On my journey of leading the learning organization, I embarked on a new way of looking at launching innovation in schools. Using Peter Senge’s systems thinking model for a learning organization, I reflected on the roll-out of one of the district’s initiatives which was implemented this year to for students with disabilities who demonstrate significant reading difficulties. This is called creating a Network Map. The roll-out has been successful so far, due to the levels of the organization’s team members being a part of the initiative and having input at every juncture. Critical to this roll-out was buy-in from the building principals. Since this initiative is one aspect of a powerful classroom learning environment, without the principals’ support, special education teachers would lack the resources and feedback to work through the challenges that any new program or initiative presents to students.
Key to this new program is the concept of blended learning. The director of technology assisted with the technological requirements needed to successfully initiate and sustain the program for seven elementary schools and two secondary schools. In addition, there was a financial commitment that was secured through the buy-in of the parents and community in the form of a budget allocation. The commitment will continue based on the improved reading performance of the students who are enrolled in the program. The director of curriculum and ELA supervisor ensured that the appropriate time for implementation was made possible by the addition of the program in the current and recently reviewed RTI model. Most importantly, this was an outgrowth of the teachers input regarding the need for a program that would assist the in delivering equitable personalized, individualized, and differentiated instruction, while ensuring that students with disabilities are in included with their non-disabled peers for the majority of the day.
Back tracking a bit to the Four Corners, this activity promoted my thinking about the elements and components in my district that are shifting the paradigm from a traditional model of schooling to a more innovative learning. It also reaffirmed that my notion of the Problem of Practice which, after much thinking, was narrowed down to a problem of coherence. Based on the success of the reading program which employs a growth mindset and blended learning, my thought process turned to how this Innovation could be launched to meet the needs of students who are not necessarily classified as disabled, but often find the traditional paradigm of school difficult to do. In order to meet the needs of all learners, in all classrooms, including students with disabilities and a variety of other students with diverse needs, a coherent approach to teaching and learning is needed. This is something that the community, organization, teams, and I care about deeply. My initiative to meet this Problem of Practice will be to launch Universal Design for Learning in all classrooms and schools to meet the needs of all learners including the teachers who passionately create the powerful learning environments, the administration and the community, who provide the resources and support and unquestionably the students, who need the 21st century academic and social skills to continue to learn and work in the 21st century.
The next path of the journey is the creation of an Asset Map for my plan to innovate the learning organization coherently with the launching of Universal Design for Learning. Relying on the Network Map, I will engage deeply in a thought process that will provide me with the assets of all of the relevant stakeholders as we design a plan to meet the needs of all learners using Universal Design for Learning.