The episodic memory was one that created a special memory about his family; he shared the memory to illustrate who he is today, as a leader. As he spoke, it was not hard for all of us in the audience –professor or classmate – to conjure images of puzzle-building and family memories. He connected with us by sharing a story and an activity that we have all, at some point, experienced. Most of us can remember a time when we built a puzzle, using the puzzle box’s illustration of the “finished product” as guidance.
As I drive drove home after class, it dawned on me. What many of us who are trying to reinvent and reimagine schooling struggle with is, simply, that there is no box top for this puzzle.
Imagine for a minute that you have to complete a difficult puzzle without a picture showing you where to fit the pieces, or what it should look like when you finished. Now imagine trying to create the ideal learning environment for thousands of diverse and unique learners – without a box top picture, or school to visit where you can see what the change should look like as the pieces are assembled or, even better, when assembly is complete. Of course that is a natural course of action – to visit another school already implementing the change you seek (if you think about it, whatever the change, someone, somewhere had to go first).
How would you approach the puzzle without the box top? I’m betting most of us would do the following:
- Begin with the end pieces, the easily identifiable pieces of the puzzle that form the outline, edges, limits of the puzzle and the change; and
- Examine the pieces and match colors and patterns that have some relationship and are easily identifiable.
We have assembled puzzles, or educational environments, or schools for years but, always, with the benefit of a box top. How might we paint a mental picture of the future (or the puzzle) so that you could move forward with us on the journey?
I encourage you to reflect on this, and what it means for schools, school leaders, and our efforts to provide an ideal learning environment for our thousands of learners. Share your thoughts with us, as we continue this dialogue.