By: Renee Hill
In any learning organization supporting innovation, our workforce, our talent, may be the single most important resource. An intelligent, capable, results-driven pool of individuals who are willing to act interdependently and accountably, is essential for any school or school district to competently meet the needs of today’s students, parents, professionals, and communities. Talent is THAT important. Our district has set sail on the course of personalized learning (PL). We are allowing our PL-talent to design their own approach, respecting their own, their customers’, and their community’s assets, needs, interests, and state of development. In addition to the attributes listed above, here are more essentials we have identified thusfar:
A comfort level with loose and tight. Abundance of information and resources makes our most capable teachers and leaders as informed as anyone in an “official” instruction role. To adjust, we are doing our best to remain tight on some critical aspects of instructional program and loose on all others. We are tight about the fact that grade-level standards-based learning is the floor. We are tight about having common assessments across grades or subjects. We are tight about students having flexibility in delivery of learning resources and selection of device. We are loose about how quality content is presented to the student, and we are becoming more loose about how students show their learning. We know we’ll have to let go of pacing altogether. Pacing is the student’s, not ours.
An iterate attitude. Traditional teachers plan everything out and advance the plan. The speed of learning, the availability of resources, and the wealth of tools no longer support long term execution. Now, we iterate. Start, check, modify, restart or continue, repeat. There is no time to fully develop solutions. We operate in outline form, draft outline form, even. Outline a plan and get busy! This creates the need to be able to listen well, to pivot quickly, and hold fast to desired outcomes while quickly releasing chosen methods of arriving at outcomes.
A refreshing “well” and a stance of selflessness. Transforming public schooling is hard work – physically, mentally, and spiritually. PL talent, must be able to go to the well. They must have ways to refresh, draw energy, and fuel creativity all while remaining in a stance of collaboration and professionalism toward students, parents, and colleagues. This well must extend to finding one’s own reward in a job well done. Everything is moving so fast that kudos from external sources will never keep pace with the accomplishments of outstanding work. Similarly, the PL pioneer will experience criticism and worse, indifference. A measure of selflessness allows these pioneers to put reactions into perspective and move on with their very good work.
Our teams that have made the greatest strides in personalized learning are able to live with both non-negotiables and undefineds. They are able to begin work with mostly complete outlines and partial plans. They maintain focus on outcomes and are willing and able to adjust processes iteratively. Finally, their ability to be selfless protects them from being stopped by criticism and indifference. They are able to go to their well and gather the energy to fuel the work of pioneering. Look for more news as our journey continues.
Renee Hill is Assistant Superintendent in Riverside Unified School District. She and her teams support a BYOD policy, an all-digital high school, a virtual school, several choice programs and more than five design teams that are piloting personalized learning this fall. She was recently presented the Education Award by the Riverside-San Bernardino NAACP and the Valuing Diversity Award by the Region 19 Chapter of the Association of California School Administrators.