Sunday, April 28, 2013

Harvard Learning Lab Vicarious PD Reflection

It's hard to go wrong with a poem in a room full of academics, but a poem about public administration? Sure it was Harvard in springtime, trees blooming, minds expanding, coeds scurrying along to the next brick building - but I was skeptical that our host the last three days, Dr. Robert Kegan, could pull off the feat of inspiring us with a poem about administration. Even the word itself - "Administration" - brings to mind stereotypes of fluorescent lights, cheap suits, and TPS reports. But he looks and talks like the Harvard professor everyone idealizes and wishes they could be mentored by - so it was a mild skepticism I suppose. 

He pulled it off. Read it here. It may inspire you too, and remind us that while few students will grow up remembering their favorite central office administrator or even the value of a great principal, our work makes everything else happen, and perhaps the sacrifice in romanticism is a noble one.

The three days of learning the RRISE team experienced at the Harvard Learning Lab were highlighted with moments of complete genius and moments of what some might call, "lecturing birds how to fly." Even though a couple sessions inspired thoughts that RRISD could probably do an as good or better job of presenting the particular concept in a more practical and effective way - or perhaps I had some personal hubris at Harvard - the other four will inspire doing and thinking for time to come. 

One session by Dr. Kegan concerning why it is so hard for people to change a behavior is going to keep me up at night and I'm not sure I am even ready to talk about it yet so that will come in another post. Attendees were seen wondering the dark streets of Cambridge that night alone trying to come to grips with their new reality of unavoidable self-sabotage. Here is a video of him leading another group through the same process.

Another learning session helped us look at how to inspire urgency for change in others and then they did just that for us in an exercise where the entire group of 100 watched a video of a teacher and then we had to evaluate the teacher on a A-F schedule. The scores ranged from A+ to F, with the majority C+ or above. It was a well-known and older video, but this group of campus and district leaders were nowhere near aligned in regards to good teaching. Luckily we were more aligned as a team and agreed that none of us would want that teacher teaching in canine obedience classes, let alone public school children. My notes from that and all the sessions are below.

We finished the conference with the opportunity to get some coaching from fellow teams attending. The process, called step-back consulting, was different than any of us had experienced and could have some relevancy to collaboration between different departments or groups within RRISD as we help each other look at our problems of practice in new ways that are not clouded by our own judgments and assumptions. 

 And then they all sang me Happy Birthday, which was nice.

This fist attempt at Vicarious PD was a little clunky, but we will get the kinks out. If you would like to share your own learning in the future, please let me know.

My notes from the Learning Lab:


  1. Wow. That sounds like a great conference - wish I could have attended. Thanks for sharing.