Sunday, January 23, 2011

Vision - Begin with the End in Mind

“In rowing, the stroke must be executed in precise synchrony with all other rowers in the shell. Coordinated timing at the catch is imperative to avoid "checking" the boat, or slowing its forward progress. Ideally, all rowers arrive at the catch at exactly the same moment, and immediately apply pressure on the oar with the oar in the water, which minimizes jerk at the catch. To accomplish this, the oar must be in the water slightly in advance of the rower's arrival at the catch where the seat reverses direction. When this action is completed correctly a bit of water, called "back splash" is splashed.” From Wikipedia: Rowing (Sport)

Whenever we begin a new project, if we begin with the end in mind we will have a much greater likelihood of actually achieving what we desire.  In education, we call this process Backward Design… you start at the end and work back to the beginning, designing instruction and planning for learning activities that lead to a desired end. 

That said the habit of beginning with the end in mind can be applied to almost everything we do in life.  When faced with major decisions or challenges, I try to make it a habit to stop and ask these questions. “What is the desired outcome?”  and “What do I want to have happen.” 
The rowing metaphor helps me remember the importance of keeping the end in mind.  When team members are pulling equally in the same direction, we will reach our destination.  If we pull in opposite directions or unequally, the scull veers off (and may even tip over!) and we get nowhere. It’s always best to work together!
By starting with an image or a vision of a desired outcome as a frame of reference, we can make certain that whatever we do does not violate the values and beliefs we have identified as most important, and that each action or decision contributes in a meaningful way to that vision. Having a clear definition of where we are going allows us to be selective about what matters most. It's easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of life and not be very effective.
This month, the Delta School District launched an ambitious and purposeful process for developing an inclusive and inspiring vision of the future. From now through the spring, our school community will be involved, along with other Delta schools, in contributing to the development of a shared vision for Delta Schools. While our involvement is important, no less important is opportunity that this occasion provides to re-visit our own vision of what we aspire for the future of Delta Secondary School. Having participated in an introductory session with district staff, managers and school based administrators, I’m engaged by the process and optimistic that our collaborative efforts will bring about our very best and set a compass point to guide future decision-making and actions.
As we set out to design our “end in mind”, I look forward to engaging with all staff, students, parents, and community partners in dialogue on our shared future.
Click here to watch a video introduction to the visioning process with Superintendent, Dianne Turner, DTA President, Paul Steer, and CUPE President, Colin Pawson.

Delta School District Visioning Process
(in summary)
What are we doing? Through engaging conversations around learning, and celebrating our past and current successes, we are articulating our inspired and inclusive dream vision of the future that builds on our very best. The questions we will answer through this process are: why do we exist (Purpose/Mission); what truly matters in everything we do? (Core Values); and in our boldest vision and most fantastic dream of the future, what do we want to do and be? (Bold Dream Vision)

Why are we doing this? When people in an organization share a bold, fantastic, collectively-held dream of the future, it draws everyone together in pursuit of that uplifting common purpose. The process will create a sense of belonging for the school district community and help poise ourselves for new realities in educational change.
Who will be involved? Meaningful opportunities will be created for all voices to participate in creating this compelling vision for the future of our schools: All Administrators, Managers, Teachers, Students, Parents, and Partners (PAC, DPAC, DYAC, CUPE and DTA, community leaders).

When? The Visioning process will unfold from January 6th through mid-April, and results will be integrated into relevant planning processes thereafter.
How Used/By Whom? The results of the Visioning process will create a compass for decision making in the Delta School District at all levels.
Why is a collective vision important to us?
Research by Andy Hargreaves, The Fourth Way, on schools and institutions that perform beyond expectations has shown that the 1st of key factors contributing to exceptional performance is a shared compelling and inclusive vision that everyone aspires to, and which builds on the best of the past.

“An inspiring and inclusive vision is one that draws people together in pursuit of an uplifting common purpose.” - Andy Hargreaves, The Fourth Way

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