A few weeks ago, our school community participated in a Dream Summit, where we used appreciative inquiry to imagine our future.
After 51 years, it was time to dream into the school we are evolving into for the next 50 years. Students from grades 6 to 11, parents, teachers, Board members and leadership volunteered to be at the Dream Summit. Led by Fran Prolman of Learning Collaborative, we searched for the “positive change core” (Cooperrider, Whitney and Stavos, 2003) which would serve as the wellspring of our aspirational journey.
A FEW PRINCIPLES OF APPRECIATIVE INQUIRY
What we choose to study makes a difference.
Beginning with the idea that our perceptions shape our reality, our community started with the discovery of the best of the past and present, what works, and our images of the future.
Positive change occurs when the process of change models the future.
It was important for us to smash the box and to imagine a future school from the perspectives of the community. Without a box constraining our imaginations, each Dreamer dug deep to find what we valued as a community, some of which are:
- Parents and community members learn with students.
- Unique spaces for personalized learning.
- Choice and voice.
- Learning through doing and authentic experiences.
- Self-directed learning.
- Partnerships within and without.
- Inclusive and innovative.
The process of Dreaming mirrored what we wanted our future to be: an open-ended, self-directed learning process which had personal and authentic meaning.
Positive questions lead to positive change!
The AI literature suggests that positive questions lead to a release in positive energy. Like in many inquiry processes, the questions the learner asks have a significant role in the reality that emerges as the inquiry progresses. Continuing on the theme of our perceptions shape our reality, we found vibrant, inspirational energy permeate our dialog as we chose our Top Dreams for AISZ.
Wholeness brings out the best. Gathering stakeholders builds collective capacity.
Since the Dream Summit, I’ve had the opportunity to gather in conversations with students, parents, and staff to reflect on our central inquiry, “If you could reinvent the school, what might it be?”
A few of the inspiring conversations with different groups revolved around their personal questions of change:
- What would it take to improve our relationships?
- How does language impact how we respect one another?
- If I had an hour every week to pursue a personal project, what would I want to learn?
- How do we embed student voice and choice in school life?
- What if we smashed the box of the traditional timetable?
- What if we co-constructed the curriculum with our students?
- How does adult learning mirror student learning in our school?
The moment we ask a question, change begins.
John Schaar said, “The future is not a destination we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made, and the activity changes both the maker and the destination.” As the students ponder and take action on personal interests; as teachers wonder how they can be more deliberate in their facilitation of learning; as parents pursue partnerships with teachers and their children, I look around me and the future is already here.