EPPL 502 - Experience - What an invaluable experience! The Appreciative Inquiry process provided salient insight that could not have been captured through reading material. I admit, when I first read about Appreciative Inquiry I was intrigued, yet skeptical. The concept sounded too good to be true. I surmised it would gloss over the struggles within schools, disregarding the stark realities in favor of unattainable goals. I was wrong.
Undoubtedly, our leadership team benefited from this collaborative process. We worked well together and were able to expand upon one another’s ideas. When there was disagreement, it bred opportunity for open discussion, compelling each of us to reevaluate our stance. Each conversation reinforced our collective conviction that our goals truly defined our wishes. It was refreshing to not only have permission, but to be encouraged to dream without boundaries. It seemed the bigger we dreamed, the more inspired we became. This optimistic momentum not only nurtured remarkable ideas, it also motivated our team to enthusiastically take on the challenge.
Appreciative inquiry affirms the urgency to include the entire faculty in defining the school’s goals. In order to construct an effective plan, all must address the needs of the school and brainstorm possible solutions to invest fully in the process and ultimately the outcome. A well thought out plan is worthless if the faculty is not willing to carry out the strategies necessary to achieving success.
Granted, our team made mistakes. We became so excited about our plans for Clear Creek Middle School that we tried to do too much, too soon. It was easy to get caught up in the extraordinary ideas and over-plan the first year. Upon reflection, I realize the staff would be overwhelmed in the first year and we risked losing their support. Our success rate would be abysmal, resources spread thin, and teachers tired and discouraged. We must be conscience of limitations when formulating timelines. Teachers need time to build trusting relationships before allowing themselves to become vulnerable to colleagues. This trust will promote the exchange of ideas resulting in teacher collaboration. Strategies like peer observations are effective, but only after trust has been achieved.
Our team made a foolish assumption when outlining the delivery of our goals and failed to address Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Planning committees cannot assume that the desired goals will be inferred by others. We must be thorough in our communication and planning; using clear, concise language to project an unmistakable vision. Language must be chosen carefully and the use of jargon and acronyms must be avoided.
This newfound way of thinking has evolved into an improved way of being. I find myself making a conscious effort to find the positive side of situations where otherwise I might have focused on the negative. I have found my revitalized attitude to be contagious. Our grade level meetings have become more productive with an optimistic focus. We now aim to concentrate on the forward progress of each student, particularly our struggling learners. I believe this mind set will contribute to better student success.
The Appreciative Inquiry process taught me the power of a strengths-based approach. Employed properly, it virtually guarantees buy-in of the faculty. Formulating a thoughtful vision under an appreciative umbrella ensures teacher collaboration and out of the box ideas that not only meet, but exceed goals. I believe we create the future we seek and the limitless bounds of Appreciative Inquiry are the perfect fit to building a positive climate while increasing student achievement.