Moving from Skill to Personal Practice

It's a philosophy of life. A practice. If you do this, something will change, what will change is that you will change, your life will change, and if you can change you, you can perhaps change the world

-Vivienne Westwood

About a year ago I met with a middle school principal to get an update about the rollout of a social-emotional curriculum for their school. It was a skills-based program used by everyone in the school, including teachers, students, and parents. Well into their second year, I was expecting to learn about how the materials were being integrated into classes with attention paid to scope and sequence. The principal said that during the first year the core group of trained teachers were training other teachers. In this second year teachers introduced the concept into the classroom on an informal, selective basis. While I had wanted to hear about how teachers at each grade level and class were using the SEL approach, instead I heard that the teachers were internalizing the skills of social-emotional awareness and regulation in their own lives first before they integrated it into their classrooms. They were developing a personal practice so that they could leverage their own experience, develop effective integration into their own curriculum, and successfully model that practice in their classroom.

I recalled this meeting when I came across the Vivienne Westwood quote — the British fashion designer responsible for bringing punk and new wave fashion mainstream. In some ways it is a version of the “be the change you want to see” quote, but I think hers has a nuanced significance for educators. Much of the critical competencies we hope students learn are at heart personal practices — collaboration, communication, critical thinking, creativity. There are discrete skills associated with each of these, but the value and impact of having these skills are when they are used, applied, reflected upon, and practiced…as Westwood suggest, almost as a philosophy of life.

In ISKME’s Action Collab Facilitator Training, we strive to provide participants with a deep understanding of the Action Collab rationale and framework so that they can develop and hone their practice of creative and collaborative problem solving.. While they do leave with a guidebook that describes the process activities, it is more than a process recipe. It is a series of steps to reach an outcome that includes gaining a deeper understanding and rationale of how and why the Action Collab activities work, which is necessary to internalize in order to develop a flexible and effective practice. We think having this kind of understanding of the process is essential for educators so that they can use it to transform their own teaching and students’ learning. We hope it becomes part of their philosophy of life as an innovative educator.

Participant feedback helps us maintain this focus on developing a personal practice of using Action Collab activities in daily professional life rather than transfer skills exclusively. We want participants to imagine how they will use this in their teams, classrooms, teacher retreats, community engagements, and parent meetings.

I really appreciated the connective tissue you produced between the what, how, and why. Understanding the relationship between design process, improv tenets, and provocation arch was a big breakthrough. I have a much more complicated and useful understanding of the ways those three elements interact and depend on one another (three-legged stool).

                        -Action Collab Facilitator Training Participant

I liked being able to go through the design thinking process as a participant and then again as a facilitator. That structure helped me process what this training would look like among our local group of education advocates.

-Action Collab Facilitator Training Participant

We want their lives to change as educators. It is a bold goal but if we are successful perhaps this will transform education into the dynamic, compassionate, and compelling institution we know it can be.

Registration is open for ISKME’s next Action Collab Facilitator Training on August 1-2, 2016 in San Francisco.  Discounts are available for BIFniks, referring a friend, and teams. So check it out and re-charge your personal practice as a way to jumpstart the Fall 2016 school year.