We thank Amanda Novak, a recent Education Accelerator alum, for her contribution as a guest blogger. Read her story below.
“You'll learn to innovate”, they said. “You'll grow in your leadership”, they said. “You’ll elevate your future”, they said. These things were attractive when we signed up for the Education Accelerator (EA) with mindSpark Learning. But, what they didn't say was that this nine-month long experience would send me into an existential not-quite-crisis where I would question my leadership, challenge systems and status quo, jump into murky, unknown waters of mission development, engage in creative abrasion, disagree with my colleagues, and develop professionally in the most authentic way possible.
The EA is not a fun three-hour professional development session where the trainers leave candy on the tables and eagerly strive for minimal participation. Don't get me wrong, we did get candy… And, banana splits, and snow cones, and caramel apples, and liquid nitrogen popcorn. We got the opportunity to pitch our school and the opportunity to authentically engage in critical reflection. We got “blow your mind” and “kick your ass” kinds of training – the kind of training that you don't check emails during because the truth about creative abrasion, creative resolution, and creative agility is just too real to ignore. We got to visit schools, observe innovation, and witness greatness. Then we got actual time to collaborate and apply this learning to our own problems of practice.
We got “blow your mind” and “kick your ass” kinds of training – the kind of training that you don't check emails during because the truth about creative abrasion, creative resolution, and creative agility is just too real to ignore.
My team came into the EA with a plan, despite the vague and inconspicuous description of what an EA even is...an intentional and smart move, by the way. We pitched our school’s problem of practice with confidence and even an air of arrogance, and we might as well have written our blue print before we walked in the door. Like many other school leaders, we thought we knew it all. We thought we knew what our biggest problem was, and we thought we already had the tools to solve it. We thought an EA would just be critical and necessary space to do the work. And then the EA morphed into a living presence that knocked us down a notch and shed a bright light on who we are, who we say we are, who we think we are, and who we are to our stakeholders.
We half-way expected to develop our Whole Child Program, but we never expected blow up our plan for our high school and genuinely level up. Creative abrasion keeps you conscious, helps you see past your own brain, and disrupts comfort zones and known scripts. Collective genius teaches us that resolution must be catalytic. It must be transformative, scalable, endurable, and it makes the invisible visible. We've been hiding the sub-par reality of our high school for years. We have let the bar linger lower than it should, and we have “band-aided” it up like my daughter's sick baby doll. We had some really tough conversations during the EA (thank goodness for banana splits – a welcome form of consumable relief), but we agreed that we could no longer hide our deficits.
“Make the invisible visible”, they said. “Have a bias toward action”, they said. We are seven months in. We have a new brand and marketing strategy (yay, EA!). We have a clarified mission and our real journey is just beginning.
Oh, and “don't forget to PLAY”, they said.
-Amanda Novak, Education Accelerator alum