Hopefully as the leader you’ve adopted the practice of reflection. The most effective leaders are those who are intentional in their work, reflect on what their practices, and are interested in continued growth. Reflection is a critical part of the process; it means that you invest the time to do more than just grind. It means that you are aware of what you do, how it affects the work of others, and that through reflection we can have growth.
It’s the same practice that we should be suggesting to our teachers for their growth. For our students? Same. We are teaching metacognition.
So it’s important for all of the citizens of the school to have time for reflection, but that’s just the beginning. The next step towards building a community of learning, innovation and success is creative practice. Reflect, then create.
Reflection primes the pump for creation and innovation, but only if time is invested to do so. Unfortunately, not all of our principals and assistant principals have adopted the habit of regular reflection; of those who have, again, not all of them move forward into creative practice. It’s the most effective leaders who practice both.
What is creative practice? It’s time, set aside as a priority, to collaboratively dream, problem-solve, design, create, innovate, and brainstorm. Why do it? Because the diagnosis you’ve made through reflection needs a treatment, and intentional creative practice can lead you to success.
When we pause from the frenetic pace of operating the school and set aside time to think, we are able to imagine a vision of what our schools can look like. We are able to focus on what we most dearly value. We’re able to develop strategies for problems that otherwise will persist. They do pay you to think, and if you aren’t taking time to do so in an organized fashion on a regular basis, you should!
Here are a few things to consider about creative practice and what it can do for you in your leadership of the school:
1. Creative Practice Leads To Better Solutions. If you dedicate time to bringing in a few key people to discuss a topic or set of topics, you are more likely to reach successful conclusions to your problems. If you assemble a group of people from your school to join you in a brainstorming session, you will undoubtedly benefit from the collaboration, the conversation, and the creation. You will get to more good ideas together than you ever would separately or alone.
2. We do what we schedule. Intending to meet will not lead to breakthrough innovations for your school. You actually need to schedule the meeting and have it. Do you believe deeply enough in the creative process to dedicate precious time for it? If not, you may end up being a status quo organization. It’s possible that you could be fortunate and have good ideas show up when you need them and solutions occur to you without a collaborative process. You have to determine whether you want to be strategic in your leadership or live moment-to-moment. The folks that do that get really tired, really fast. Strategic thinking (reflective practice + creative practice) reduces stress and pressure, gives you time to work out details, and instills a culture of collaboration that everyone wants to be a part of.
3. Better Together. Not only are WE better together, YOU are better when you’re together with others as well. You are going to be a better creator, a better problem-solver, a better innovator when you get around others and their ideas trigger yours. It’s obvious that we have more ideas if we have more people, but it’s likely that your ideas will be better when they percolate through the process.
It’s easy enough to do have creative practice. All you need is time (dedicated, no interruptions except for zombie apocalypse), space (make it one that’s conducive for imagination and creative thinking), people (don’t be afraid to mix it up and have different groups for different topics, fresh voices, even students), and a format. (you may want to have your brainstorm about one particular topic and toss out any others that come up; you could start with no topic at all; you can take turns and come up with a new question every fifteen minutes.)
With those elements, (time, space, people, and format) you can do amazing things… if you want to. Maybe you want to pick people who are predisposed to do well at brainstorming. That’s an idea that might lead to more successful outcomes. You also want to set a closing time for the session as well as leave with a summary of what happened as well as (and very importantly) what happens next. (who does what, when?)
Ideas can make your school an awesome place. Find some space for them. You’ll be amazed.