What We’re Trying to (Hopefully) Make Lasting Change
by Third Eye Education, consolidated by Heather M. F. Lyke
A few years ago, my parents made a request: they wanted to celebrate their 50th anniversary not with a large party but with a family vacation. They wanted all three of their children along with each of their spouses, and their four grandchildren, to settle on one place to travel to together--much like the original five in the clan had done decades before with road trips to Michigan, Duluth, and Niagara Falls.
It took us two years to agree on what that vacation would look like and where it would take place.
One common struggle with any organization--education-based, familial, or otherwise--is to get the collective whole on board when there is a new initiative or a looming shift. This was one of the key items discussed by Third Eye Education's core collaborators this January. Together, we ended up creating a simple checklist to help us all move forward as we navigate future changes in each of our districts and organizations.
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For our family, we ultimately took that vacation: four flew, six drove, and two took the train but no matter how we got there, ultimately there were breakfast gatherings and family dinners, water slides and soaks in the hot springs, whitewater rafting and browsing in local shops. In the end, there was a celebration of my parents having spent 50 years together and a celebration of our growing family. It was a vacation I am certain none of us will forget.
I came to like two notable landmarks that broke the monotony: grain elevators and farm silos. Most dictionaries cite two definitions for silos. One, of course, is the tall cylindrical farm feature that is used to store grain or silage--a feature of many cattle farms. The second, which also has ties to my community and its proximity to the Canada-US border, is the military connotation of a silo: the underground chamber used to store a guided missile and the equipment used to fire it. According to the Grand Forks Herald (2015), by the late 1960s, northeastern North Dakota was home to 300 nuclear silos. I was born in 1972, and like so many others in my generation, I was inundated with news stories and movies that allowed me to, “grow up strong and proud, in the shadow of the mushroom cloud.” Thanks, Freddie.
As I looked around for various definitions of silos, I came across a third, metaphoric definition. Beyond food storage for domestic bovines and apocalyptic subterranean nukes there is:
An isolated grouping, department, etc., that functions apart from others especially in a way seen as hindering communication and cooperation
In their fascinating and relevant book A Beautiful Constraint: How To Transform Your Limitations Into Advantages, and Why It's Everyone's Business by Barden and Morgan (2015), we’re challenged to identify and break our ‘path dependence’ in order to solve seemingly unsolvable problems and, well, make our constraints beautiful. The authors point out that ‘path dependence’ can be formal, such as the myriad ‘how-to’ manuals and long-standing protocols and procedures to which we all adhere. On the other hand, ‘path dependence’ can “exist in a more informal, pervasive sense of “the way we do things around here”—the learned best practices, processes, values data sources and partners that people pay attention to” (page 38). Breaking path dependence requires us to look outside for new ideas.
I suppose there is a sort of collision occurring in my thinking that prompted me to write this article now, in January of 2021.
- We are living in the COVID silo, and the endless array of constraints brought upon by it. I don’t know of a year in my life that’s been more punctuated by the phrase, “we can’t do … like we used to”.
- I’m working once again in my school district as an administrator and we’ve had to look outside of our school for solutions, ideas, and support like never before.
- I am a dad of two high school students, and I am caught in a see-saw of emotions. On one hand, I’m frustrated that my kids, and their peers, are missing out on so many things they’d normally do. On the other hand, I catch myself thinking of Mark Barden’s recent comment to my leadership class that, “we may one day look at 2020 as a real gift--a time to world came together to solve a common problem…a dress rehearsal for how we can solve much bigger problems yet to come our way” (Zoom presentation, Summerland Secondary Schools Leadership class, October 22, 2020).
WE CAN IF . . . WE ACCESS THE KNOWLEDGE OF . . .
WE CAN IF . . . WE ACCESS THE KNOWLEDGE OF ADVERTISERS.
Here are three to consider:
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Know What You're Selling
Did you recall it? Maybe you remembered, “Michelin…because so much is riding on your tires.” O’Reilly argues that the French tire giant wasn’t selling tires, it was selling safety (O’Reilly, 2017). The late Tony Hsieh founded Zappos as a ‘customer service’ company that just happened to sell shoes (Alcantara, 2020). Heineken commercials over the past few years have shifted from flogging beer to the selling of inclusion, tolerance, and surprisingly--moderation!
Observe this remarkable evolution in beer ads here:
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Coin Your Own Elevator Pitch
I empower and engage learners to push the boundaries of their own competencies.
I strive to prepare today’s students to be tomorrow’s citizens--ready for challenges seen and unseen.
In every aspect of assessment, we will engage and empower the student by offering opportunities for student voice, choice, self-assessment, and self-reporting.
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How Will You Know if Your Pitch is Working?
Scott Cook’s idea, from well outside my silo, inspired me to try something I never imagined doing. I transformed Cook’s line into my own inquiry:
Is a school no longer what we tell the student it is--it is what they tell each other it is?
So let’s say you’re at a party or something in the summer and a new kid is talking about moving into our area. In trying to decide which high school to attend, they ask, So tell me about Summerland Secondary…I mean really, what do you think of it?
The bottom line...
So, whether you are stepping out of your silo to the sound of cows, or squinting into the North Dakota sun as you exit your atomic catacomb, be sure that the silo is not one of your own making. There's a lot for us to learn out there.
Airport Stories: Piloting Students Beyond the Silos | with Myron Dueck | 2.2.2021
Myron Dueck and the Third Eye podcast team discuss how to help students navigate beyond the silos, in which we educators and our students frequently dwell.
Myron Dueck is a teacher and administrator from BC, Canada. Published four times in EL Magazine, he is also the author of the best-selling book, Grading Smarter, Not Harder– Assessment Strategies that Motivate Kids and Help Them Learn and Giving Students a Say: Smarter Assessment Practices to Empower and Engage. Connect with him at @myrondueck.