Posted by: principalsintraining | May 1, 2015

Closure…and Then the Ceaseless Flow Forward

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What seven words chart your path FORWARD into your own development? Your school’s? Via Jen Kloczko.

All things (organic and inorganic; naturally occurring and deliberately constructed) have their life cycles. Concrete poured for a sidewalk, a freshly brewed pot of coffee (or, if you enjoy George Orwell, tea), a leaf, a sunrise, a conversation, a mountain. Of course each of us has our own life cycle; how often do we stop to consider the thousands of generations that preceded us (Would we recognize an ancestor from 20,000 years ago? Would they see their imprint in us?), or when, trickling ahead in time, our own descendants ultimately lose our trace?

Schools have life cycles – virtually always much longer than the time any student or staff member will spend there. Within that construct, however, are smaller life cycles: the life cycle of a school year. In more traditional frameworks (in the Northern Hemisphere at least) this is some version of August through June. Each year stands alone in many ways: staff and student portraits taken and collected into a yearbook; gradebooks (paper, digital) collected and archived; accountability reports compiled (attendance, discipline, testing, demographics); one-time occurrences that etch themselves into the collective memory (happy, tragic); arrivals (a new Principal) and departures (a 30-year teacher retiring). Each year has its own chemistry, its own energy, its own narrative.

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We are challenged, however, by this sense of the “countdown” – crossing days off until the last day of school. This cycle is artificial (constructed); June has come to mean an “ending” for schools, but that narrative is shifting for those schools on a year-round calendar. Rather than see the last day of classes for an academic year as an “ending,” we have an opportunity to shift our mindset and our language; we are approaching a transition. The daily hum of school will pause; learning, however, will not. We will see colleagues and students depart and new colleagues and students arrive; a life cycle doesn’t mean something ends, rather that its very existence is, by definition, marked by ongoing transition and transformation.

What are ways that we as a staff community can both reflect on the experience of the year to the school year while also “trickling forward” in our learning journey? Recently, David Culberhouse shared in our #LeadWild Voxer group the idea of the seven-word story; we took that idea and decided to tell a story about who we are as educators, thinkers and people – and pair the story with an image. (Note: writing a 1,000 word manifesto on who we are is pretty easy; seven words is a true challenge!)

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Via Andy Losik

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Via Jodi Moskowitz

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Via Laura Duran

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Via Michael Niehoff

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 Via Catina Haugen

Jon Corippo shared his thoughts on how to shift away from the practices (and mindsets) of “winding down” a year to “winding up” next year as an all-school endeavor – students move up a grade, teachers move up in their own learning and growth, etc. Rather than approaching the last day as a terminus, we see it as a the re-commencement of the growth continuum. This feels like the kind of purposeful ceremony that weaves a community closer that we often neglect due to “lack of time” or other constructs/excuses we have control over. Busy is a choice; conscious, mindful presence in the moment is another choice.

Creating seven word stories is one form of Closure/Continuation ceremony. Students and staff can do this together as the school year approaches transition; What did I discover this year? What do I want to explore as I move into new environments, new cycles of experience? Make the entire campus a gallery of images. Spend the last days of school perusing, discussing, and reflecting on these ideas and aspirations publicly – together. Rather than a document of what was, we create a collective sketch (doodle) of what is to come.

I will add more thoughts and ideas to this post as they come my way. I hope to include YOUR examples of Closure/Continuation for broader sharing.

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Responses

  1. This was awesome. Exactly what I needed to hear today. My favorite phrase from this whole piece: “the re-commencement of the growth continuum.” May is a time for growth, not stagnation nor a mindless push toward summer. Thank you for this.

    • Just as we all approach our nadir…:) Great to hear from you Peter! Cheers.


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