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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Which way did they go?

If you remember the Lewis Carroll story of Alice's Adventure in Wonderland you may recall one of the quotes that has remained in my memory for years. Alice is lost and looks up on a branch of a tree along the road and asks the Cheshire cat for directions. After realizing that Alice doesn't exactly know where she's going, the cat replies, "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there."

Time, money, and effort all have their limitations.This is certainly true with the Green Island School District. Therefore, our staff needs to use these resources wisely because we have no margin for error. In other words, we must clearly understand where we're going as a district and make sure that we travel in the most effective and efficient route so we don't waste time, money, or effort on our way.

I am convinced that the staff is committed to reaching high levels of performance, the learners are more than capable of meeting challenging standards of achievement, and the community is extremely supportive. However, the best plans and intentions are diminished if there is not a coordinated and persistent focus on common goals with shared meanings. It's the leader's responsibility to communicate a vision of the future with enough clarity and credibility that others can see it and commit their energy and effort toward making the vision a reality. The leader must breathe life into the vision and sustain the course for the school. We know where we have to go at Heatly. We must work together to promote the success of all children on the annual state mandated tests of learning standards. There's no question on the destination, but I believe there needs to be more attention and agreement on the path we take.

School improvement is a journey, and often an adventurous trek. It's not much different than hiking into the wilderness. One of the valuable objects to take along on such a trip is a compass. Without it, when surrounded by tall trees that hide landmarks in an unfamiliar terrain, you can get lost and wander about in circles, growing tired, frustrated and fearful.

Here's an explanation of reading a compass (in red type) along with my comments (in parentheses) on references to what we will be doing at Heatly on our trip to success.

Basic Compass Reading

No matter the compass, one end of the needle always points North. It is almost always the RED end, but its a good idea to test your compass before starting to use it. (our efforts, like the needle, must always point North - and our North will be success in learning)

To read your compass,

Hold your compass steadily in your hand so the baseplate is level and the direction-of-travel arrow is pointing straight away from you. (We must hold our goal and commitment with a steady hand, balanced between the needs of the learners and the capacity of the community to support our efforts)

Look down at the compass and see where the needle points. (We have to maintain our vision and stay the course)

Turn your body while keeping the compass right in front of you. Notice that as the compass rotates, the needle stays pointing the same direction. (No matter the circumstances, we must not lose sight of our goal or waver in our commitment)
Keep turning until the needle points East, keeping the direction-of-travel arrow and North mark facing straight in front of you.

Important: This is a very common mistake! The compass needle is pointing towards East so I must be pointing East, right? No, no, no! (We can't be misled or distracted from addressing the unique needs of individuals, differentiating instruction, or using alternative means of teaching designed to produce success)

To find the direction, you must turn the compass dial until the North mark and the "Orienting Arrow" are lined up with the North end of the needle. Then you can read the heading that is at the Index Pointer spot. (Once we reach agreement on our purpose and consensus on our roles, we will have the proper orientation to confidently take our first step on a long journey).

Our entire staff will return to school next Tuesday to embark on the daunting task of leading 330 boys and girls on a year long trip to success. It is my responsibility to define the compass points and orient everyone so we all understand where the red needle is on our compass, where North is, and where the orienting arrow is - so we don't get lost. If I can convince everyone of our direction and we stay true to the objective of promoting success for all learners, at all ages and all stages, then we will arrive at our destination when the results arrive from the state tests later in the school year.

See you there!

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