Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Unsolicited Educon Advice

I saw the most amazing thing the other day while I was driving to work.  It was a grey and windy day as I was putzing along behind another couple of cars and I happened to notice something out of the corner of my eye.  As I rounded a bend there were three leaves gliding perfectly along the road in front of me, weaving in and out between one another as if they were completely choroeagraphed.  It was really beautiful to see them glide like this- just enough wind to make them glide, but not enough to lift them off the ground.

As I drove away I started to think about just how complex of a thing this was that I just witnessed.  The conditions had to be absolutely perfect- just the right amount of wind, coming from the right direction.  The cars in front of me had to be in exactly the positions they were in and moving the exact velocity they were moving to create the effect. The leaves themselves had to be an exact size and shape, and had to have fallen and been blown into the exact position they were in for this seemingly simple beauty to happen.  And I had to notice it (perhaps the most incredible part, as I've usually got "driving to work" blinders on)...

This seemingly simple thing was in fact an incredibly complex and delicate balance, working together to create something incredible that couldn't possibly be duplicated.  It is with this that I reflect on the Science Leadership Academy, led by Chris Lehmann alongside his incredible group of staff, students, and parents.

I've only been to Educon half a time, last year.  I say a half because the night after I arrived I came down with a stomach bug that just wrecked me and kept me away from SLA until the last half of the experience.  I'm by no means an expert, but I know an excellent group of staff and students when I see one - and of course SLA has this in spades.  But my advice is this- don't go into Educon trying to duplicate or "scale up" SLA back at your home schools.  You can't.  It won't work.

You see, a great school is very much like those leaves- a complex group of leadership, staff, students, parents, funding, resources, curriculum development, philosophy, support, politics, and timing in the community (and so much more).  You can't recreate a great school like SLA, no matter how hard you try- because you can't scale up people.  You can't scale up the precise environment they impacted their world within.

So what would I suggest you do at Educon?  First, keep your eyes open and notice the beauty of a great school.  Then, go into it thinking about how you can take the ideas shared, the work presented, the students you experience, and make these ideas your own in your school or school system.  Don't try to do school like SLA- try to mold your own school into it's own greatness and then work hard to make it happen!

I'm going to miss Educon and all my friends this week, as we are getting ready for our 3rd child, due in the next 2 weeks- I will miss you all and am really looking forward to reading the ideas presented.  Have fun and I'll see you soon, I hope!

-Steve