Doing what we’ve never done

IMG_1365 To get what we’ve never had, we must do what we’ve never done.“ – Anonymous

While I deeply respect Anonymous, I would modify what he or she said in the following way: To create schools with high levels of learning for all students and in which all members of the school community feel supported, it is essential that leaders believe what they have not believed, understand what they have not understood, say what they have not said, and do what they haven’t done.

Believe what they have not believed: It’s possible that one of the most difficult things for human beings to do is to surrender beliefs that no longer serve their most important purposes.

In my experience, educators are most likely to be alter their beliefs through dialogue that moves underneath the surface level of their assumptions and through experiences that perturb and eventually cause them to view the world in fresh ways.

Understand what they have not understood: Deeper understanding usually requires more robust learning processes than those used in many school settings.

Such understandings are most likely to occur through the close reading of professional literature, writing to promote understanding, and protocol-guided activities that intensify learning.

Say what they have not said: It means nothing if educators have changed their beliefs and deepened their understanding but don’t change what they say on a consistent basis. Saying new things always requires clarity and sometimes demands courage.

Do what they have not done: Doing different things almost always means developing new habits. Replacing old habits with new ones requires intention, repetition, feedback, and persistence.

Taken together, those changes outline the desired outcome of leaders’ professional learning. They are essential if educators are to create schools in which all students learn at high levels and all members of the school community feel supported in fulfilling their unique responsibilities.

3 Responses to “Doing what we’ve never done”


  1. 1 sdubeau March 5, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    Have you read The Why of Work? (Ulrich and Ulrich) Very applicable

    • 2 Dennis Sparks March 5, 2013 at 9:32 pm

      Thanks for the suggestion. I haven’t read it, but I’ve heard favorable comments about it from others in your Board.


  1. 1 Everyone Needs a Coach (Including the Coach!) | Principals in Training Trackback on October 7, 2013 at 7:19 pm

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