood’s community are patient, yet forwarding thinking about the implementation of personalized learning. [Hazel]
  • Educators are influenced by changes in society, their instruction is relevant to the current state of the world, and they pose in-depth, immersive questions. At the same time, students are focused on their passions and are engaged in meaningful tasks. [Chuntao]
  • Develop a school that honors the full person along with a greater ‘expeditionary mentality’; that is, we are all in this together approach. Develop greater transparency and ownership in learning, more depth and relevance, and combine elements of progressive and traditional education to create consistency and agreed upon models for best practice. [Matt]

How do you imagine us bringing it to life?

  • Visit other schools and work with the experts, but most importantly, we need to live it ourselves. We need to use the same language and collaborate with enthusiasm in ways that allow students to reach their greatest potential. [Sarah]
  • Time for teachers to work collaboratively and provide choice. In addition, we need to continue to forge ahead with the plans outlined by members of the student members of this team and bring in the support of Student Government and Youth and Adults Transforming Schools Together members as well. [Carolyn]
  • To narrow the gap between teachers and students; learning should include planning curriculum together, fewer traditional classes, more project-based learning and community partners, more exemplary work displayed and more ambiguity about who is in charge. [Jonah]
  • As leaders, we must embrace the changes we want to see – represent them at all times with the faculty and students, and provide continuous support throughout the transition. Communication and professional learning are key elements. [Renee]
  • Our vision of learning will only come to life from students and teachers communicating and deciding on plans of action together. [Emma]
  • We need to fuse what is practical with what is hopeful in order to generate a meaningful and desirable outcome. [Cole]
  • We need to continue to communicate to all stakeholders, spread knowledge through dialog and other structures. We also need to include more students in the planning and implementation of a personalized system of learning. [Hazel]
  • It begins by overcoming ‘learned helplessness’, meeting every student where they are, and creating a culture of openness; that is being honest about our challenges, and setting goals to maximize growth every day. [Matt]
  • Teacher Advisory and our Learning Communities will serve as the structures to communicate the components of personalized learning through modeling and presentations. [Sam]