By Christine Mason, CEI Executive Director
Do You Even Want to Dream? This week and next, after a summer of play, students are headed back to school. Principals and teachers have been gearing up for the first day of school, considering their plans for the year.
If your school is like many others, you may be feeling that there is little chance that nothing beyond the ordinary can be accomplished. There are so many reasons to assume the status quo. . . the effort it takes to turnaround a failing school, to inject enthusiasm for learning into the lives of youth who are caught up in their own day-to-day ways of being, many of whom seem not to need, value, or appreciate school. So many rules and regulations, expectations, to meet. So many hours to be spent designing lessons, handling behaviors, meeting with parents, inspiring teachers.
The reality is that most schools will not change much. With some effort, Your School may find ways to move English and math scores up a few points. With some effort, Your School discipline referrals will decrease. In some ways, schools are much like anything else. In truth, most families will not change much. Most businesses will keep doing about what they have always done. Most employees will maintain their current level of productivity. Most parents will keep parenting as they were parented. Few will leap ahead.
However, despite the barriers, in all realms, outliers emerge. Someone will beat the odds. A community will ban together to create better neighborhoods. A wealthy donor will decide to take on a new challenge. An Olympian athlete will surpass previous records. A musician will capture the heart of a nation as a stadium is filled with fans. (I am watching Billy Joel at Madison Square Gardens as I write this.)
The Impossible Can be Achieved. At CEI, we believe that the impossible can be achieved. We visualize schools as they could be, principals and teachers with the greatness that is within our grasp, students with the excitement that we have seen over and over again when a lesson is spot on. This summer I read a short text on visioning, Dissolve the Problem, by Richard Dotts. In the first chapter, Dotts asks, “Why solve a problem when you can dissolve it?” Later in the book, he describes all of the difficulties that arise when “the problem” becomes the focus, the enemy. He suggests that we might, instead, step up to a higher state of consciousness, transcending the original conditions. Interesting concepts: problems dissolving in thin air, affirming our vision, focusing on a positive vision. A little like quantum mechanics, or quantum physics, putting the energy on the what we want.
Guideposts to Help You Vision
Are you ready to vision? With dedicated leadership, support for teachers, community involvement, and perhaps even a visioning process, schools might become exemplary. This could be the year. We invite you to focus on what could be. If you are looking for some guide posts to help you along the way, our Heart Centered 21st Century Rubric can be useful. We are available to help you lead this visioning using a “participatory visioning, monitoring, and evaluation” process. As described in the Participatory Museum by Nina Simon, this process may be considered a grass root effort and is useful in community building. We believe participatory visioning, monitoring, and evaluation with heart centered learning communities will open doors to new realities and will replace the overly rigid, linear process that has been holding schools back. Holding schools back? Not sure I would have said that five years ago; however, I have been living with a vision for what could be for a long time. To me, it seems that schools have been taken on a detour, particularly considering all they could be doing for so many children.
Dissolve your Problems and Dare to Dream. So, during these first few weeks of school, dissolve your problems as you dare to dream of an incredible future. And take your first steps toward your future by believing that you, your school, your teachers, your community, can be extraordinary. Why not try this approach, this year?
Dotts, R. (2016). Dissolve the problem: By shifting physical reality. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
Simon, N. (2010).The participatory museum. Santa Cruz, CA: Museum 2.0.